The Unexpected Swede

Our kind, friendly neighbour who does our weekly “heavy” food shopping brought a swede back last time, much to my surprise. However, on my querying this item he pointed to the last word on my shopping list, on which I had distinctly written “I pkt Swedes”. There are times when I have problems deciphering my own writing, but I can usually remember from the context what it is supposed to say. In this case, I know that I didn’t intend to write “swedes” and I wouldn’t have asked for a packet of swedes anyway, but for the life of me I cannot recall what I really meant to put. I have looked at this word and studied it over and over again, and it still says “Swedes”.

Luckily, we like swedes (or rutabaga as they are known in some parts of the world) so it was a pleasant addition to our stock of vegetables. We also had some carrots and parsnips, as well as a couple of sweet potatoes, so I poked around Google for something more interesting than vegetable stew using these things. Nothing I fancied included sweet potatoes, but I did come across this:

Root Crumble – Serves 4
250g each of swede, parsnip, celeriac and potato, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks;
1 onion, sliced;
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard;
3 tbsp honey;
4 tbsp rapeseed oil;
1 tbsp chopped rosemary;
3-4 tbsp double cream;
salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

For the topping:
1 good handful porridge oats;
3 thick slices stale bread, whizzed to coarse crumbs in a processor;
1 handful toasted walnuts or hazelnuts, roughly chopped (optional);
25g unsalted butter, melted;
30g strong Cheddar, grated 

Combine the vegetables in a large roasting dish. Whisk the mustard, honey, oil and rosemary together, with plenty of seasoning and pour over the vegetables. Stir thoroughly until the vegetable pieces are coated. Cover and roast at 350°F / 180°C / gas mk 4 for 45 mins. Uncover and give it a good stir. Increase oven temp to 400°F  / 200°C / gas mk 6 and return the dish, uncovered, to the oven for 20-25 minutes. Make the crumble topping by combining all the ingredients. Trickle the double cream over the roasted roots, then scatter the crumble topping over the top. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

However, bread never gets stale in our household, we have eaten all the nuts, I have been deliberately abstaining from double cream, and to my mild bewilderment there were no porridge oats in the pantry (I would have bet my bottom dollar on that staple being there, though probably beyond its best-by date). Also, we no longer have a rosemary bush in the garden. Still, the actual vegetable casserole sounded appealing so I have quoted it in full here in case anyone else wants to try it.

I googled on, and came across this one, complete with video. What I liked about both of these is that there are no precise measurements. I am rather haphazard myself, with a handful of this and a lump of that, and taste it, add whatever you think it needs (from vinegar to crème fraîche via turmeric and marmite) and whatever you have to hand that might go – and most of the time it turns out well. Though usually not reproducible. This looked tempting:

Root Casserole Gratin
Carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, celeriac, potatoes – sliced on mandolin – onion, chopped
Butter, garlic, cream, stock (chicken)
Nutmeg, fresh thyme
Parmesan cheese (grated) 

Blanch sliced veg in boiling salted water for 3 mins
Drain and place in casserole dish
Gently fry garlic in butter until it sings then add cream and stock (NOT too much!), nutmeg and thyme
Bring to simmering point then pour over vegetables.
Sprinkle half cheese over top.
Cover loosely with alu foil and cook in medium oven (375°C) for about 40 mins
Remove foil, sprinkle rest of cheese over and return to oven for 20-30 minutes till nicely browned. 

We had no celeriac and had run out of garlic, but we did have garlic pepper and a few sticks of celery, and I found some grated Cheddar cheese to replace the Parmesan. It sounded as if cream was going to be a must here after all, so I cast around and noticed we had some creamed coconut, so that made a good substitute and I left out the stock.

The sauce seemed a bit bland without fresh garlic, so inspired by the crumble recipe I added mustard and honey. Then I discovered that we did have a small pot of light double cream lurking in the fridge, so that went in, too.

I won’t try to calculate the calories or reflect on what this might do to our cholesterol levels – but I can say that the final casserole was a delicious accompaniment to our pork chops, flavoured with sage and onion, and roasted slowly in the oven alongside the vegetables. The coconut gave just a tiny aftertaste that made it a bit special. A rioja wine, Campo Viejo 2005, went well with this rather rich dish.


And finally, I can’t resist a comment on the etymology of the vegetable that prompted all this: when it was brought to Scotland in 1781-82, the Scots found the Swedish dialect word ‘rotabagge’ difficult to pronounce. Funny, really, when you think how easily the Gaelic speakers get their tongues around such words as usquebaugh!

2 thoughts on “The Unexpected Swede

    • Yes, squirrel defeated you but Eichhörnchen tripped merrily off your tongue …
      Yummy is the word – and no, I haven’t – it’s driving me crazy trying to figure out what I really wanted!

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