Some would call them our provincial vegetable - in fact some from other areas refer to us coming straight off them.
While there have always been paddocks of them throughout Southland they seem even more plentiful these days with four legged milk producers munching merrily on them - the humble, yet tasty, swede.
Belonging to the same family as turnips and cabbages, swedes have been around since the 17th century when it was developed in Sweden from a hybrid between the turnip and a style of cabbage.
Different cultures have developed their own ways to use them - the Scottish serve them boiled and mashed with their traditional dish Haggis (neeps). The American mid- West mash and candy them and in Finland they are casseroled with cream and spices. Quite delicious, especially with a touch of freshly grated nutmeg.
Swede is also known as Swedish turnip or Rutabaga. Rutabaga is Swedish for red bag referring to the purple bronze crown of the swede. While quite similar to turnips, swede flesh is yellow-orange rather than white and they do taste sweeter than turnips. Available throughout the winter and spring months they are even tastier after a good frost, hence Southland produces the best in the country.
While the leaves are eaten in many countries it's the edible roots that are more favoured here in New Zealand. They have a somewhat delicate flavour with good texture, and they are also a reliable source of fibre, vitamins A and C and calcium.
When travelling around Southland and a swede takes your fancy from a roadside stall, look to the smaller ones with smooth skin and firm flesh - these will be the better swede for cooking.
If you need to store your swede place them in a plastic bag then in the crisper bin of your refrigerator. If the swedes are very fresh and young you do not need to peel them. Leaving the skins on adds nutritional value. These young sweet swedes also have great abilities to absorb flavour making them absolutely ideal when added to soups, stews or casseroles.
With the weather being somewhat chilly at present I thought a soup would be appropriate.
SWEDE, POTATO AND GOUDA CHEESE SOUP
About 300g or thereabouts of swede, peeled
150g of potato, peeled
1 litre of chicken stock (vegetable stock is a suitable replacement)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Dijon mustard
100g grated Dutch gouda cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chop the peeled swede and potato into chunky pieces and place in a heavy-based pot.
Add the stock, bay leaf, mustard and seasoning and slowly bring to the boil then allow to simmer until the vegetables are tender (20-30 minutes).
Remove the bay leaf and blend the remaining mixture, adding the milk and the cheese and continue to blend until nice and smooth.
Return to your heat and bring to serving temperature adding sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Place a swirl of cream on the top and sprinkle with finely chopped rocket.
Serve alongside some toasted brown bread.
Some ideas for use in cooking
Grated and added to salads.
Steamed and crushed with butter and seasoning (great with some freshly chopped thyme, mint or parsley).
Add to any stir-fry.
Roast them with garlic and sprinkle of chopped rosemary.
Try adding freshly-grated nutmeg to some of your swede dishes.
Add them into your next slow cooking stew.
Marbled mashed vegetables (carrot, parsnip and swede).
Crushed with butter and seasoning.
Sliced and layered with onion or leek and topped with stock of cream, sprinkle with cheese, then bake like scalloped potatoes.
Bacon or spicy chorizo is always a great addition to any swede dish.
- © Fairfax NZ News