Wednesday, May 21, 2008

T is for Turnip - or Rutabaga


Sorry about the delay. Before we started on turnips, we had to clear up some confusion. Are turnips different to swedes? After consulting several gardeners I was told that the swede is in fact a Swedish turnip. In America they are known as rutabaga. To add to the confusion, in Scotland the swede is often referred to as a turnip or neep. I found a fascinating book by Marwood Yeatman, ‘The Last Food of England. He writes that swedes are ‘the product of an accidental cross with cabbage’, arriving in England in the 1800's. So there was much relief in our house as this means we can deal with Swede turnips at the same time as any other turnips: two for the price of one. Freddie and I went to the supermarket to buy our turnips. We took a strong hessian bag and planned to take the bus back home. But when we eventually found our turnips, we were surprised. These were dainty little creatures, with pale skin and a tinge of purple around the top - small enough to fit in the palm of Freddie’s hand. We bought a bag full. Next to them were the larger, dark yellow swedes. Even they looked small compared with the cannon balls I remember as a child. For our first turnip I used the swede. Freddie had tried swede before and hadn’t liked it. How do you turn something like Swede into something that looks like fast food? I cut it into thin sticks tossed them in olive oil and a little sea salt and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes. There is a point every evening, about 20 minutes before supper is ready, when the children come in and hunt for snacks. I shoo them out of the kitchen.

I left the turnip fries, arranged them in a ramekin and left them on the kitchen table. At snacking time, Alex and Freddie came in. They scurried around like mice looking for scraps and discovered the turnip fries. Freddie thought they were potato fries. I said nothing and pretended not to notice. When they were finished I asked him for his score. “Those were made from swede?” said Freddie. “That is definitely ten out of ten.” Turnip - the ultimate fast food!
Oven-baked Swede Fries
Serves 4 as a side dish

2 swede turnips or rutabaga
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the swedes and cut in half. Slice each half into even slices, 1.5 cm thick. Then slice those into sticks, like French fries. Place them on a baking tray and add the olive oil. Mix round with your hands so that the swede sticks are well-coated. Sprinkle the sea salt over evenly. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes. Half way through cooking, take out the tray and turn the sticks with a fish-slice so that both sides cook. Take care to make sure the fries become crispy but do not burn. Serve hot with some ketchup for dipping.
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  1. I used to hate swede, I found it too sweet for my tastes. We always had it mashed with butter and black pepper, served with christmas dinner. These days I quite like it mashed this way. The fries look delicious though!

  2. i recently discovered doing swede like this. the only other way i used to have it was as mash. but i love the way roasting them changed the flavour to something different than when you have it as mash.

    i find the same applies to celeriac. i roast that like this too. i love celeriac like this but hate it any other way.

  3. since these are so sweet, we mix them 1/2 and 1/2 with mashed potatoes... love the looks of the fries tho. mmmm

  4. Great idea. I always mix mine in with mashed potato as well.

  5. Sylvie - I think swede does need watering down as it were wiht other mash - potato or celeriac or carrot...

    Mamabird - Do try them out - they are a nice alternative to potato fries.

    Do you make roasted celeriac fries? How do they work?

    Lizzie - I grew up in Scotland so tattie and neeps were on the school lunch menu!

  6. Did you know that, in Scotland, it was traditional until fairly recently to carve your Halloween 'Jack'o Lantern' from a Swede/Neep? (call it whatever you want). I remember my Dad doing it.
    I'm intrigued by baking it though. I've had it steamed with plenty of butter and black pepper with haggis and mash loads of times, but never though about making it into oven chips.

  7. Great big veg9:33 AM

    Trekkie - I know - I do remember - in fact I am going to post about it. I grew upo in Scotland and it was a turnip lantern that we made at halloween

  8. Starting to get a bit puzzled over what is a swede and what is a turnip, but thanks for explaining! Your fries look great. I love swede, mashed, with butter and lots of black pepper. x

  9. Hi Charlotte - love the blog and your fantastic efforts in getting Freddie to try new things. I always have my swede mashed with carrot and a touch of nutmeg and melted butter. Kids usually love the bright orange colour and the mash texture.

    (Portobello Kitchen)

  10. Love the presentation in the ramekin.

    I've never heard of rutabagas called swede before, thanks for the lesson.

  11. Great news Freddie likes the turnip! Did you try those pasties I sent you the recipe for?


  12. Meg Wolff3:22 PM

    These look absolutely wonderful. And a ten out of ten to boot? Fantastic. I love this blog and your spirit, and your children. Great idea about putting these swede fries out for when the kids come home and are starving. I'd like them too. Looking forward to your book! All the best.

  13. Great Big Veg Challenge6:36 AM

    Meg W - Thank you for your encouragement. As for the swede fries - well its all in the timing. 5.35 pm precisely!

    David - What a brilliant recipe - read all about it in the next post. Thank you

    Lori - WHat I really want to get hold of is those little paper cartons that fast food stores serve their fries in so that I can mimic that with a healthier version.

    Tessa and Louise - Tatties and Neeps is what we call swede mash - which we are having tonight with sausages. Im not expecting too much resistance.

  14. 10 ot of 10...these are a definite keeper Charlotte:D


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