Confession time: I am easily distracted by recipes.
For example, this week, I was reading a food-related message board when I came across a recipe request for a soup using blue cheese and brown bread. So I went on a search but kept coming up with a lot of hits for Turnip and Brown Bread Soup, which led me to this article and this arresting quote about the soup:
Three times in my life, a turnip has stopped me dead in my tracks.
I love reactions like this, so abandoning the poor, hapless, recipeless poster on the forum, I was now in search of the Turnip and Brown Bread Soup recipe.
Luckily, the article mentioned the soup’s creator by name, Catherine Fulvio, of Ballyknocken House, near Ashford in Co Wicklow, and I was able to find her recipe, or at least, a recipe attributed to her, in a book at Google Books. This is a very slight adaptation of that recipe, which I felt needed a little tweaking in terms of ingredient quantities.
For starters, the turnip referred to is Swedish turnip or, swede (rutabaga) – hence the title change. I’m a great fan of swede, but it does tend to conjure up words like hearty and sturdy and get lumped in with other root vegetables in various medleys and mashes. This soup challenges all that.
The colour is a delicate, pale peach, flecked with bran from the bread. If you can liquidise the soup, the texture becomes not just smooth but velvety. The flavour is definitely of swede, but not a brutish, rough and ready, muddy-boot swede, clomping about, but a light, delicate, rich and elegant swede. A swede that has been kissed by the touch of a fairy godmother. A Cinderella swede.
It is not yet officially autumn, but this soup is perfect for the cool transition days. It is also fine to freeze. The original recipe calls for double cream to serve, but I prefer it without. It also makes it easy to adapt to a vegan* soup. I have also tightened up the quantities by adding metric measures where they were lacking. Finally, the observant will have noticed it is also a proportional recipe, which makes it simple to scale both up and down.
Swede and Brown Bread Soup
150g chopped onion or leek
1500g swede, peeled and diced
150g soda bread, crusts removed & diced*
2 litres stock (chicken or vegetable)
A grating of fresh nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg to serve
- Melt the butter/heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions/leek.
- Cook gently over a medium heat until softened (10 minutes-ish).
- Add the diced swede and toss to coat.
- Continue cooking, stirring, until the swede has softened slightly (10 minutes-ish).
- Add 100g of the bread, the stock and nutmeg.
- Simmer gently until the swede is tender. Depending on the size of your pan, this may take up to an hour.
- Puree the soup. You can use a stick blender, but the texture won’t be as smooth and delicate as if you use a liquidiser. I used a stick blender, then a sieve, then a liquidiser in order to get the smooth silkiness you see in the picture above.
- When the soup is smooth, return it to the pan and add salt and pepper to your taste. Add more stock if you think it a little thick. Add the remaining bread cubes and puree again if the soup is too thin. If you’re happy with the thickness, toast the unused bread cubes and make croutons.
- Heat through and serve hot, with a grating of fresh nutmeg.
* To make the soup vegan, use Doris Grant’s No-Knead Grant Loaf instead of the soda bread.