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How to Cook Swede Turnips (Rutabaga) With Recipes

Updated on March 17, 2016
Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon has been cooking since childhood. He loves above all to take fresh ingredients and combine them in tasty and hopefully original ways.

Haggis, tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnip) is a staple meal at the celebration of Burns' Night in Scotland and around the world each January 25th. This attractively different recipe for haggis, tatties and neeps can be found further down this page
Haggis, tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnip) is a staple meal at the celebration of Burns' Night in Scotland and around the world each January 25th. This attractively different recipe for haggis, tatties and neeps can be found further down this page

Swede turnip (rutabaga) is sadly not the most fashionable nor celebrated of foodstuffs. It is often considered merely to be a poor man's food, bland and uninteresting in the extreme. It can be the case that any reluctant cook faced with having to determine how to cook swede turnip merely chops it in to chunks, boils it up in some salted water and serves it with no further action taken other than perhaps to mash it. The reality is, however, that virtually any foodstuff can be deemed to be bland if it is cooked in the right (wrong?) way and turnip of any kind is no different.

This page is devoted to looking at some very different but easy ways in which we can spice up the humble swede turnip and perhaps make it appeal to a far wider group of discerning diners than ever it has before.

Quick Trivia Bite

The word rutabaga comes from the Swedish word, Rotabagge, meaning, "root bag." This establishes the Swedish connection with the popular UK names for these vegetables that are swedes or swede turnips. Genetically, the vegetable is believed to be a cross between a turnip and a cabbage.

Note: Swede turnips are also commonly known as swedes, neeps, rutabaga and more. This is a classic example of that situation where food recipes read outwith the country in which they were written can prove confusing due to the totally different names and classifications which apply around the world. Further evidence - should any be required - that a picture is worth a thousand words...

The humble swede/rutabaga is perhaps not the most attractive and appealing of vegetables in its natural condition
The humble swede/rutabaga is perhaps not the most attractive and appealing of vegetables in its natural condition

Venison, Swede Turnip and Mixed Vegetable Stew

This delicious venison and root vegetable stew makes the perfect warming dinner on a cold winter's night
This delicious venison and root vegetable stew makes the perfect warming dinner on a cold winter's night

Venison is the generic name given to the meat of any member of the deer family. This can range from moose, to caribou, to elk, as well as many more sub-species members. While it once was the case that only a minority of people had access to fresh venison of any type, vacuum packing and the Internet has made it far more widely available by mail order and opened up this delicious cooking ingredient to many times more individuals. The venison used in this recipe is from the red deer of the North of Scotland and these quantities will provide two generous portions of stew.

The sliced onion is added to the browned venison
The sliced onion is added to the browned venison
The beef stock and water are added to the venison and onion
The beef stock and water are added to the venison and onion
The vegetables are prepared for the stew
The vegetables are prepared for the stew
The vegetables are added to the reduced stock and venison
The vegetables are added to the reduced stock and venison

Ingredients

10oz diced venison haunch
2 tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium white onions
2 pints (UK) fresh beef stock (= 2 ½ US pints)
2 pints (2 ½ pints) water
1 small swede turnip
1 small leek (stem only)
1 large carrot
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley to garnish

Method

Put the flour in to a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pat the venison dry with kitchen towel before carefully stirring it through the flour to evenly coat.

Bring the vegetable oil up to a medium heat in a large soup or stock pot. Add the venison and gently brown and seal the meat, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. Peel and finely slice the onions and add them to the browned venison. Cook for a further three or four minutes, continuing to stir.

Pour the beef stock and the water in to the pot. Increase the heat until the liquid begins to boil then reduce to simmer for two hours. Be sure to stir the stew every so often and monitor the liquid level in the pot. It is unlikely, but if you do need more liquid at any stage, simply top up a little with boiling water.

When the venison has been simmering for two hours, it is time to add the remaining vegetables. Peel and dice the swede turnip to approximately one inch cubes. Slice the leek to quarter inch discs and scrape and roughly chop the carrot. Add them to the stew for a further forty-five minutes to one hour's simmering, stirring occasionally and being especially careful to monitor the liquid level at this stage.

When the stew is ready, ladle it in to large bowls, garnish with a little freshly chopped parsley or herb of choice and serve immediately.

Lamb and Swede Turnip Puff Pastry Pie

Lamb and turnip pie served with homemade chips and blanched green beans
Lamb and turnip pie served with homemade chips and blanched green beans
The turnip is chopped in to one inch chunks
The turnip is chopped in to one inch chunks
The cooled lamb, turnip and stock is laid in the base of a pie dish
The cooled lamb, turnip and stock is laid in the base of a pie dish
The lamb and turnip pie is glazed and ready for the oven
The lamb and turnip pie is glazed and ready for the oven

This delicious swede turnip and lamb pie, made with these quantities of ingredients, should serve two people.

Ingredients

½ lb diced leg of lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pint fresh chicken stock
½ small swede turnip
½ lb puff pastry
1 small egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put the olive oil in to a large pot and gently heat. Add the lamb and brown and seal it, stirring constantly. This will only take a few minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and turn up the heat until the stock just begins to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for forty-five minutes.

Peel the swede and chop to cubes of around one inch. Add to the lamb and stock after the forty-five minutes and cook for a further fifteen minutes. Switch the heat off, cover and allow to cool.

Pour the lamb, swede and stock in to a 10" by 7" pie dish. Do not scoop off the fat. Roll out the pastry to a size where it is slightly larger than the dish, lay it on top and tuck in and crimp around the edges. Glaze with beaten egg and score a steam vent in the centre.

Bake the pie in the oven (preheated to 400F/200C) for forty to forty-five minutes until the pastry is beautifully risen and golden. Serve with homemade chips and trimmed green beans blanched in lightly salted water.


Haggis, Tatties and Neeps with Single Malt Whisky

A little single malt whisky is drizzled over the haggis and (lots!) more is served in a glass with the meal
A little single malt whisky is drizzled over the haggis and (lots!) more is served in a glass with the meal

Note: The plating technique employed in this recipe using the small bowl can of course be used for an infinite variety of different ingredients, sweet or savoury. Even if the haggis, tatties and neeps do not appeal, you may wish to try this incredibly simple concept with some of your own favourite food items.

The principal ingredients of haggis, tatties and neeps
The principal ingredients of haggis, tatties and neeps
The haggis is wrapped in foil and cooked in a steam bath
The haggis is wrapped in foil and cooked in a steam bath
The tatties and neeps are cooked separately
The tatties and neeps are cooked separately
A small bowl is lined with clingfilm and will be used to build the dish
A small bowl is lined with clingfilm and will be used to build the dish

Haggis in modern times is sold in many different forms, particularly in Scotland. It is important above all therefore to establish precisely how the haggis you have purchased should be cooked. The length of cooking time for the haggis will determine when you start cooking your other meal ingredients. Traditionally, haggis is cooked in its skin in boiling water but the haggis for this recipe was actually wrapped in foil and cooked in a steam bath in the oven.

One modest swede turnip should provide enough mash for four people, while one large baking potato per person is about right. Peel and chop the swede turnip and potatoes and add them to separate large pots. Season with sea salt and pour in enough cold water in each instance to comfortably cover the vegetables. Put on a high heat until the waters boil and then reduce to simmer for twenty to twenty-five minutes until soft.

It is a detraction from the traditional but the haggis, tatties and neeps in this instance are also served with a little bit of parsnip and pea puree. This is made by peeling and chopping a parsnip per person and boiling it in salted water for fifteen minutes. The peas are frozen and added to the water (one tablespoon per parsnip) for the last three minutes of the cooking time. The parsnip and peas are then drained, returned to the pot and mashed with a hand masher.

When the various components of your meal are almost ready, line a small bowl with clingfilm/plastic wrap as shown. Drain the potatoes and swede turnip in turn and in each instance return to the pot. Add a little butter and season with white pepper. Mash with a hand masher and resist any temptation to use a food processor - these devices provide puree and not authentic mash.

Spoon some haggis in to the film lined bowl to approximately half fill it. Press it down with the back of your spoon. Add the potato next, to half fill the remaining space, press it down and conclude with the swede turnip. Lay your serving plate on top of the bowl and invert. Hold the edges of the clingfilm, lift the bowl away and carefully peel off the film. Repeat with fresh film for each portion.

Spoon a little of the parsnip and pea puree around the edges of the plate. Drizzle a couple of teaspoons of single malt whisky over the haggis and optionally place a small sprig of parsley in place as a final garnish. Serve in each case with a generous measure of Scottish single malt whisky and have a bottle close by from which to replenish the glasses.

Note that haggis, tatties and neeps at a Burns' Supper will very often be followed by a serving of the Scottish whisky, raspberry and cream pudding/dessert, Cranachan.

Clapshot: A Tasty Alternative Inclusion in Bangers and Mash

Clapshot served with pan fried sausages and onions and Brussels sprouts
Clapshot served with pan fried sausages and onions and Brussels sprouts
One large potato and half a small swede make two servings of clapshot
One large potato and half a small swede make two servings of clapshot
The potato and swede is mashed with butter, sea salt and white pepper
The potato and swede is mashed with butter, sea salt and white pepper
Chopped chives are the final addition to clapshot
Chopped chives are the final addition to clapshot
Sliced onion is added to the partly fried sausages
Sliced onion is added to the partly fried sausages

Clapshot is a very simple Scottish dish, believed to have originated in the Orkney Islands, off the North Coast of Scotland. It consists of swede turnip, potato and chives, mixed with butter, sea salt and white pepper. Occasionally, finely chopped onion will also be added but it has not been included in this recipe.

Ingredients for Two Servings of Clapshot

1 large baking potato
½ small swede turnip
1 tbsp chopped chives
1oz butter
Sea salt and white pepper

Method

Peel the potato and the swede. Chop in to approximately one inch chunks and add to a large pot. Season with sea salt and pour in enough cold water to ensure all the pieces are comfortably covered. Put on a high heat until the water boils then reduce the heat to achieve a modest simmer for twenty-five to thirty minutes, until the pieces are softened.

Drain the potato and swede through a colander and return to the empty pot. Add the butter and season. Be sure to mash before adding the chopped chives, otherwise the chives will become stuck in the hand masher. Add the chives last of all, stir well and check for final seasoning adjustments.

If you are serving your clapshot as here with pan fried sausages, onions and Brussels sprouts, the sausages should be added (unpricked) to a non-stick frying pan with a little vegetable oil a few minutes after the potato and swede reaches a simmer. Fry on a very low heat for about twenty minutes, turning frequently. Add the sliced onion for the last ten minutes of cooking.

Remove any loose or dead leaves from the Brussels sprouts and simmer in lightly salted water for ten to twelve minutes, only until softened and not until mushy. Drain through a colander.

You can now plate up your tasty, alternative bangers and mash for immediate service.

Are you a Fan of Swede, Rutabaga, or Whatever you Happen to Call It?

Hopefully, this page will have been of some practical use to anyone who has considered swede or rutabaga to be a little bit bland and uninteresting. Thank you for taking the time to have a browse and any comments which you have may be included in the space below.

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    • quatrain profile image

      quatrain 5 years ago

      Used to eat rudabegas as a child. Thanks for the recipes.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Thank you, quatrain, for visiting and commenting. I hope you are inspired to eat them again :)

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Awesome recipes! I love your food photos. This may inspire me to try rutabaga sometime.

    • irenemaria profile image

      irenemaria 5 years ago from Sweden

      I am Swedish but have NEVER heard the name Rotabagge. Sounds like a dialect from southern Sweden? We call these useful roots for ROVA or KÅLROT. The recipes are wonderful!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      You know, I don't think I've ever had rutabaga in anything before. You make it look delicious, though! I suppose I'll have to give it a try!

      Thanks for expanding my food horizons, Gordon Hamilton.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Randomcreative, thank you, I'm glad you like them and I hope you do try it. To be honest, for many years I considered it bland and uninteresting until I simply started experimenting and am very glad I did.

      Irenemaria, thank you very much for commenting and I am pleased you like the recipes. I love the fact that you are Swedish and this word is unfamiliar to you - it inspired me to dig deeper! I first got my info from an old book which sadly I no longer have and can't remember the precise name of but I have seen the claim around the Web. What I have found today is that the word is regional Swedish (Vastergotland) and I have now hyperlinked it to the source, an article written by a Swedish professor. Sorry for the original slight misinformation :)

      Simone, thank you very much and you are very welcome. I think the first time I tasted it (where I actually liked it) was when it was mixed 50/50 with potato and mashed with butter and herbs. Enjoy! :)

    • profile image

      stessily 5 years ago

      Gordon: I admire the time and effort which you put into your recipe hubs, which are clearly presented and supported with clear, beautiful photos. I love rutabagas, which I especially enjoy in stews and purees, although I also like to steam them with mushrooms and broccoli. Although I wouldn't mind honoring Robert Burns at a Burns' Supper, I probably would have to bypass the haggis and go straight for the Cranachan! I'm especially interested in your recipe for Clapshot (strange name!) with its simplicity and particularly for its seasoning with white pepper, which is one of my favorites. Voted up, useful, interesting, beautiful, awesome. Thank you for sharing these tantalizing recipes.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Stessily, thank you for visitng and for the wonderful comment. I have to agree with you in that I am not a great lover of haggis either and certainly prefer Cranachan! Clapshot is an unusual name but its incredibly tasty for such a simple creation. White pepper definitely makes a huge difference with root vegetables. Hope you enjoy it if you try it.

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