The humble swede is a much misunderstood vegetable, and one I can truly empathise with. Misshapen, lumpy, outwardly tough, slightly bitter and difficult to get under the skin of, but once you get inside, it’s soft, delicate, sweet and surprisingly versatile. Asda have them for 20p each at the moment, and as the author of an ultra low budget cookery website, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up really getting to know the inscrutable rutabega once and for all. The cheese in this recipe can be substituted for any vegan cheese of your choice – I didn’t have any to hand, and am not going to pretend otherwise. (I made myself a separate cheese-free portion but my 8 year old would not have touched it without the cheesy element, and parenting is challenging enough at times without fighting over liquidised root vegetables). Can be made gluten free by using GF pasta of your choice.
1 large swede, 20p (20p each, Asda)
2 tbsp cooking oil, 3p (98p/1l, Asda)
350ml vegetable stock, 3p (39p/12, Asda)
250ml milk of your choice, 15p (Smart Price UHT soy milk, 59p/1l)
1 tsp thyme or mixed herbs (optional), 2p (£1/50g, Bodrums at Asda)
scant 1/4 tsp mustard, 1p (34p/200g, Smart Price at Asda)
200g pasta, 12p (32p/500g, Smart Price at Asda)
50g any kind of cheese or cheese substitute, 18p (Smart Price cheesy spread, 70p/200g)
First peel your swede. This may seem intimidating but all you need is a firm hand, a sturdy vegetable peeler (this is mine!) and a bread knife. First peel your swede from bottom (the hard root stub) to top, and with a light touch. The more pressure you apply to your peeler, the deeper it will cut into the skin, and the harder it will be to wrench it off. Think of it as an exfoliation rather than trying to rip the skin off – and it suddenly becomes a lot gentler on your hands and wrists.
When the swede is nicely naked, chop it up into chunks. I use a bread knife for this, and it is a genuine game changer, as well as being less likely to cause an injury should you lose control of your unwieldy vegetable.
Pop the chopped swede into a roasting tin and add the oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Lightly shake from side to side to coat the swede in the oil, then place in the oven at 200C for 25 minutes to gently soften and sweeten.
When cooked, transfer to a blender – I have this brilliant and relatively inexpensive one – along with 350ml water, and the vegetable stock cube, crumbled. Peel and add the garlic cloves. Pulse until it forms a soup-like consistency.
Pour it back into the roasting tin and add the pasta, herbs, milk and cheese and stir well. Return to the oven, reducing the heat to 180C, and cook for a further 25 minutes until the pasta is soft and swollen.
Enjoy warm or cold. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days, or in the freezer for 3 months.