Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Garam Masala Swede aka neep soup

This months 'No Croutons Required' is being hosted by Lisa of the Lisa’s Kitchen and she challenged us to create a soup or salad with root vegetables. I really like the theme of this challenge, as there are so many seasonal root vegetables around that I feel spoiled for choice, especially with my home grown vegetables. I could have made carrot soup, turnip soup, parsnip soup, even Jerusalem artichoke and ginger soup which is what I was actually going to make as I had dug up some Jerusalem artichokes from the plot this weekend, but I changed my mind as I had half a swede (grown in Perth, Scotland) left over from for the white chilli bean I had made earlier in the week.

Instead I decided to make a belly warming neep soup with some South Asian influences and why not. Here in Scotland, we have vegetarian haggis samosa and haggis pakoras here, so why not garam masala neep soup aka Swede soup with warm spices. One thing cooks should know about garam masala is you can add it the pot whilst the vegetables are cooking, or use it after as a garnish, or both – which is what I have done with this recipe.
Swede is a very plain looking vegetable but upon cooking it becomes almost golden. It is a close relative of the turnip and for this reason their names are sometimes used interchangeably. In America, Swedes are called rutabagas and in Scotland neeps. When I first moved to Scotland I made the mistake of assuming that neeps was a derivation of the word turnip as in turneep, but I was later informed by a fellow Scot that neeps were actually swede but were commonly known as Swedish turnip.

Some of you may be thinking, why didn’t I use my own home-grown swede. I don’t often eat swede that often, so I made a decision not to grow it. However, if someone had given me a dozen seedlings to plant, I would have happily taken them, as that amount would have been sufficient for me.

Anyway, back to the soup, the idea for this garam masala neep soup was heavily influenced by one of my favourite soups: curried parsnip soup made by the cookery writer Jane Grigson. I did surf the web for a similar recipe made with swede, but couldn’t find one, so decided to make my own version. I was pleasantly surprised with the result and found it actually very rich, creamy and filling. I think the soup would be delicious with a side serving of swede crisps with some garam masala and a touch of salt sprinkled on top, who needs croutons?!
I am submitting this to Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen who is hosting Novembers 'No Croutons Required' challenge.

Garam Masala neep soup
Serves 4 – 6
1 small swede, about 400g peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
1 red chilli, sliced
1 tablspoon of garam masala
Salt to taste
1 ½ pints of water or vegetable stock
Extra garam masala for sprinkling
Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan, add the onion and garlic if using and cook for a few minutes until translucent but not coloured. Add the swede, garam masala and chilli and cook for a few minutes, then add the stock, bring to the boil, then simmer until the swede is soft. Turn off. When cool, blend the soup, adjust the seasoning, reheat and serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkling of extra garam masala if desired.


  1. I thought neeps were turnips too! Well I never.
    Lush soup by the way :o)

  2. Thank you so much for introducing me to Swedes! I hadn't heard of them before, but I love turnips, so I am eager to try them! Your soup looks especially delicious and comforting, too...

  3. Thank you Nic.
    I feel so much better knowing that I am in good company and was not the only one who thought turnips were neeps. : ) Thanks

    Hi Astra,
    Your welcome. The taste is different. The flavour of swedes is mild compared to turnips which are really peppery.

  4. That looks like such a hearty, warming soup, Mango. I have never heard the terms neeps and swedes, before, so your post was informative. I have some parsnips growing in the garden I am going to let winter over, but if I pull some early, I will give this recipe a try using parsnips. Nice post!

  5. Thank you Barbara.

    I am always learning. I had never come across the American term rutabagas before either.

    If you make this soup parsnips, reduce the garam masala a bit. Talking of parsnips, please come over and check out my post later today. I did pull out an interesting specimen over the weekend.

  6. You're right - this certainly does sound like it would go well with my spiced up potato cakes. As for the turnip/swede thing, I think that what we in Ireland commonly call turnips are actually the milder swedes - not that it matters much what you call them, as long as they taste good :)

  7. I am headed to scotland on the weekend so I will be doing some research on this neep/turnip question - I was under the impression that Scots call them turnips - will check with resident scot when he gets home !!!

    PS nice soup too whatever it is called

  8. Unusual recipe but it sounds delicious!

  9. I have been told by Scottish colleagues that there is often confusion about the differences between the turnip and the Swede. The Swede 'Brassica napobrassiac' is from Sweden (unsurprisingly) and was introduced to the UK as the Swedish turnip and the name later became shortened to Swede.

    To add to the confusion the Swede is often known as a turnip or 'neep' in Scotland and the turnip goes by the same name. The Americans however call the Swede a rutabaga, which comes from the Swedish word - rotabagge. However in some parts of the States the Rutabaga is called the yellow turnip and the turnip is known as the white turnip.

    Hey if anyone can shed more light, I am willing to learn. I am just going by what some fellow Scots have told me at the allotment. I also looked up this site for more information and shows a picture of the vegetable root I used.

    Ah the turnip and swede debate continues.

    Turnip and swede the difference?

  10. I love garam masala. It is such a complex combination of spices and it never fails to make things taste good.

    I have never had rutabagas, but I think I need to try them! Excellent soup.

  11. Thanks Joanne.
    Most people have their own favourite combination of garam masala. I have always loved it, especially over tarka dal (yum).

  12. that is interesting about the neep - have never heard that it was the swedish turnip but that makes sense - I asked in scotland on my trip and was told that neeps referred to turnips - but I agree it is very confusing

  13. Thanks for coming back Johanna, but as you know from your trip to Scotland and recent post on Edinburgh Castle: neeps are referred to as turnips by Scots and swede or rutabaga to others, especially those on the other side of the border. I guess it matters what you name you call it depending on where you live.

  14. Just to confuse everyone even more in Yorkshire swedes are refered to as turnip, along with white turnip.

    Great recipe! We have a glut of them this year and I need other ways to cook them.

  15. Thank you for sharing this and the kind compliment.

  16. We grew them when I was growing up and called them rutabagas. I just bought one and think I will try your soup. Some one just gave me some garam masala---this will be a good thing to try it in. :)

  17. Thank you Kateri.
    Lovely to hear from you. Do hope you are well.
    Yes, I also read this veg was also known as Rutabagas - it has a slightly purplish crown and the other half is pale creamy yellow. Please Let me know what you think of the soup?


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