Sometime  in the late 1950’s and halfway through the Sunday roast pork dinner and my Brussels sprouts are mixing nicely with the fresh apple sauce, crackling and a curious mixture of mashed swede, potato and margarine that my Mother often produces as part of this meal. It is a moment to relish in any English schoolboys meal. Still plenty of good stuff left on the plate, and the promise of apple pie for dessert, or ‘afters’ as we called it. And even before we get to the pie there is also a likely fight for my father’s leftovers. He often does not finish what he has on his plate and seems to enjoy watching his three sons jockey for an extra portion whilst my Mother tut-tuts her disapproval of this crude display. But she is outnumbered.

And in case you are wondering, no, we were not cannibals, and did not eat people from Scandinavian countries, however tastily prepared. However, Swede, or Swedish Turnip or what Americans call Rutabaga was and still is a frequent part of my diet, and a recent article in the Food Day section of the Oregonian which while not disrespectful of this fragrant and nutritious vegetable was not as fulsome as it deserves, has prompted me to do a little more research into brassica napobrassica’.rutabaga

I had barely touched the keys and I discovered that in Ithaca, New York, every December there is an International Rutabaga Curling Championship, and closer to home the Advanced Rutabaga Studies Institute in Forest Grove, Oregon. The Wikipedia entry for the Rutabaga let me know, amongst many fascinating pieces of information, that the preparation served by my dear Mother so long ago is called, in Scotland, ‘clapshot’; a delicious schoolboy term. “More clapshot for you, dear? It contains 42% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C!”

From the Wikipedia entry I discovered the physiological reason why many people find Rutabaga intolerably bitter. Poor dears they are cursed with especial sensitivity to the glucosinolates which it contains, as do watercress, mustard greens, turnip, broccoli and horseradish. It is in their DNA. Nothing can be done. Nothing can be done except invent recipes that attenuate or mute that characteristic; which brings me by a circuitous route to a recipe which does just that. I have been making quattro radice purea’ since I was introduced to it at a relatives Thankgiving Dinner some twenty years ago. Their version contained Parsnip, Turnip, and two other mystery roots niether of which were Rutabaga. My version, of course, is a nostalgic nod and homage to my Mothers unwitting Clapshot, and contains constantly variable proportions of the following:-

  • The flesh of baked Potato (keep the skins!)
  • Roasted Onions
  • Roasted Rutabaga
  • Roasted Turnip
  • Roasted Parsnip
  • Roasted Carrot

…all mashed and blended with butter, salt, pepper and occasionaly Parmesan cheese, and then baked in a casserole, or stuff the potato skins and bake.

Of course you have counted the ingredients and are questioning my mathematics. But before you get too critical lets just go through them. A Potato is a seed tuber, a Rutabaga is a swollen stem. Turnips, Parsnips and Carrots are roots and the Onion is a bulb. So, perhaps I should call the dish Three Root Puree?

No matter, it is delicious, nutritious, a wonderful conversation point and economic.