Variations of this kind of vegetable stew have been eaten for centuries, and once formed the backbone of the ordinary peasant’s diet. In Britain, it was known as pottage, and even today it’s common to see market stalls selling budget priced “stew packs” of vegetables, ready for the pot after a quick peel and chop.
Sweden was, until relatively recently, primarily an agrarian society. You’ll often hear it said that the vast majority of Swedes are, at most, 3 or 4 generations removed from the farm.
Root vegetables were important to Swedes. They were easy enough to grow in the often poor quality soil, and could be stored for future consumption during the long, hard, winters.
This dish and others like it are still popular today – as with Britain I could wander off to our local hypermarket and come back with a nice shrink-wrapped tray containing a leek, an onion, a parsnip, a carrot, and a swede.
This version here brings the idea right up to date, with oils, herbs, and spices that would not been widely available even only a few decades ago.
My own, personal twist is the addition of the Tianjin preserved vegetable, which you should be able to find at any decent Chinese grocery or supermarket. It adds a great depth of flavour to any soup or stew, and as in this recipe a little goes a long way. It will keep for quite some time in the fridge, too.
This dish is a perfect slow cooker / crock pot mid-week special, ideal for a cold autumnal day, and its low cost will certainly help to banish any last-week-before-pay-day blues…
Rotfruktsgryta - Swedish Root Vegetable Stew
- 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp Herbes de Provence
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
- 2 tsp Tianjin preserved vegetable
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium swede (rutabaga), peeled and chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- olive oil
- Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery and onion. Stir fry until soft, about 5 minutes or so.
- Add the garlic, Herbes de Provence, bay leaves, and smoked Spanish paprika. Continue to stir fry for a further 2 minutes or so. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Add about a cup of water to the pan, and stir well. Add the Tianjin preserved vegetable, and stir again. Cook for about 5 minutes or so.
- Add the root vegetables – place the carrots, parsnip, and swede (rutabaga) in the pan, with water to cover. Bring up to a boil, and then drop to a low simmer.
- Cover, and then cook until the vegetables are very tender. The time taken will of course depend on the age of the vegetables and the size of the chop, but anywhere around 1½ hours won’t be far off. Stir often, and check the vegetables for done-ness with a tooth pick. Adjust the water level with more boiling water if required.
- Once the vegetables are done to your liking, remove from the heat, and serve.
This recipe is very flexible – leeks, sweet potatoes, celeriac, turnips – all of these and more would work just as well. A few mushrooms wouldn’t hurt, either.
If you want to play around with the herbs and spices, I’d limit yourself to the earthier, less fragrant ones, although you wouldn’t see me complaining if you sneaked a little extra-hot chilli powder in there when no-one was looking…