The History – Not much history here, except to say that this is a staple of our often frugal Februaries. This cheap and hearty supper was born out of a long overdue fridge clear out and a stale loaf of bread. I think swedes are called rutabagas in the USA, and I’m not sure how widely available they are, so if you’re making this across the pond, 4 parsnips would do well as a substitute, or even a couple of sweet potatoes. The important thing is that you use sweet roots to counter the salty-savoury goodness of the melted cheese.
This is a great veggie comfort meal, especially on a cold Monday night, and can easily be made vegan by using vegan cheese substitutes and vegan bullion powder in place of the stock cube.
If you’re feeling virtuous, you can always stir some baby spinach into the finished soup, but to be honest, you’re already having a bowl of veg for supper, and a bloody good one. Sod the greens.
Any good melting cheese can be used for the croutons—cheddar, double Gloucester, fontina, and feel free to use other herbs in the croutons, or some crushed garlic. Oregano would be good, maybe some thyme, or chives.
Serves 4. On the table in 45 mins
2 medium red onions, roughly chopped
1 medium swede, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 leeks, sliced
2 medium red potatoes, diced
A knob/1tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 stock cubes (veggie or chicken)
1 litre of water
Salt and pepper to taste
400g (1/2 uncut loaf) stale bread, cubed
200g gruyere cheese, grated
20g parsley, finely chopped
To serve: salt and pepper, extra virgin olive oil
1: Heat butter and olive oil in a big pan on medium. Throw in the red onion, leeks, carrots, and swede, and a pinch of salt, and sweat down for 10 mins until starting to soften.
2: Add the potatoes, stock cubes, and water, adding more or less water depending on the volume of veg. You want it to come a centimetre above the veg.
3: Bring to a slow boil and simmer until the veg are all tender, between 20-30 mins.
4: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 C (390 F).
5: Layer cubed bread, grated cheese, and herbs in an oven-proof dish. Bake in the oven for 10 mins until melted, toasted, and golden.
6: When the veg is tender, scoop a third of the soup into a blender and blitz until smooth, then add back to the pan, stirring well. Alternatively, use a stick blender directly in the pan. You want to keep it chunky, while blending enough of the veg to give you a thick, comforting base.
7: Serve the soup in shallow bowls, with a fat handful of cheesy croutons, and a drizzle of olive oil.
To counter the smugness of such a thrifty, sensible meal, I suggest a proper pud after—something with custard, or a doorstep wodge of chocolate cake. Who wants to be perfect?