Neep-a-Leekie Soup

Late January in Scotland means Burns’ night. From a catering point of view, this means haggis, neeps, tatties and whisky. For those who don’t know, ‘neeps’ is the Scots term for swede – the large turnip-like vegetable that goes orange when cooked. This year, we hosted a Burns’ night supper for a few friends, but overdid it a bit with the quantity of food. I can confirm that leftover haggis is delicious in a sandwich, making a filling and decadent lunch. But what do you do with an entire (leftover, uncooked) swede?

I always thought I disliked neeps, but have recently realised that it is the perfect partner for haggis. I love haggis – it is hearty, rich and heavily spiced – and the sweetness of mashed neeps provides the perfect counterpoint. When eaten on the same fork, they balance each other out beautifully. Rather than buying yet more haggis to eat with the leftover swede, I decided to turn it into a slightly spicy soup. This is essentially a variation on leek and potato soup, but the substitution of neeps for potatoes produces a bowlful of custard-coloured, creamy, spicy goodness. Perfect for lunch on a chilly Saturday.

Neep-a-leekie soup

One swede – approx 500g

Leeks – one large or two small

Vegetable or chicken stock – 1500ml

Chilli flakes – ¼ tsp, or to taste

Double cream – a couple of tablespoons

Slice the leeks and wash them in a colander. Place in a large pan.

Peel the swede carefully using a large knife – a vegetable peeler isn’t quite strong enough for the job. Chop into smallish chunks (approx 2cm dice) and add to the pan.

Add the stock to the pan with the chilli flakes, stir and bring to the boil. Cover, and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes, until the swede is tender.

Blend the soup. You will probably need to do this in two batches. Return to the pan, add the cream, reheat gently and serve.

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The ultimate comfort food?

Macaroni cheese is one of my favourite meals and has been ever since I was a child. It’s one of the things I learnt how to cook from my family. We used to eat it at my grandfather’s house, with bread and butter to mop up the sauce. I’ve tried numerous recipes over the years, but generally fail to remember which version I like the best. This is the one I developed for myself, which is roughly the right quantity and has just enough cheese. Next time I might try adding a diced and cooked red pepper.

Macaroni Cheese (serves 2-3 people)

200g short pasta

1½ tbsp butter

1½ tbsp flour

300ml milk

200g mature or extra-mature cheddar

  • Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
  • Melt the butter in a small pan and add the flour. Stir well with a wooden spoon.
  • Switch to a silicone whisk (to avoid scratching the pan with a metal one) and gradually add the milk. Whisk well after each addition, ensuring that the milk is fully absorbed and there are no lumps before adding more milk.
  • Once all the milk is in the pan, allow to cook for approx. 5 mins, stirring constantly until thickened.
  • Gradually add the cheese until melted.
  • Stir into the pasta and serve in warm bowls.