Sweet Potato, Rutabaga and Bacon Soup with Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

by Kristin on February 18, 2010

There are lots of differences between British English and American English, both big and small. There’s that whole thing about spelling things with ‑our instead of ‑or, like colour and neighbour, or using ‑re at the end of a word instead of ‑er, like centre or theatre. (Growing up in suburban Illinois, whenever we saw a strip mall calling itself a ‘shopping centre,’ we’d laugh at its pretensions.) I’ve also had to learn to say petrol instead of gas, lift instead of elevator, car park instead of parking lot and now order coffee to take away instead of to go. The differences in food names are even more pronounced: aubergine instead of eggplant, courgette instead of zucchini, mangetout instead of peas, and chips instead of fries (and crisps instead of chips). But my favorite (or should I say favourite?) is rutabaga instead of swede. I always thought the word rutabaga seemed a little ludicrous, almost like a made-up word, but it actually comes from the Swedish rotabagge, which explains why it’s also called a swede, given the word’s country of origin. Whatever you want to call it, it’s an underused vegetable, often appearing in root vegetable mashes, and it’s perfect in this cheap and cheerful soup.

Bacon corn muffins, bacon, onion and thyme bread or Irish soda bread would also work well with this soup instead of the buttermilk cheddar biscuits.

Sweet Potato, Rutabaga and Bacon Soup
adapted from Healthy 1–2‑3 by Rozanne Gold

Serves 4

I threw in a parsnip because it was looking lonely in my vegetable crisper, left over from a different dinner, and it worked perfectly well with the other flavors in the soup. A small chopped onion or a couple shallots would also be good additions.

5 slices bacon (plus extra for garnish, optional)
2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lb/680 g)
1 large rutabaga (swede) (about 1 1/2 lb/680 g)
5 cups (1.2 litres) chicken or vegetable stock or water
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces. Heat a large pot. Add the bacon and fry until cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pot.

Peel the sweet potatoes and rutabaga and cut into 1/2‑inch pieces (it doesn’t have to be perfect, it will all get blended later anyway). Add to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the water, along with some salt and pepper to taste (not too much salt, though, because of the bacon). Add the cooked bacon. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover. Cook for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft.

When the vegetables are tender, puree the soup until smooth in a blender, food processor or with a hand-held immersion blender. If the soup is too thick for your liking, simply add more stock or water until it reaches the desired consistency. Ladle the soup into bowls, then, if using, crumble the reserved cooked bacon into small pieces and scatter on top.


Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Makes 8 biscuits

If you have any leftover biscuits, they’re delicious reheated for breakfast the next day with some scrambled eggs.

2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (180 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup (120 ml) cold buttermilk, shaken
1 cold extra-large egg
1 cup (90 g) grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk
Maldon sea salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas.

Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork. With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix only until moistened. In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar with small handful of flour and, with the mixer still on low, add the cheese to the dough. Mix only until roughly combined.

Dump out onto a well-floured board or counter and knead lightly about 6 times. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 by 5 inches. With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles. Transfer to the prepared baking tray. Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt, if using, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot or warm.

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