The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

swede and carrot soup with smoked paprika

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Many of the processes that are vital for life to flourish on this planet are dependent on interactions between living things, such as plants and micro organisms, and inorganic entities, such as the air, the oceans and the soil. Collectively, these interactions regulate the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere as well as its temperature, the fertility of its soil and even the salt levels in its oceans.

The Gaia Hypothesis, first formulated by the scientist James Lovelock over fifty years ago, contends that these interactions between living and non-living entities on the Earth comprise a complex system of interdependent links which together form a coordinated, self-balancing and regulating mechanism – Gaia.

For example, the composition of the air in our atmosphere is the result of a series of ongoing interactions between living and non-living things, and the outcome of these activities is something which sustains life on Earth, helps to maintain the planet’s temperature and protects life on the planet against radiation from space.

The Gaia hypothesis posits that this interactivity of the organic and non-organic is unconsciously but purposefully orchestrated. The overarching objective of that orchestration is to maintain optimal conditions for life on the planet. According to the theory, when challenges are made to the planet’s delicate equilibrium then these interactive elements work together to make the necessary adjustments to combat and overcome those challenges.

There are some pretty serious challenges facing the planet right now. The global human population continues to grow at a breakneck pace, and is predicted to increase by another third within the next 40 years. In the process of feeding, fueling and sustaining our species we have been in large part responsible for climate change, as well as pollution, soil erosion, deforestation and large-scale depletion of natural resources.

The intensive farming, fishing and food production processes upon which we continue to allow ourselves to rely further eat into those natural resources and create imbalances in the ecosystem.

According to Gaia, we are a mere part of something much larger than ourselves on planet Earth. If we continue to damage the natural world around us we will eventually destroy our ability to secure a sustainable future for our own species.

But not for life itself on Earth.

The earth is more than just a home planet for human beings. It is a complex, living ecosystem and we are just one small but extremely disruptive part of it. It is in our own long-term interests to learn to love our planet, to protect other species and to respect our natural resources and use them responsibly and sustainably. If we do not, Gaia will find a new balance, continuing to regulate the conditions for life on this planet, only without us.

harvested swedeharvested carrots
smoked paprikaempty soup mug

OK, after all that heavy stuff it’s stripey apron time.

This quick and very cheap recipe makes use of a much underrated vegetable, the swede (known as rutabaga in Canada and the USA). I grow swedes on my allotment plot, the Circus Garden, but this year they were rather small and disappointing. The fine specimens in the photograph above were kindly donated to me by John, one of my fellow plot holders and are much better than my own miserable efforts.

The swede originated in Scandinavia (hence the name) and is therefore a very hardy vegetable. It may be not much to look at (let’s be honest, it would probably only ever win a vegetable beauty contest if the other contestant was celeriac), but it is high in antioxidants, in the form of vitamin C, as well as being a good source of both calcium and iron.

Swede and carrot are a classic pairing and here they are combined with just the right amount of thyme and smoked paprika to produce a vibrant, rich and deeply satisfying soup – a great winter warmer.

swede and carrot soup with smoked paprika


1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
400 g swede, peeled and cut into chunks
150 g carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
Β½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
Β½ tsp sea salt
generous grind of black pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1.2 litres vegetable stock


1. Pour the oil into a large pan and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and stir. Continue cooking until the onion is translucent. Add the Swede, carrot and garlic, and stir and cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes. Add the thyme, smoked paprika, sea salt and black pepper and stir in. Finally pour over the vegetable stock.

2. Bring the contents of the pan to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cook for 20 – 25 minutes or until the carrot and the Swede are tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few moments.

3. In a blender, process the soup until it is smooth and velvety. You will need to do this in batches. To serve, reheat the soup but do not allow to boil.

Categories: gluten free, vegan

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24 replies

  1. Under 8 inches of snow here this week and temperatures dipping to negative 7 degrees F tonight…that soup looks just the thing to take the chill off! πŸ™‚ Cheers, Ben

  2. Really interesting piece – we hadn’t heard of the Gaia Hypothesis. And of course, another lovely recipe!

  3. I loved reading the preamble of this post about the Gaia hypothesis! Such good info! And the soup looks so velvety smooth! I will make it after my next farmers market trip. Thanks!

  4. Thank you for your kind comments. This really is a very tasty soup!


  5. Hey Circus! I too had never heard of the Gaia, really enjoyed the ‘heavy’. I adore swede and smoked paprika, this looks fab and I will be bookmarking it for winter. Beautiful photos.

  6. Looks pretty good and healthy πŸ™‚ ! Bye. Kamila

  7. Thank you Kamila! πŸ™‚

  8. I think today I will have a go at making the swede and carrot soup. I will cook it in a slow cooker? Do you think this will work Stephen? My cooker had expired!! Love Auntie Bernie x

  9. Temperature in Hong Kong dropped from 32c to25c …so feels like autumn! Australian Swedes in the supermarket tonight so made this recipe. Beautiful and great to get the nutrients into the body after a hard weekend of exercise.

  10. I found the Gaia Hypothesis very interesting as I have been saying this for a long time. I am making this soup right now after finding your recipe. It really smells delicious. Thank you so much! Xx

  11. Just made this soup and it was delicious, exactly what I needed! Added in some tabasco and the zest of half a lemon at the end. Will definitely be making it again. Thank you!

  12. Hi Alexandra. Thank you so much for your kind feedback. I like the sound of your embellishments too! Steve

  13. Made your swede and carrot soup today. i had a swede in my “wonky veg” box this week, and was looking for inspiration and came across your recipe. I have never cooked swede before, and wasn’t convinced in the preparation stage as it had quite a strong smell….. However, with the carrot and paprika it has been transformed into a delicious soup. This one is a keeper, and I will no longer be intimidated if i find swede in my veg box! Fab. Thank you!

  14. Delicious recipe which has become a family favourite, thanks for the recipe.


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