Bubble and Squeak. Leftovers Reborn or Made from Scratch

The United Kingdom has some unusual names for foods. We have all heard some of them in movies, if not a cooking show or two. I wondered where some of the names come from, like Bubble and Squeak. I came across this name and it made me curious. Not only why that particular name, but what is in the dish that it be called by that name?

It turns out that Bubble and Squeak is a dish primarily made from the leftovers of roast meat and vegetables. It is possible that this dish has been around since the 1800s. The British are fond of roast meat with potatoes, cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, peas, or other vegetables. The cabbage family is usually represented. Swedes, or rutabagas and turnips and other root vegetables are also commonly used. It became common to make a meal from the leftovers, somewhat like a hash, where the meat and vegetables are smashed or chopped and fried up as one dish. The name Bubble and Squeak was coined as it was thought that the food bubbled and squeaked as it fried.

Because each household makes their own roast and vegetable meal, with whatever vegetables they have, there are many versions and ways of making Bubble and Squeak. These days well known chefs are making their own interpretations. In the UK, meat has been mainly eliminated from the mixture since the early 1950s, but is still often part of the meal, as a side. The hash mixture can be formed into patties and fried as individual portions, or as one large meal in a skillet. Bubble and Squeak is often served as a side dish for breakfast or brunch with eggs and bacon or sausage, and sometimes gravy. It can certainly be a delicious side dish for dinner. If meat is added, it makes a hearty dinner meal on its own. It can make a healthy brunch, if served with a salad or some sliced tomatoes.

Taking all this to heart, I decided to try my hand at a version of Bubble and Squeak. Maybe not traditionally British, but then, I have not a drop of English blood. I started out and made mine completely from scratch for dinner, including a hefty amount of bacon, and it turned out so delicious I will likely make this quite often from now on. This morning I made patties out of the leftovers and fried them to eat with eggs. It is fantastic either way. Here is my version of

Bubble and Squeak

  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled, cut in chunks
  • 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6 – 8 ounces bacon, preferably thick sliced, cut across in small pieces
  • 1/2 large onion, cut across into thin rings and lightly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 - 16 ounces cabbage, cut into half inch strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons each, butter and cream cheese

Place potatoes and parsnips into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and add the tablespoon of salt. Cook till quite soft.

While potatoes and parsnips are cooking, fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon to drain, reserving about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the grease in the pan. Add the onions to the bacon grease and fry on medium high heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and toss quickly for 1 minute. Add in the cabbage and the half teaspoon salt and toss to coat well. Lower heat slightly and cover the skillet. Cook for about 8 to 10 more minutes, frequently removing the lid to toss the cabbage, until the vegetables are soft and translucent.

Remove one cup of the cooking water from the potatoes and parsnips and set aside, then drain the potatoes. Mash the potatoes and parsnips with a masher or rice them, as desired, adding in the butter and cream cheese to blend well. If the potato mixture is too stiff, add in the reserved cooking water as needed for desired texture. Add in the cooked cabbage mixture to the potatoes along with the reserved bacon and combine well. Can be served right away as a main meal, or once cooled, this mixture can be made into patties, dipped in flour and fried. Serves about 4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as a side dish.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey.

The Author:

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Photo. Claire Lacroix

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