If you're unfamiliar with bubbles and squeaks, food probably isn't the first thing you think of by the name. But this traditional British dish is the perfect way to use up leftover veg and so easy, comforting, and delicious, it's a dish to know!
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Even as a Brit I found that many British foods had strange names when I was growing up. Spotted cock, toad in the hole and yorkshire pudding (which is salty), to name a few, all of them seemed strangely unrelated to what they actually were. Then there were also bubbles and squeaks.
It is not a dish that I grew up with, as it is more English and less seen in Scotland. However, this is the one that I have come to appreciate.
What is bubble and squeak?
The origins of the name are unclear, and the exact ingredients in this dish can also vary widely. Some believe that the name “bubble and squeak” comes from the bubbling and noise as the vegetables cook on the fire. This is probably as good an explanation as any!
However what is clear is that this dish is leftover fried vegetables. This is usually a way to use up leftovers after a traditional Sunday roast dinner or Christmas dinner. Since the two pretty much always include potatoes, this is the only ingredient that is consistent.
The mashed potatoes serve as a "glue" for the other ingredients. These can be cooked cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or sometimes carrots and / or peas. Many versions also add meat, whether it's leftover roast or bacon cooked in the pan before adding the rest.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of bacon in there both for the bit of meat, as well as the flavor that really spreads throughout the dish.
What is the difference between the bubble and the squeak?
There are, of course, many ways to use up leftover vegetables, and you might be wondering what makes this dish special. Especially since I say that there are a number of variations in the ingredients.
The answer is that in bubbles and squeaks, vegetables are always fried. Then you need to let the things cook long enough that they are a little browned and crispy. Don't be too quick to turn it, you want it to be nice, crispy pieces.
In many cases, you make this as a large cake in a small to medium skillet, but you can also make smaller patties. If you're cooking it all in one, you usually stir things as you go to reheat it before squeezing it to crisp on the bottom. If you form pancakes, you leave them so that they do not fall apart and then turn them over once golden.
Other similar dishes from the region
In case you think this dish sounds a bit familiar to you, but not with this name, it is totally possible. This dish is very typical in England, but resembles other popular dishes in Ireland and Scotland.
The best known is probably Colcannon from Ireland, which is a popular side dish for corned beef for a St. Patrick's Day meal, especially in the United States. It is still relatively popular in Ireland, again especially for using leftovers. Colcannon is made with mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale, as well as usually leeks, but unlike bubbles and squeaks, it has a much creamier texture.
The Scottish dish most similar to this is called rumbling, again made with mashed potatoes and usually cabbage or kale and onion. Swedish can also be added, which is a common vegetable in Scotland (although less popular now). Rumbledethumps is usually made like a casserole dish so that the top is crispy.
Another popular way to use up leftover potatoes is to make potato pancakes / scones or potato farl as they are called in Scotland. These make a great part of a traditional fried breakfast (with bacon, sausage, fried tomatoes, and eggs).
When would you typically eat bubbles and squeaks?
This dish can be served as a hearty breakfast, often topped with an egg. Alternatively, it can be a main meal on its own or served as an accompaniment to leftover roast meat.
Since a roast dinner (often consisting of roast beef or lamb alongside roasted or mashed potatoes and other vegetables) is common on Sundays in England, this dish was a classic Monday meal. It's also something many associate with Boxing Day to use up leftover Christmas dinner.
In the UK, a traditional Christmas meal is very similar to an American Thanksgiving meal. You usually serve turkey with potatoes, most often roasted, one or more stuffings and Brussels sprouts.
Bubble and Squeak is a tasty, filling dish that's a great way to use up leftovers. It's also so versatile when you serve it and what exactly goes on. So try it and adapt it often!
Try these other hearty (or anytime) brunch ideas:
Bubble and squeak
The perfect way to use up leftover veg, bubbles, and squeaks is packed with flavor and so easy to prepare.
Portions: 2 if served as breakfast / brunch or with e.g. leftover roast, 1 as a main course in itself
- ½ onion small medium
- 8-10 cooked Brussels sprouts about 1 cup or use cooked cabbage
- 2 slices smoked bacon or 3, if smaller (streaked)
- 1 tablespoon Butter 15 g
- 8 oz mash potatoes 225g, about 1 cup
Cut the onion into small cubes, slice / grate the Brussels sprouts and cut the bacon into thin slices.
Heat butter in a small (8 inch / 20 cm) nonstick skillet / skillet over medium-high heat and add onion and bacon. Cook for a few minutes until the onion softens and the bacon begins to brown.
Add the grated Brussels sprouts and cook for a few minutes until they begin to brown.
Stir in the mashed potatoes so that they are evenly distributed, then flatten the mixture in the pan.
Leave the mixture to cook for a few minutes (about 5 minutes) so that the bottom browns slightly.
Place a plate on the pan and turn it over so that the mixture falls on the plate. Add a little more butter, if necessary, to the pan, then slide the mixture into the pan with what was up and down. Cook for a few more minutes until golden on the other side.
Turn the bubble over and creak on a plate. If you want to serve it with a fried egg, you can just fry it in the same pan.
Note: If you don't have Brussels sprouts already cooked, you can cook them quickly in the microwave. Just cut off the base, peel off the outer layer, cut in half and put all the pieces in a microwave-safe container with a little water. They should cook in about 2 minutes over high heat. For this, you can use mashed, boiled, baked or roasted potatoes. Simply cut off the excessively crispy parts and skin, then mash.
Calories: 587kcal | Carbohydrates: 102g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 15g | Saturated fat: seveng | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 334mg | Potassium: 1624mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: seveng | Vitamin A: 748UI | Vitamin C: 158mg | Calcium: 69mg | The iron: 2mg
Check out some of my favorite cooking utensils and ingredients in Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
I first shared the post for Bubble and Squeak (British potato cakes) on Curious Cuisiniere where I am a contributor.
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