If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast or a scrappy supper, you might want to try bubble and squeak, a traditional British dish made from cooked potatoes and cabbage, mixed together and fried. The name of the dish comes from the sounds it makes as it sizzles in the pan, but there’s more to this humble dish than meets the eye.
Bubble and squeak has a long history that dates back to the 18th century, when it was first recorded in a cookbook by Mrs Rundell. Back then, it was made with leftover roast beef and cabbage, and served as a way to use up the Sunday dinner scraps. It was also known as “bubble and scrape” or “fry up”, and was often accompanied by bacon and eggs.
Over time, the dish evolved to include potatoes, which became a staple crop in Britain after the Industrial Revolution. Potatoes added bulk and texture to the dish, and also helped to bind the ingredients together. By the mid-20th century, bubble and squeak had become a mostly vegetarian dish, with cabbage and potatoes as the main components.
Bubble and squeak is not only popular in Britain, but also in other countries with British influence, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland. It is also similar to other dishes around the world that use fried potatoes and vegetables, such as hash browns in the US, rösti in Switzerland, tortilla de patata in Spain, and colcannon in Ireland.
The beauty of bubble and squeak is that it can be made with any leftover vegetables you have on hand, such as carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts, or onions. You can also add some meat if you like, such as ham, sausage, or corned beef. The key is to chop everything finely and season it well, then fry it in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and golden on both sides.
Bubble and squeak is a dish that celebrates the global epicurean experience with its simple yet satisfying ingredients. As food writer Howard Hillman classes it as one of the “great peasant dishes of the world”, it is a testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of home cooks who can turn leftovers into something delicious.