I know ‘bubble and squeak’ sounds like a made-up name to sneak veggies into your toddler’s lunch. Unfortunately though—at least for those of us that enjoy quirky food names: oat-thappams, anyone?—it’s pretty straightforward. Bubble and squeak originated in the UK and was a dish of cabbage and fried meat. And the name came about because it would bubble and squeak as it cooked together. I don’t know at what point the meat was jettisoned from it, but nowadays it’s made using leftover mashed potatoes (often from a Sunday roast) and vegetables (usually savoy cabbage and/or greens).
It looks like a frittata but it’s definitely not a frittata. In fact the similarity between the two ends there. Frittatas are predominantly eggs with cheese and some other bits and bobs (think a giant omelette), while a bubble and squeak uses no eggs; it’s basically a ginormous pan-fried vegetable cutlet/patty. Other than potatoes, your veg of choice, onions, butter, and a sturdy pan, you don’t need much else to dish it up in 45 minutes. Even less if you’re using leftover mash.
I made this recipe using kale and it holds up really well to the slightly prolonged cooking time (spinach wouldn’t work I think for this reason). It needs something hardy. If you can’t find kale, Chinese cabbage would be a good substitute. I haven’t tried this but I’ve seen numerous recipes that use other vegetables too – carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peas. As long as you have a ratio of at least 50:50 potato to veg, it’ll hold as it cooks. Maybe it IS a good name to sneak some veggies into your kid’s food after all!
I plan my meals in advance, so if I’m making this dish down the week I’ll cook a few extra potatoes and stash them away. Not like this recipe is hard to begin with but this makes things doubly easy. If using leftover mash you wouldn’t have the skins left on. This is completely fine, traditional even. But I find that since the bubble and squeak gets pan-fried first, the skins give it great texture. So don’t peel the potatoes if you’re cooking them from scratch. Just add salt and roughly mash before using.
Speaking of traditional, once the bubble and squeak browns on the bottom, you’d normally loosen the sides, hold a large plate over the pan and flip it over. More butter is added to the pan and it’s then gently eased back to cook the underside. Basically it’s cooked entirely in the pan without an oven in sight. If you want to do it this way it might end up falling apart a bit as you flip. Just patch it back up and you’re good to go. (I’ve added instructions for this below.)
I however, didn’t want to attempt this fliparoo feat. So I added tiny knobs of butter along the sides and top and bunged it in the oven to finish cooking. Cut into wedges and serve straight out of the pan. Or if you’re feeling brave, run a knife along the edges to loosen, say a little prayer and flip onto your serving plate. Again, just patch it up if some pieces fall apart. Say it’s meant to look ‘rustic’/’homey’ and call it a day. You’ve done that too, right?
KALE BUBBLE AND SQUEAK
- 3 medium potatoes (about 2 cups mashed)
- 175 grams kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
- ½ an onion, finely chopped
- 30 grams butter
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- If using leftover mash, use as is. If cooking a fresh batch of potatoes: cook in salted boiling water until tender. Roughly mash with the skins on.
- Cube the butter into small pieces. You’ll be using a few cubes along the way as the bubble and squeak cooks. Add a few small cubes to a pan and sauté the onions. Once browned, add the kale and wilt for 1-2 mins. Retain the pan.
- Mix the kale-onion mixture and the mashed potatoes in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Use your hand to bring it all together.
- Add a bit more butter to the same pan and pile on the kale and potato mash. Flatten the top with a spatula. Cook over medium heat until the bottom browns (use a spatula to lift off a small piece to test the bottom).
- Pinch some of the butter with your fingers and dot them around the edges of the pan. Also spread some over the top.
- If cooking in the oven: (make sure your pan is oven-proof). Transfer the pan to the top rack of your oven and cook for 15-20 mins. It won’t be completely browned on top but it’ll start to crisp around the edges.
- If cooking on the stove top: run a knife along the edges to loosen the sides. Shake the pan a few times to loosen the bottom. Hold a plate over the pan and quickly flip. If it breaks just add the pieces back and patch it up. Add a bit more butter and gently ease the bubble and squeak back into the pan to finish cooking the other side. Cook until the bottom browns.
- Best served hot with runny eggs. Also reheats very well.