Simply food



Bubble and squeak with a topping of bacon

In the mundane wilderness of ideas that is February, I’ve been searching for better and better comfort food. Bubble and squeak, a traditional English dish, made from left-over potatoes and greens, tempts. 

After Christmas, when I had lots of leftover roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts to accompany the cold turkey and stuffing balls, I fried them up with a little butter, smashed them into patties, and dined very well. Now in the wintry depths of February, I have leftover mashed potatoes, more left-over Brussels, and it seems like time to share this treat.

In England, and especially in the North, where we stay in our little cottage, bubble and squeak is considered a splendid accompaniment to a full English breakfast. More commonly made with leftover boiled cabbage (ugh!), I choose different greens. Recipes offer carrots, peas or any other leftover veggies as alternatives, but I feel leafy greens are called for. After all, it is the leaves which squeak when being fried up, while the mashed potatoes bubble.

If you are foregoing this as a breakfast side, then consider making some lardons with thick cut bacon and pan frying them along with the patties. Then serve with a poached or fried egg on top and sprinkle the bacon bits on top.

IMG_1041 (2)

Baked salmon with a side of bubble and squeak

If your leftover veggies are the remains of a Sunday roast (how English can you get?) then the patties are scrumptious with sliced cold meats.

The meats were traditionally added to the bubble and squeak, but with a resident vegetarian, I prefer to keep them separate. I also think the texture is better.

As an experiment, I served bubble and squeak to dinner guests this week with baked dilled salmon, broccoli and carrots. Baked salmon is easy to prepare and simple to cook so one can enjoy one’s company instead of being stuck in the kitchen, and is one of my go to dinner dishes. But this is the first time I have served it with bubble and squeak. It worked out very well. The recipe for Baked Salmon is in Market to Table: The Cookbook.

Wikipedia notes that bubble and squeak has different names in Scotland and Ireland, and was first mentioned in Mrs. Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery in 1806. That fine British retailer, Marks & Spencer, offers a take-away version in their better food halls throughout the UK, made with ‘mash (sic) potato, Savoy cabbage and spring onions,’ for £2.29 a four-pack.

But, honestly, this is simplicity itself to make, if you have the leftovers. And delicious in its simplicity.



Use a 3 in cookie cutter to shape the patties

Makes 6 to 8 patties.

Shopping list

  • 1 kg (2.2lb) cooked and mashed left-over potatoes
  • 500 g (1/2 lb) cooked left-over Brussels sprouts
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 4 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • Seasoning: sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Optional: left over cooked onions, or fresh spring onions
  • Optional: 2 or 3 thick cut rashers of bacon

Preparation and cooking


Turn over carefully with a spatula after frying for 2 mins

  1. If you don’t have leftover mashed potatoes and greens, you can simply peel and boil the potatoes for 12-15 mins until tender and mash with butter, well seasoned. Steam the Brussels sprouts, after trimming off the outside leaves, for about 8 mins. When the sprouts have cooled enough to handle, slice them thinly. TIP: Use a micro-plane, but carefully.
  2. In a bowl, add the greens to the mashed potatoes and mix well. If your onions are cooked, chop them up further and add. If using spring onions, chop into thin rounds and add uncooked.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the rashers into chunks and boil for about 10 mins to remove some of the fat, creating lardons. Then set aside to be fried later.
  4. Sprinkle flour over a chopping board and make a ball out of a small handful of the mixture. Roll in the flour and then flatten, making sure to repair any cracks around the sides. Alternatively, use a 3 in cookie cutter, fill it with the mixture and flour the top. Then gentle push the mold out to make perfect rounds.
  5. Heat a thick covering of oil in a frying pan and shallow-fry three of the patties at a time for about 2 mins a side, until crisp, turning once carefully. Pan fry the bacon at the same time. Don’t tell the vegans.
  6. Lift out the patties with a spatula, drain on kitchen paper and serve at once. Accompany with bacon bits, a poached or fried egg, cold cuts and brown sauce or hot onion gravy.
  7. Or cool and cover for heating up later. Heat the oven to 190°C / 375°F and reheat the patties for about 15 mins until hot all the way through and crisp on the outside.

NOTES ON DRY JANUARY AND LENT: By way of perseverance, and no other reason than health, my better half has survived a dry month on Perrier. A tip of the hat to Diane!

This writer, on the other hand, has seen it as a mission to empty all the ends and dregs in the Scotch Bucket; single malt Scotch whiskies left over from Christmas. There’s barely a gentleman’s portion remaining for February, so I may yet atone before Lent is done. Or since in 2019 it begins on Ash Wednesday, the day after Shrove Tuesday, on March 6 and ends on Thursday, April 18, I may even atone before it begins. Easter, after which we can begin again, is late this year on Sunday, April 21.

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Check out Nigel’s Market to Table: The Cookbook on Lulu.comi-Tunes and Amazon; an excellent fully illustrated eBook for about $10! 

1 reply »

  1. How I wish I liked bubble and squeak! I know it’s a deservedly favourite and excellent dish, and worthy of fame, but I just don’t like it! well done on the Scotch, and good luck on the dry whenever to whenever!


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