I cannot bear the thought of throwing away food, whether due to my own laziness or having given the sexier items in my fridge preferential treatment. And while some things, like leftover chicken, are very easy to use up, others, such as cold boiled peas and carrots and slightly dried out roast potatoes, left over after a proper Sunday roast beef, are a little less inspiring. Luckily, I have just the thing.
Bubble and squeak is neither elegant nor inventive. It’s an old-fashioned, frumpy recipe that looks about as tasty as an old shoe. But after you’ve eaten it, you will be thoroughly convinced.
The concept is leftover veg from your Sunday roast are mashed up together and fried in a pan until golden, crisp and brown. The reality is all manner of veg is whizzed up in a food processor into an indiscriminate paste, then cooked down for ages, to the point where it really no longer resembles food (and, I’m sure, no longer contains much nutritional value). But that is no reason to avoid making it. It tastes incredible – far better than it has any right to – and everyone loves it.
For me, the ideal combination of leftover veg includes roast potatoes, carrots, peas and cabbage. However, literally any vegetables will work. You need a potato base – at least a third – and ideally some form of cabbage (red, green, brussel sprouts, you name it), but as long as you’ve got some potato and another one or two vegetables, that’s all you need.
The other ingredients are very simple, but absolutely mandatory: salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and some form of fat. I remember watching an episode of Two Fat Ladies in which one of the ladies – Clarissa Dickinson Wright, I believe – lectured the viewer, very sternly and completely deadpan, that if for some reason you didn’t have a supply of beef fat or lard (!) to cook this with, just don’t bother and go cook something else. I wouldn’t go quite that far. Beef fat is obviously delicious, but I find a knob of butter and a drizzle of vegetable oil work just fine.
To serve with, a big dollop of HP sauce is perfection. A fried egg and a slice of bacon or two are very much encouraged.
Feeds 2 (and maybe a couple of children)
2 – 3 portions of cooked potatoes (roast, boiled, mashed, whatever you’ve got)
4 – 6 portions of other cooked veg
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp vegetable oil
To serve: HP sauce, plus a fried egg and slice of bacon or two per person
Add the veg to a food processor with a good shake of Worcestershire sauce (as much as you dare), and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse until you have a coarse mixture, smooth paste, or something in between. (I go for something in between.)
Preheat a nonstick (nonstick very important) frying pan over medium-high heat. Add your chosen fat and then scrape in the veg puree. Mix it all up together then use a wooden spoon to pat it out into a disc. Let it cook for about 10 minutes, then flip it over in pieces and mash it all in together. You’re not aiming for a perfect disc; you want the crisp brown bits all the way through, so you need to mash everything together as you go. Carry on in this fashion for about an hour, flipping and mashing every few minutes. (It will be worth it, I promise. An undercooked bubble and squeak misses the point entirely.) You will reach a point where the bubble and squeak becomes dry enough that it no longer sticks together in a disc, and you end up with clumps of crispy bits, not unlike coarse mince beef. This is ideal.
Traditionally, bubble and squeak is done when you can hear it bubbling and squeaking in the pan. I’m not sure how well that holds with a nonstick pan, and I’ve usually got some bacon sizzling in another pan alongside, masking any indicative noises. It’s done when it’s had about an hour and resembles the photo below.
When you’re almost ready to eat, cook the eggs and bacon in a separate frying pan, then pile it all up together on a plate and squeeze on a healthy dollop of brown sauce. Heaven.