Bubble and Squeak | The Wind in the Willows

“It was bubble-and-squeak, between two plates, and its fragrance filled the narrow cell. The penetrating smell of cabbage reached the nose of Toad as he lay prostrate in his misery on the floor, and gave him the idea for a moment that perhaps life was not such a blank and desperate thing as he had imagined.”

-The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

What is bubble and squeak?

Bubble and Squeak is a dish made of beef and cabbage leftovers. What better way to make leftovers more appealing than to give them a playful name!


Why is it called Bubble and Squeak?


Bubble and Squeak is thought to be named after the sound the dish makes as it cooks.

It is also believed that the whimsical name was a way to get children to eat leftovers the next day. Better than explaining that the meal is the leftover beef and cabbage from last night!

Where is Bubble and Squeak from?

Bubble and Squeak is a traditionally British recipe.

Since people have moved around the world, recipes have adapted to different times and places. The inclusion of potatoes, for example, is said to have been influenced by the Irish. While you’ll find leftover beef and cabbage dishes in other cuisines, frying cold beef and cabbage together has been deemed distinctly British.


How to make Bubble and Squeak

Come watch me cook as I make this cosy dish in my kitchen.


What is Bubble and Squeak made from?

Early versions of bubble and squeak consisted of beef and cabbage lightly browned in butter, salt, and pepper.

However, just like many English dishes, Bubble and Squeak recipes have evolved over time. By the mid 1800s, potatoes began to appear in the dish. As rationing occurred during the Second World War, beef was left out in favor of potatoes and cabbage, so some recipes nowadays can be found with potatoes and cabbage. For this recipe, we’re capturing Bubble and Squeak during the era of The Wind in the Willows (1908), before either World War had broken out.

Throughout history, Bubble and Squeak have taken on different forms. At first, the dish was served with beef slices. Eventually, the beef would be chopped into small cubes and served loose. As potatoes were introduced, they were served chopped. A version of Bubble and Squeak using mashed potato and compressed into a patty was recorded in 1901.

Due to the combination of meat and vegetables, Bubble and Squeak is the main course rather than a side dish. 

Bubble and Squeak in The Wind in the Willows

Toad becomes obsessed with automobiles when one runs his caravan off the road earlier in The Wind in the Willows.

“The Toad never answered a word, or budged from his seat in the road; so they went to see what was the matter with him. They found him in a sort of a trance, a happy smile on his face, his eyes still fixed on the dusty wake of their destroyer. At intervals he was still heard to murmur “Poop-poop!” “

Despite his friends’ best efforts, he is unable to stop his obsession and ends up stealing a car and wrecking it.

Taking pity on Toad, the gaoler’s daughter brings comforting food to him in jail to revive his spirits. 

“This kind-hearted girl, pitying the misery of Toad, said to her father one day, “Father! I can’t bear to see that poor beast so unhappy, and getting so thin! You let me have the managing of him. You know how fond of animals I am. I’ll make him eat from my hand, and sit up, and do all sorts of things.”

Her father replied that she could do what she liked with him. He was tired of Toad, and his sulks and his airs and his meanness. So that day she went on her errand of mercy, and knocked at the door of Toad’s cell.

“Now, cheer up, Toad,” she said, coaxingly, on entering, “and sit up and dry your eyes and be a sensible animal. And do try and eat a bit of dinner. See, I’ve brought you some of mine, hot from the oven!”


Bubble and Squeak | The Wind in the Willows

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Bryton Taylor; Food in Literature
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 4 pieces cooked corned beef (silverside), chopped into cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large cooked potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 raw cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tbsp butter


  1. Chop your potatoes, onion, cabbage and meat.
  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring slightly salted water to a boil. Then add the cabbage to boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the cabbage from the water and lightly squeeze any excess water out.  Chop cabbage into smaller pieces.
  4. Heat a tbsp of butter in a frying pan until melted and bubbling.
  5. Stir in onion and cook until translucent.
  6. Add in the beef and potatoes, and cook until beginning to brown (several minutes).
  7. Add in the cabbage, sprinkle in salt and pepper. Toss to heat, before serving.


  • Don’t add the cabbage before the water has boiled and don’t let it cook for too long. You want the cabbage blanched but still crisp, not soggy.
  • Optional ingredients
    mushroom ketchup (Worcestershire sauce would be the next option)
    flour (for thickening)


  • Kitchiner, William. The Cook’s Oracle; and Housekeeper’s Manual. J. & J. HARPER, 1830.
  • White, F. Good Things in England: A Practical Cookery Book for Everyday Use, Containing Traditional and Regional Recipes Suited to Modern Tastes, Contributed by English Men and Women Between 1399 and 1932. J. Cape, 1932.
  • Davidson, A., et al. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Broomfield, A. Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History. Praeger Publishers, 2007.

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  1. This was delicious, I used bacon instead of salt pork and my husband really liked it. Thank you.

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