Bubble and Squeak | The Wind in the Willows

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Last Updated on May 12, 2022

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
A comforting bowl of Bubble and Squeak from The Wind in the Willows converts a leftover meal of beef, cabbage and potatoes into a  whimsical midweek dish.

What better way to make leftovers more appealing than to give them a playful name like Bubble and Squeak.

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.

What is Bubble and Squeak made from?

Bubble and Squeak recipes have evolved over time, just like many English dishes. Early versions of bubble and squeak consisted of beef and cabbage lightly browned in butter, salt, and pepper.  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.

What do you eat with Bubble and Squeak?

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

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Bubble and Squeak | The Wind in the Willows


  • Author: Bryton Taylor; Food in Literature
  • Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

Scale
  • 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

Instructions

Chop your potatoes, onion, cabbage and meat.

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring slightly salted water to a boil. Then add the cabbage to boil for 10 minutes.

Drain the cabbage from the water and lightly squeeze any excess water out.  Chop cabbage into smaller pieces.

Heat a tbsp of butter in a frying pan until melted and bubbling.

Stir in onion and cook until translucent.

Add in the beef and potatoes, and cook until beginning to brown (several minutes).

Add in the cabbage, sprinkle in salt and pepper. Toss to heat, before serving.

Notes

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
parsley
mushroom ketchup (Worcestershire sauce would be the next option)
vinegar
mustard
flour (for thickening)

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes

References

  • 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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2 Comments

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

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