Monday, March 22, 2010

Bubble and Squeak

Most Brits are familiar with this breakfast dish, it's basically the use of leftovers from a roast dinner, traditionally cabbage and potatoes, shallow-fried in butter to create a pattie-pancake form, eaten with bacon, sausages and fried eggs, but it's also good with cold ham and pickles, especially piccalilli which this Essex girl is particularly fond of!

It's a dish that was born out of rationing and the Brits were very good at making meals stretch during those lean times, my mother tells of eating bread and dripping, dripping is the fat from the roasted meat. As a result of rationing, a thrifty attitude towards cooking has always been a part of the british culture, I would hear this phrase a lot at meal times 'waste not want not' food was never thrown away if one could make something of it the next day. I am glad I grew up in a time and place where meals were cooked at home and people sat around the table to eat.....with a knife and fork. Of course by the time I went off to college there were a smattering of Wimpy Burger Bars and Pizzalands, which were mildly appealing, but they were lightweight fast food joints and not a major presence on 'Main Street'. Today? well that's another big fat story.

As I mentioned in the previous post I made bubble and squeak to go with roasted cod, (thankfully we have friends here in Montauk eager to get up at the crack of dawn and go March). The last time I made B+S was probably during my bedsit days in London, and believe me there was no fresh cod sitting atop! HP sauce more likely, served with some beans of the 57 variety, cooked on a stove operated on a meter which would always run out of money when the beans were still can-cold......we ate a lot of beans back then. Then there was the landlady with the liberally applied magenta lipstick, peering through a crack in the door.......spooky, but it was all good character building stuff - bedsit land on the Finchley road in the 80's!

Now the thrifty dishes from my homeland have been showing up in New York City with the arrival of the gastropub. The bubble and squeak served with cod idea came from a restaurant in the West Village - Highlands - a charming, cosy restaurant with a Scottish flavor, I am a huge Scotophile and I loved everything on the menu especially the pound of cockles served in a delicious broth. They serve beer in old pint glasses, which had me and my mancunian mate taking a hike down memory lane. 

Bubble and Squeak
More than just a breakfast dish, it's great with fish or ham, we had sunday supper with leftovers from the leftovers and chicken sausages, a green salad and grainy mustard, good simple fare. Any leftover vegetables can be used in this dish, but I think the brussel sprouts are a must.

1 large onion peeled and finely chopped 
leftover cold cabbage 
leftover cold potatoes
leftover cold brussel sprouts 
butter and olive oil 
salt and pepper.
Heat oil and butter in a frying pan, add chopped onion and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until softened. Mix in the cabbage, potatoes and brussel sprouts and stir over a high heat, make a thick pancake form, mashing the vegetables together and heat through, scraping up any crispy bits from the bottom of the pan.

My mother was a young girl living in Norwich during the Second World War, I asked her what dishes/food she remembered eating during rationing and what she missed the most, this was her response - Well now, rabbit ....pies..stewed..roast. We kept rabbits, that was the norm. Steamed meat suet puddings, beef if it was available (suet you could get from butcher in a lump, not shredded like today) Bread and dripping. A winter dish was boiled onions in white sauce (something I still do occasionally) Fish and chips once a week. All vegetables from the garden...veg soup, bubble and squeak. 

I missed cakes the most and bread and butter pudding. Butter, sugar cheese and dried fruit were almost non existent. Tea time consisted of sandwiches, jam when it was available, toast and paste. Sunday tea we would have bread and shrimps. Ice cream was a once a year treat. We were lucky to have fresh peaches. Poppy grew a peach tree which kept us supplied, apart from that, fruit was rare unless you were lucky to have apple trees and we didn't. 

I suppose the one thing I remember well, was making our own cheese and butter. The cream taken off the milk and put in kilner jar till about 3/4 full, then shaken for days to make butter, sour milk was put in muslin to hang until it was consistent enough for cheese. So at the end of the day, as I said earlier cakes I missed most. Sweets, well....... what were they!

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