Sunday, 17 October 2010

COOKING - Bubble & Squeak

As part of the "Time Travelers - New World Explorers" curriculum, there are several cooking projects. Students have the opportunity to cook several dishes from other countries (chosen to highlight the origins of the majority of the explorers studied in the unit). These include:

Spain - Pisto Manchego and Empanadas
France - Tartes aux Pommes Poilane (Apple Tarts Pollane) and Mushrooms a La Provencale
Portugal - Massa Sovada (Portuguese Sweetbread) and Arroz Doce (Portuguese Sweet Rice)and
England - Bubble & Squeak and Cheddar Cheese Soup

There is also an opportunity to make Spice Cookies and Spice Ornaments and to dehydrate turkey jerky and various fruits (as the explorers couldn't take fresh foods with them on their journeys). We will also be making lime juice to avoid the possibility of developing scurvy!

While grocery shopping yesterday we bought a large head of green cabbage and so the first exploration into the kitchen was "Bubble & Squeak," using the recipe supplied on the CD-ROM:

1 small head of cabbage (approximately 4 cups), chopped and steamed
3 large potatoes, chopped, (with skins) and boiled until soft
1 small onion, chopped
4-5 slices bacon, chopped

In a large skillet, fry bacon. Remove bacon to paper towel to drain. In remaining drippings, saute onion until transparent. Add cabbage and potatoes and return bacon pieces to the pan. Pan fry on medium until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes.

The notes say "Bubble and Squeak is a favorite of English children" at nursery! Who knows how true that generalization is? The other English recipe was chosen because Cheddar Cheese was originally made in the town of Cheddar, England as early as the 1500's (but that is an adventure for another day!)

When I googled "Bubble and Squeak" I came up with this explanation:

"The dish as we currently know it is usually made from cold vegetables that have been left over from a previous meal, often the Sunday roast. By we I mean predominantly the inhabitants of the United Kingdom; there are few references to the term in American literature or media and the few there are point back to the U. K. origin. The dish didn't spread to the countries of the British Empire either - possibly because they had unsuitable climates for roast dinners or, more likely, they just didn't like it. It is somewhat less popular in the U. K. than before, which isn't surprising as the Sunday roast is less common too. Those that do bother to cook might be horrified to know that 'bubble and squeak' is now available in packaged, microwaveable form.

The first reference to the meal is from a rather surprising source - Thomas Bridges' 'A burlesque translation of Homer', 1770:

"We therefore cooked him up a dish of lean bull-beef, with cabbage fry'd, ... Bubble, they call this dish, and squeak."

The Homer in that work would be more at home in the Simpsons as in the Iliad, so perhaps it isn't all that surprising. Francis Grose was a collaborator in that work. He goes on to give a definition of 'bubble and squeak' in his 'Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue', 1785, which indicated how the dish got its name:

"Bubble and Squeak, beef and cabbage fried together. It is so called from its bubbling up and squeaking whilst over the fire." (We could hear this sizzling sound when we made it.)

By 1951, and possibly earlier, bubble and squeak lost meat as an ingredient. This may have been due to the rationing in force in the U. K. during World War II, when meat was scarce. This was committed to print in the 1951 edition of the food bible of the day, the Good Housekeeping - Home Encyclopedia:

"In the modern version of bubble and squeak the meat is usually omitted." (Quoted from

We began making our "Bubble and Squeak" by frying the bacon:

Then we selected our potatoes, cabbage and onion:

Then we chopped the cabbage, onion and potatoes and cooked each one separately (since we weren't using leftovers).

And then Alisdair fried all the ingredients together before tasting our "creation" (top of post) and he pronounced it good! It WAS yummy - although different from the usual fare. (Actually I was just happy to get the boy eating cabbage as usually he's my reluctant vegetable eater!)

Now if all the rest of our cooking adventures turn out as well .... next recipe - CHEDDAR CHEESE SOUP!

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