A Cooking Trilogy: Part One

“ ’Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers”

(William Shakespeare, from Romeo & Juliet)

I like to cook. And I like to write. So I’ve decided to use my next three posts to combine the two. I will provide a favourite recipe, with my own tips and modifications, a few illustrations and the reasons that I enjoy cooking and eating this particular meal.

I love that quote above from Romeo & Juliet, and although there is some subtext to it, the humour from the servant to Lord Capulet is obvious, he means that he can find more cooks by seeing if they will eat their own food, by licking their fingers during its preparation. This particular meal has me licking my fingers while I am making it:

Bubble & Squeak – Original recipe by Jamie Oliver

Take 1kg of good quality potatoes that will mash well, Maris Pipers are ideal. Peel, cut into smaller pieces to reduce the boiling time, and set aside.

Take 600g of mixed root vegetables, I use a combination of swede, carrots, and parsnips. Peel and chop. If you are using swede boil this for 5 minutes on its own, then add the rest of the chopped vegetables along with the potato. Salt the water if you like, but you’ll add seasoning later so not really necessary.

Once boiled sufficiently, so that the vegetables are soft enough to mash, add a handful of chopped curly kale to the saucepan for about a minute.

Now drain the vegetables and allow to steam dry for a few minutes, then mash, don’t be afraid of a few lumps as this will add to the texture. In the meantime, chop a handful of herbs; rosemary, sage and thyme are good, but whatever you have lying around will do. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a deep frying pan, add a generous knob of butter and when melted fry the herbs for a a minute or so.

Boil the vegetables until "mashable"

Boil the vegetables until “mashable”


Add the mashed vegetables to the frying pan, mix in the herbs and then flatten the vegetables so they fill the pan in a nice smooth “pancake”. Cook on a medium heat, and mix the vegetables every 3-4 minutes for 15 minutes. Add salt and ground pepper occasionally, and taste to get the seasoning balance just right (any little bits that happen to drop out of the pan pick up with your fingers and lick off!). You’ll find that the vegetables begin to catch the heat and brown on the underside – this is good, and adds to the flavour.

Mash the vegetables

Mash the vegetables


After 15 minutes, if you are brave, flip the bubble & squeak like a pancake – I am not brave, so I just invert over another frying pan. At this point the underside should have some nice crispy brown bits, mix these into the bubble & squeak, and repeat the process for a further 15 minutes. Sometimes you might need to add a little more olive oil if the vegetables have absorbed it all.

Flatten and turn in the frying pan

Flatten and turn in the frying pan

Mix and build up the flavours

Mix and build up the flavours


You are then ready to serve. Turn the bubble & squeak out onto a plate, allow your diners to cut their own slice and then crown it with a fried egg, yolk nice and runny. Supply plenty of brown sauce.

Ready to serve

Ready to serve


This is a perfect winter meal, it is hot and filling and tastes delicious. Any leftovers can be frozen, or just kept in the fridge for 2-3 days and eaten cold or heated – to be honest there is never any left to freeze in our house!

Why I like this recipe. 

It is basic, yet it involves some skill in building up the flavours. And the flavour mix is yours to decide. Each one you cook will be slightly different, as you’ll likely use different vegetables, or different amounts of the same ones. You can be quite creative with what you use.

It looks great when served, especially if you’ve got the right amount of brown bits on the surface.

There is something very British about bubble & squeak, this one is not made with leftovers as a traditional one would be, but it still feels quite authentic.

It is a hunger buster. Make one big enough (scales up easily) and a thick slice is very filling.

It is an easy vegetarian recipe, and can even be made vegan (just leave out the butter and the egg)

It is a great meal for sharing, everyone gets to dive in to get their slice.

It can be served as breakfast, lunch or supper – the choice is entirely yours.

Scraping the pan before you wash it up is the cooks privilege, and you get those crispy bits that stuck.

Coming in my next post: Tempura prawns, made gluten free.

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