Recipe Spotlight

This British Dish Will Change the Way You Think About Leftovers

It will give you a new lease on leftovers.

Published Aug. 31, 2021.

Leftovers are a blessing and a curse. Reheat them and dinner’s quickly served, but after a few days they can feel like a Sisyphean pile of food that keeps rolling back onto your plate.

If you find yourself in the latter situation, you should get to know bubble and squeak, the brilliant British dish that transforms leftovers into an easy and crispy-golden-delicious meal.

bubble and squeak
Bubble and squeak is whatever you want it to be (plus potatoes).

The premise is simple: Smash up a bunch of leftover vegetables and/or meats (heck, even that takeout chicken korma at the back of the fridge) with some (also possibly leftover) mashed potatoes; form the mixture into a patty in a skillet with some butter; and watch as a glorious, browned, crispy dish emerges. 

Bubble and squeak was born as a way to use leftovers from the very British ritual of a Sunday roast luncheon. Its quirky name comes from the sound the dish supposedly makes while it cooks, a result of the traditional ingredients—cabbage and potatoes—rubbing shoulders in a cramped skillet.

The lovely thing about this dish is that there’s only one rule, which British chef Jamie Oliver explains in this video: "As long as half of it’s potatoes . . . then that’s what kind of binds it all together and gives you that incredible crispy outside and fluffy inside."

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

I use Cook’s Country’s Bubble and Squeak recipe as a guide and then throw in whatever’s looking sad and lonely in my fridge: cooked kielbasa, some wilting spinach, roasted carrots, smoked salmon. A sizable grating of cheddar cheese takes it over the top, as does a fried egg served on top. 

Whatever you add, the key to a good bubble and squeak is a little bit of patience, a dab of butter, and a good amount of flipping and patting. Leftovers never looked so good.

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