Bubbles and Squeaks

If the kale salad has left you feeling a little more virtuous than you're comfortable with, then this is the recipe for you... Bubblde and Squeak is a typically English dish that is near and dear to my heart: my mum often made it on busy weekdays, though back then I doubt we knew the dish's proper name. It's basically a fry-up of mashed potatoes and some greens, most often cabbage or Brussels sprouts: the fat would bubble and the greens would squeak. Tradition would have it that any left-over veg from Sunday dinner would get tossed into the pan, but any veg can join the party. My mum would sometimes mix in some eggs at the end to up the nutrition factor.

While this dish is very much a cold weather comfort food, there is no reason why the emerging spring harvest cannot sneak its way into this old favourite. Spring greens are aptly named, as they are at their best from March until late May. If you've ever been to the Southern States, you would know this vegetable as collard greens. You would also be aware that these lovely greens are actually available throughout the year in those states. Which begs the question, what exactly are spring greens?

Having grown up in Canada, collards -or spring greens were a rather rare sight because the climate does not really allow for their cultivation. They are not technically a separate vegetable: collards are actually immature plants of the cabbage family, which means they can be anything from young cabbages to cauliflowers or broccoli. In more temperate regions, cabbages are planted out early and thickly, so that they can grow long and slow in cool weather; as the weather warms up, plants growing too closely are thinned out to make room, and the thinnings are eaten as collards. In colder climates, cabbages are started in greenhouses and get planted out at ideal spacing. While this method minimizes 'waste', it also means there are no spring greens.

Of course, spring greens are not essential for bubble and squeak, any cabbage or kale will do. In fact, the outer leaves of a large head of cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli are perfect substitutes. You can even give the dish an Asian twist by using a Chinese cabbage, such as kai-lan, and a bit of grated ginger. There is no need for a formal recipe, so here are the basics for a spring version of bubble and squeak: start by crushing boiled new potatoes.

Brown them in some butter, to which a handful of shredded spring greens or baby kale is added. Let the greens wilt for about 5 minutes. Break up the potatoes as you cook down the greens, trying to get as many crispy bits as you can. Season with salt and pepper.

And finish off with a generous sprinkling of green onions. Just scrumptious! You can serve bubble and squeak as a side to a main (it is particularly nice with mackerel -which happens to be in season right now), or if you are too peckish, just tuck in straight from the pan!

Bon app'!


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