Do You Know What a Bubble and Squeak Is? (And 3 Tasty Recipes for It)

You’re not alone if when you imagine a bubble and squeak you see a baby river otter breathing underwater and then releasing a cute little bark of surprise afterward. Unfortunately for fans of otters, though, a bubble and squeak doesn’t describe a pup’s astonishment after realizing it can make bubbles. In fact, this image couldn’t be further from incorrect; the bubble and squeak is food, believe it or not.

The earliest recipe for the good old bubble and squeak can be found in a book printed in 1806 by Maria Eliza Rundell. This book, A New System of Domestic Cookery: Formed Upon Principles of Economy; and Adopted to the Use of Private Families or simply Mrs. Rundell’s, was undeniably one of the most popular cookbooks in England during the first part of the nineteenth century. While Mrs. Rundell’s was indeed a common find in British kitchens, she certainly didn’t coin the name leading this discussion.

Pazzo Books

In fact, Thomas Bridges, an English writer of dramas and parodies, referenced the bubble and squeak in 1770 in his A Burlesque Translation of Homer. In it, he says, “Neptune, we knew, was stall’d with fish, / We therefore cook’d him up a dish / Of lean bull-beef with cabbage fried, / And a full pot of beer beside: / Bubble, they call this dish, and squeak.”

Bridges even added a note to this section, stating, “Fried beef and cabbage is a dish so well known by the name of bubble-and-squeak in town, that it is only for the sake of my country readers I insert this note.”

According to The Phrase Finder, in the eighteenth century, the bubble and squeak “was a dish of fried meat and cabbage” enjoyed in England. In modern times, it’s more common for this dish to be made from fried vegetables like potatoes and greens. So how did it get its quirky name?

The Phrase Finder also says that, in 1785, a man by the name of Francis Grose described how the bubble and squeak got its name (and it has nothing to do with river otters). “Bubble and Squeak, beef and cabbage fried together. It is so called from its bubbling up and squeaking whilst over the fire,” he writes in his Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

By the time World War II rolled around, rations were tight in England. Meat was a luxury, and thus the bubble and squeak lost one of its main ingredients. Gone were the days of using leftover beef from Sunday lunches. At this time, the recipe usually called for more bubbling, squeaking vegetables than it did meat.

Today, the bubble and squeak is as alive as ever. Doing a Pinterest search for bubble and squeak will show you just how varied the dish can be. Its forms vary, but its essential ingredients are the same as they were when they were served to Neptune in A Burlesque Translation of Homer. It calls for plenty of pan-fried veggies and a bit of no-longer-luxurious meat. It’s also still considered a dish best made from leftovers, so don’t throw away any meat or veggies if you’re dying to try an authentic bubble and squeak.

Whether you enjoy yours with “a full pot of beer beside” is up to you, but we don’t see how it could hurt. Here are three of the best-looking bubble and squeak recipes we found. Enjoy!

1. Bubble and Squeak with Ham

Bubble and Squeak with Ham - A delicious version of the traditional English dish. A great way to cook with leftovers from a holiday meal!
A Family Feast

This recipe plays on the traditional meat twist by adding ham, which no doubt brings forth a saltier flavor and works well with the Brussel sprouts.

Get the recipe here.

2. Skillet Bubble and Squeak

Skillet Bubble and Squeak
Krumpli

The recipe relies heavily on potatoes and is perfect for any households that are vegetarian, or celebrate Meatless Mondays.

Get the recipe here.

3. Bubble and Squeak with Poached Egg

Real Food

The poached egg turns this dish from something delicious to something that you have to try ASAP.

Get the recipe here.

Have you been making a bubble and squeak all along and you just didn’t know it? We have, too.