Bubble and Squeak Cakes

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This Christmas I wondered, ‘Why do we do this to ourselves?’

The stress of the Christmas meal is severalfold. There’s the pressure of turning out a multi-dish meal for a crowd of people, some of whom may be ingrates with impossible standards, and then there’s the fact that nearly all the shops are closed which cuts off a whole tranche of back-up plans if things go wrong.

I know the holiday season can be hard on many folk. It’s only in recent years that I’ve been able to spend Christmas exclusively with people I feel safe and comfortable with. Holiday goodwill only works if everyone tries. Some don’t bother. So bother them.

I hope that whatever everyone got up to this December that you were able to practise self-care, and spent the coldest, darkest nights of the year enveloped in the warmth of people who like and respect you.

Even though several factors (a lovely family and kitchen, ingredients, equipment, and power supply all complete) meant that my Christmas went very well, I still felt the pressure at times.

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the greatest photo of me in existence

As a child I wasn’t big on eating but I liked watching people cook. I watched my dad complete that  winter ritual, the Christmas turkey; I remember the smell of the whole meal was always incredible, though I recall nothing of the taste.

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Things are different now.

For the past two years I’ve been fortunate enough to have an enlarged family Christmas, with Mr. Pear’s mother providing the venue and kitchen, getting the food and preparing the stuffing, Mr. Pear himself diligently peeling several kilograms of vegetables and doing most of the roast potatoes. The Pearents brought themselves and a lot of lively chatter.

A few days earlier I was Skyping with my mum and I asked her if she was looking forward to Christmas.

‘Yes, I’m excited because I’ll get to eat turkey :D’ was her reply.

lurking underneath is a delicious turkey. you'll have to take my word for it.
lurking underneath is a delicious turkey. you’ll have to take my word for it.

To give you an idea of how much the Pearents were looking forward to the meal: they actually arrived early.

‘Pear, do you want any help?’ my dad said to me as I was finishing the gravy.
GO AWAY, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY,’ I roared in two different languages. He giggled and went away to chat to other people.

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For me, Christmas is the meal that keeps on giving. It’s a roast dinner taken to its unnecessarily huge, overblown conclusion, so there are always going to be a mountains of leftovers–and reams of recipes for dealing with them. Depending on your point of view, this may or may not be a good thing.

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Bubble and squeak is a thing which Brits sometimes make after a roast. Underwhelming vegetables are given new life when jumbled together and fried. I think if you cook anything in butter and oil you’ll revive it beautifully, but this leftover dish is even greater than the sum of its parts.

It seems wrong to give hard instructions for bubble and squeak; the numbers and ingredients I give are purely as a guideline as it’ll ultimately depend on what you have to hand. Because I was silly I forgot to take home some stuffing, which is one of the best things you can add to bubble and squeak.

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We enjoyed these with leftover cranberry sauce and turkey gravy–these soak up sauces wonderfully–though I wouldn’t have minded some melted cheese and a fried egg.

BUBBLE AND SQUEAK CAKES
Makes about 14 – 15 little patties, enough for 2 greedy people.
Adapted from Felicity Cloakes.
Shaped uncooked cakes can be made in advanced and kept chilled.

It takes just a few moments to form the mixture into patties. You get more crispy browned face this way and each little cake is easier to turn over. Use whatever leftovers available; I make mash especially for this as leftover roast potatoes don’t occur in our family.

You may want to add more melted butter or flour to help bind everything together but it doesn’t need to be perfect–you just need to be able to work with it. No need to add further stress to your post-Christmas cooking.

ingredients

Oil for cooking
A few lumps of butter
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
About 2 big handfuls of leftovers–vegetables, cold meat, stuffing (I used 200g; could have done with more stuff)
About 400g mashed potatoes or crushed roast potatoes, leftover or otherwise. About 2 – 3 medium potatoes’ worth.
A few tablespoons plain flour
Nutmeg
Salt and pepper

instructions

Heat a spot of oil and a knob of butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced spring onion and garlic, cooking until soft, fragrant, and barely golden at the edges.  Turn off the heat. Scrape fried allium and fat into the bowl where you’ll be mixing the bubble and squeak.

Roughly chop or break up the leftover stuff into small dice. Combine with the potatoes, half a tablespoon of flour, a very good grating of nutmeg, and plenty of salt and pepper. Make sure everything is evenly distributed. You should be able to easily shape the mixture into patties; if it’s too crumbly, melt a few tablespoons of butter and mix it in a little at a time until the mixture holds.

Form mixture into plump cakes of about 3 inches wide and nearly 1 inch thick. I use the bowl of a wooden spoon as a rough mould.

Dust patties with a little flour–you’ll need a few tablespoons for the whole lot–and set on a lightly floured tray or plate before cooking.

At this point you may wish to preheat the oven on low and ready a tray so you can keep finished cakes warm.

Heat up the frying pan with a thin layer of oil and butter over a moderate flame. Fry the cakes in batches (I did 5 at a time), not overcrowding the pan, and letting them seal completely and form a thick golden crust on one side before turning over. This takes a good few minutes.

Eat right away with the accompaniments of your choice. Suggestions include ham, smoked salmon, cheese, eggs, lightly cooked vegetables.

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