George’s bubble & squeak

I never knew my paternal granddad, if I did apparently I’d have had to call him George. His story is brave, romantic and inspiring and his influence on me and my sisters remains to this day.

George, at the front with his guns out and a goose in North Africa circa 1943. I'm not sure how long the goose lasted.
George, at the front with his guns out and a goose in North Africa circa 1943. I’m not sure how long the goose lasted.

George was born in 1902 and served in the navy in the first world war.; it seems he may have lied about his age as his service record starts in 1916. This was all before he met my nan, Dolly, who was born 20 years later in 1922.

My grandparents met in the 1930s, nan was a single mother (scandalous for the time) and George ran a dockers cafe on George Row in Bermondsey. The cafe, called George’s Dining Rooms, served the stevedores and locals and it was here where my nan started working to support her young family. Soon after starting work, they fell in love and married.

They ran the cafe, and raised their family and shortly after marrying my mum had joined the family. By 1942, George was called up for war and served with the Desert Rats in the Africa campaign. My mum wrote her own account of George’s war for an archive project year’s ago. I recommend reading it, it details just how gruesome the campaign was and highlights George’s determination to rejoin his regiment after he was buried by rubble during one attack.

The recipe below is adapted from the one I remember mum making. Speaking to her friends and my nan, bubble & squeak was a favourite at the cafe. I’ve updated the recipe, though not too much. Serves four.

It’s simple, a classic and is one third of the culinary 3-B triumvirate: Bubble, Bacon and Brown sauce.

Music to listen to while preparing this dish: ‘An American Trilogy’ by Elvis Presley

Ingredients

  • Five large baking potatoes (one per person plus one extra, you’ll eat more than you think)
  • Olive oil
  • The same quantity of cooked greens. This can be cabbage, sprouts, peas, green beans, broccoli, broad beans, just avoid spinach and kale as their bitterness can ruin this.
  • Two large onions, sliced
  • Sea salt & pepper for seasoning
  • 25g lard (don’t be tempted with olive oil, veg oil etc, it’s not the same)

Method

  1. Rub the potatoes with olive oil, put on a tray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast them in a hot oven (190C) for about 90 minutes.
  2. Once cooked, spoon the flesh out into a large bowl and allow to cool. (Keep the skins for another dish or to munch on)
  3. Broadly slice the onions and sweat down with seasoning for five minutes in olive oil. Now put the olive oil away, you won’t be needing it any more.
  4. To the potatoes add your onions and your greens and mix together. You want the mix to have distinct shapes, don’t make a mash or a mush.
  5. Heat the lard over a medium heat (yes, it really has to be lard) in a heavy bottomed pan. You should have enough to comfortably cover the bottom of the pan with a generous layer of fat.
  6. Add the bubble mix and gently pat to fill the pan.
  7. Do not stir… just yet
  8. After three or four minutes you’ll hear the ‘squeak’. Turn the mix around to expose some of the browned/burnt bits from the bottom.
  9. Repeat above for around 20 minutes until the brown/burnt bits run through, but don’t dominate, the mix.
  10. Serve with bacon, brown sauce and a huge dollop of glee.

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