Want to indulge in a classic British comfort food? Try bubble and squeak, a dish that has been helping families across the UK make good use of leftovers for generations.

What is it?

This veggie superfood-laden dish traditionally flashes on the radar come Christmas, when the fridge overfloweth with leftovers, but it’s great for a comforting meal year-round

Ingredients (serves 4)

butter, for greasing 
150g (5oz) Brussels sprouts 
150g (5oz) dark green cabbage, shredded 
2 tbs olive oil 
200g (7oz) carrots, peeled and chopped 
200g (7oz) parsnip, peeled and chopped 
250g (9oz) squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped 
400g (14oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped 
½ tsp paprika 
pinch of salt and ground black pepper 
1 tbs white wine vinegar 
4 very fresh medium eggs 
75g (3oz) watercress

A top-down view of a plate of bubble and squeak (re-fried vegetables). This version of the dish includes chunks of cooked meat.
Bubble and squeak is usually a vegetarian dish but meat can also be added © Brian Yarvin / Getty Images

How to cook

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F). 
Step 2: Grease a small (25 x 35cm; 10 x 14in) roasting dish.
Step 3: Steam the Brussels sprouts until they are bright green and tender, about 6–8 minutes. 
Step 4: Steam the shredded cabbage for about 5–8 minutes.
Step 5: Steam the root vegetables until soft, but not mushy. Drain and leave to steam dry. 
Step 6: Pound the cooked root vegetables and Brussels sprouts in a large bowl using a potato masher. 
Step 7: Add the cabbage and the olive oil, then season with a sprinkling of paprika and black pepper.
Step 8: Spread the mixture in the greased roasting dish and bake on the oven’s top shelf for 20–30 minutes (it’s done when crispy on top).
Step 9: Bring a small pan of water to a boil then reduce it to a simmer, and add the vinegar and a pinch of salt.
Step 10: Crack the eggs individually into a ramekin or cup. Stir the simmering water to create a gentle whirlpool, then slowly tip each egg into the vortex, white first. Leave to cook for 3 minutes.
Step 11: Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, and cut off any wispy edges using the edge of the spoon. Drain on kitchen paper.
Step 12: Cut the baked root vegetable and cabbage into sections, and top each serving with a poached egg and sprigs of watercress.

Top tip: You can also make bubble and squeak traditionally by frying roasted leftover veg, but we’ve used a healthier alternative: steaming unroasted vegetables before baking the mixture.

A view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London from across the River Thames.
The taste of bubble and squeak can transport you to the streets of London © lunamarina / Shutterstock

Tasting notes

It’s early afternoon on Boxing Day and a general feeling of slothfulness pervades the house, though it’s matched in equal parts with growing pangs of hunger. The latter wins over and two lightbulbs spark when the fridge door opens, one in the fridge itself, the other in your head as you realise you have the makings of a rather tasty (and healthy) meal.

Cabbage, carrots, and mashed potatoes are usually key players, and Brussels sprouts are often a favourite too. The collision of these earthy flavours is a sweet one, even better if some squash is involved. And when it’s browned with olive oil, seasoned with paprika and a little pepper, and topped with a poached egg and some watercress, you have a happy home.

Other recipes to try:

South Korean bibimbap
Kolkata kati rolls
Japanese katsu curry

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Superfoods.

This article was originally published in April 2020 and updated in October 2020. 

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This article was first published April 2020 and updated October 2020

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