Dollar-stretching Dishes from Across the Atlantic

chicken salad

As grocery bills rise higher and higher, creating meals that are meatless, or that require very little meat, is becoming the norm for many American families. While this may be a new phenomenon here, our neighbors across the pond in England and Ireland have been cutting back on meat consumption for decades without sacrificing any of their dining pleasure.

Bubble & Squeak, also known simply as fry-up, is a traditional English dish that uses the leftover vegetables from a typical Sunday roast dinner. Anne Orchard, author of Their Cancer – Your Journey: A Traveller’s Guide for Carers, Family and Friends (Rainbow Heart Publishing, 2008), explains what the English eat for Sunday dinner, and how they turn leftover vegetables into this tasty treat:

“The chicken is roasted in the oven. Some use what we call stuffing inside the bird — we cook ours separately because we like crispy bits on it. These days it usually comes out of a packet and is ’sage and onion’ flavour, but Mum used to make her own with breadcrumbs and parsley, which I think came from a Mrs. Beeton recipe (a famous 19th Century English cookery writer).

“There will be potatoes, roast and/or mashed, plus probably two other vegetables. Maybe one of roast parsnips, carrot, mashed carrot and swede (rutabaga), plus something green like cabbage, leeks fried in butter, or boiled (Brussels) sprouts.

“We make gravy with the juices in the roasting tin using flour and stock. The gravy should be sieved, and thick and really rich. We would also have another sauce, like bread sauce with chicken or onion sauce with lamb. These are white sauces with a milk base and here you can buy a ‘mix’ in a packet. Other ‘condiments’ are also traditional, like applesauce with pork, cranberry with turkey and horseradish or mustard with beef. I believe these traditions evolved to disguise the taste of slightly ‘off’ (spoiled) meat!

“There are also variations depending on the meat and the region of the country — for instance Yorkshire pudding (made from batter and pan drippings) is served when you have beef, and originally in Yorkshire this would have been served first to fill you up so you didn’t want so much meat. My husband, who comes from Dorset, always cooks what they call ‘duff’, which is like a large suet dumpling, with roast lamb.

“[To make the Bubble & Squeak], we tend to chop the leftover vegetables quite small as we find it gets a better result. Then heat a little butter and some olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan and add all the potatoes and chopped veg. Mix it round well in the pan so it becomes like a soft potato cake. This is why it’s better with mash [potatoes] than without. As it starts to brown on the bottom, keep turning pieces over so you get lovely crispy bits. It takes about half an hour to get good crispy edges! Then serve either with the cold leftover cooked meat, sausages, or a grilled chop, and gravy again.”

A dish that is similar to Bubble & Squeak is Colcannon, a traditional Irish dish that can be eaten as a main course. The recipe below is reprinted with permission from Darina Allen’s cookbook, Irish Traditional Cooking (Kyle Books, 2005). Darina, chef, Irish TV personality, and founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, has this to say about Colcannon:

“It’s a mashed potato dish but this time you cook cabbage separately and mix the cooked cabbage through the fluffy mashed potato. Again put the melted butter in the center. There have been songs sung about the dish. They’re wonderful.“


1 pound kale
1 1/2 pound potatoes
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup leeks, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1/2 – 3/4 cup light cream
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped


Wash, trim, and blanch kale. Drain, gently squeeze out water, and chop finely. Set aside. In a small skillet, brown the onions in the remaining butter, set aside, but keep warm.

Peel potatoes and boil in salted water. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet and gently stew the leeks until tender, 5-10 min. Add the chopped kale and sauté over high heat, stirring to evaporate excess moisture. Turn the heat to low, add 2 tablespoons butter and slowly cook the leeks and kale for 5-10 min. longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the potatoes are tender, Drain and mash them. Whip in the kale and leek mixture and one teaspoon salt. Heat the cream and gradually beat it in until entire mixture is smooth and creamy, yet firm. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat if necessary and mound in a hot dish.

Make a depression in the center and pour the browned onions and butter in the well until they spill over the side. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

These two dishes are wonderful examples of how simple ingredients, prepared simply, can still have a wealth of flavor. They’re also a great way to give your budget some relief from the strain of purchasing so much meat.

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