Bubbling And Squeaking Italian Potato Cakes

When, ‘midst the frying Pan,
In accents savage
This beef so surly
Quarrels with the cabbage

William Kitchiner, The Cook’s Oracle

I usually play music when I am cooking, so I have never heard the riotous ruckus which apparently occurs in the pan when bubble and squeak is being fried up, but supposedly the moisture in the cabbage creates steam under the blanket of mash, and it squeaks and squeals as it escapes through the, supposedly, bubbling potatoes. Hence the name.

The cavolo nero used in this recipe (which has a deeper flavour than ordinary cabbage) gives it an Italian aspect, although now this vegetable is being grown very effectively in Lincolnshire.

In any case, bubble and squeak is really essentially a very British dish, being a very effective way of using up the leftovers of the classic Sunday Roast, but it’s very good even without the meat.

You don’t need to make the bubble and squeak into cakes – just fry all together in one big mass. I fry in butter, but Clarissa Dickson Wright (of Two Fat Ladies fame) uses lard or beef dripping (which again you may have left over from the Roast) as she maintains this is the only fat which gets hot enough to produce the luscious burnt crust of this dish.

And you can make quite a meal of this by topping with a poached egg and serving it with the explosive wow wow sauce.

Recipe for Bubbling And Squeaking Italian Potato Cakes

Serves 3


  • 400g/1 lb thin-skinned, well-washed floury potatoes (Yukon Gold are good for mashing, I don’t bother to peel because Life Is Too Short, but if you want to make cakes you should really peel them) OR the instant mash you find here which is much quicker
  • 200g/½ lb cavolo nero (or cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or kale)
  • Left over meat – beef or lamb, chopped small (optional)
  • 1 banana shallot – finely chopped (or you could use 10 spring onions)
  • Smoked salt and Indonesian long black pepper
  • Plain, seasoned flour to coat and butter to fry


  1. Cut the potatoes to be about the same size
  2. Boil the potatoes in a largish saucepan filled about ¾ full with boiling water and a little vinegar (to keep them white) for about twenty minutes. While you are doing all this go here and watch the video clip at the bottom of the page.
  3. Drain the potatoes and smash as finely as you can, removing any skin which is coming away naturally
  4. Begin frying the banana shallot in a wok
  5. Meanwhile finely shred and chop the cavolo nero (or the cabbage or kale)
  6. Add the cavolo nero to the shallot and fry for about ten minutes
  7. Mix together with the mashed potato, and, if you have it, the leftover meat
  8. Now you can either simply fry in butter in one big mass (turning deftly over onto a plate, like a Tarte Tatin, if you are very capable), or you can make into patties, dust lightly with the seasoned flour and fry. If you are frying in one big mass resist the urge to stir – you will prevent the crispy, almost burnt crust from forming. It should take about five to ten minutes.
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