Wednesday 1 February 2012

Those funny Brits

Pub grub is great, and there is usually something on the menu to laugh at. A plate of spotted dick anyone? Toad in the hole? Maybe bangers, mash and mushy peas. Or do you rather fancy faggots, black pudding, cullen skink? No? Bubble and squeak, then? A spot of haggis? The poor creature, two legs longer than the other, doomed to circle the Scottish highlands eternally, until it is tricked, caught, to end up on your plate, wrapped in a sheep’s stomach. You could also choose the nation’s favourite, chicken tikka masala, for a truly authentic experience. If you’d rather eat a ‘lite’ lunch, choose a bacon butty or a sarnie, but don’t forget the side of chips. O no, I mean crisps, off course. Chips are the thick, floppy, greasy ones. Nor the pudding that does not have to be a pudding.

The spoken lingo is, if possible, even more incomprehensible. Fancy a cuppa, anyone? A strong brew, white or black? Tea is a meal here. Not a high tea, but afternoon or cream. As a foreigner, even if you think your English is fluent, there are plenty of pitfalls. Kids don’t eat cookies but bickies. A muffin is not a cake but a cross between a pancake and a Dutch beschuit. Even the pronunciation is treacherous. A scone is not a ‘scown’ but a ‘scohn’. It’s not ‘paysty’, but ‘pahsty’. A mistake is easily made.

Luckily there is enough cheap plonk to drown all misunderstandings. The Brits are friendly, and generous. With food, that is. When it comes to alcohol it is everyone on his own. Bags of crisps, bought in the pub, need to be ripped open lengthwise, to be shared by all. Is it all getting a bit much? Keep calm and drink gin! Family size, off course, a full pint. Double, no, make it triple. With a dash of tonic.

Even though, as they say, eating is cheating, here’s a recipe for you. Bubble and squeak contains no mouse’s whiskers or tails, and is actually quite nice. It is made of leftovers. The dish has many different versions, but is always based on mashed potato. No, not potahto. In the mash leftover veg is mixed, cabbage, or sprouts for instance, whatever you find in your fridge. The mixture is fried, loosely, in a large pancake, or rolled into hamburger shaped disks. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. With a fried egg or chipolata’s. Whatever, however. The name of the dish comes from the sound it makes when it is frying in the pan. And, for Dutch readers: Yes, it is remarkably like a traditional stamppot fried up the next day! Boerenkoolburger anyone?

Bubble and squeak

Mashed potato
Vegetables: For instance cabbage, greens, kale, or sprouts
Some flour
A handful of bacon or cheese if you wish

The best is to use leftover mash for this dish as it will have dried out nicely. If you make it fresh, pour off all water of the potatoes, let them steam dry and do not add any moisture like milk or cream. It does not really mater which vegetables you use, but strong flavoured ones are the nicest. The vegetables need to be cooked or stir-fried, and all water drained or squeezed out. Mix the mash and vegetable roughly one on one, volume based, or how you like it. If you wish you can add some fried bacon or grated cheese (I know, a sneaky Dutch addition). Season well and roll into round, flat shapes. Roll them briefly in some flour and fry them in oil or butter. Serve with a fried egg or sausages.

For small children you can make funny mini bubble and squeaks, by rolling small rounds the size of marbles and frying them extra crispy.


  1. There's nothing in the world quite like a bit of Bubble is there. I love it and haven't had it in a while now ....

  2. I agree Mari. I made thi sone with purple Kale. It was lovely!

  3. Brits really do weird things with English, don't they? They are almost as bad as Aussies (of whom I am one...) Back when I lived in Australia and could speak my "own" language (as opposed to the more understandable version of English that I've switched to now that I live in Finland) non-Australians would be baffled at sentences like: "Mate, I was flat out today at work. Reckon I'm gonna chuck a sickie tomorrow." The embarrassing thing is that sometimes Brits, Aussies and Americans don't actually understand each other 100% (once, when we were on holiday in Auckland, I found I couldn't understand the hotel staff, which was incredibly embarrassing!)

  4. I know, they do. Sometimes you call a call centre and you get some Northern person, and I think, who is the foreigner here... incomprehensible....I notice my english has become quite 'UK'. I spoke to a dutch friend who lived in the US and we got stuff mixed up as well. Haha

  5. I so enjoyed this post. The British food names really are a hoot, and made me think of a couple of Dutch ones as well: Haagse bluf, hete bliksem, broodje prak.

    Being Dutch I learned British English in school. Then I married an American and now I speak "American" but still know a lot of British. Also because I lived overseas much of my married life and have/had many British friends.

    Food is culture, food is lots of fun.

  6. Jum, miss Footloose, hete bliksem is great, my oma made that. And hemelse modder toe. And what about snert? That's
    what I am cooking today, as the snow finally reached us too! With real dutch split peas. because for some reason the Uk ones give a rubbish soup...

  7. ah all that lovely British grub! You can keep the black pudding and haggis though ewwww!

    I do like a bit of the old Bubble and Squeak for me it need bacon in and a fried egg on top.

    The Scon/ scone thing is regional I think I say scon but some people I know insist it's scone with a long o!

    I have been told by my family that when they come here and hear me speaking with the locals (in Belgium) I talk in a weird accent. I don't even notice!

  8. I think I understand your family. When speaking to people who are less fluent in English I speak slower, and articulate more clearly. And I sound more dutch. I guess you do the same!