Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bubble & Squeak, Colcannon, Rumbledethumps, Stamppot...Call it what you like, we call it comfort food!

I have been making some variation of these traditional European dishes for quite some time now, but never really knew how similar they were to one another. The dish can be SOOOOO easy to prepare; quick, simple, warm and comforting. It can be a meal in itself, or it can be served with any number of meat side dishes; corned beef, sausage or ham is common, and frequently is mixed right into the hash, but a fried or poached egg is delicious as well.

Traditionally, these hashed potato and cabbage (or kale) dishes were a way to use up vegetables leftover from a Sunday roast dinner. Most frequently, the potato and cabbage are the only vegetables, but you can use carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, or any other veggie that suits your taste. Adding some chopped dark greens helps liven up the color contrast a bit as well. If it suits your taste, you can also mix in diced or shredded cheese (strong Irish cheddar.

In addition, you can prepare the dish in any number of ways, from a simple hashed/mashed version, to fried patties of hash. We have also prepared a version of this dish as more of a soup/stew to which I add egg noodles when I add the cabbage. The proportions listed below are flexible and forgiving. I usually use about a 1:1 ration of potatoes to cabbage, but it very easily accommodates more cabbage or more potatoes depending on your preference. One item to note, if you opt for doubling the cabbage, you might need to add an egg to hold it together for frying into patties.

1 lb potatoes, cubed (we usually leave the skins on, but this is up to you)
1 lb cabbage, chopped roughly
2-3 cups water or broth*
2 scallions (or I'Itoi onions), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs butter or olive oil (optional)

Place water or broth in large pot with potatoes and garlic. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook 10-15 minutes or until almost cooked through (this will depend on how big your chunks are). Add cabbage and return to a boil. Cook until cabbage is tender, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, add onions, salt and pepper, butter or oil (if using) and mash coarsely with a potato masher. At this point, you can serve the dish as-is (or dressed up to your liking), or you can opt to fry the mix into patties. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat with a few tablespoons of oil. Scoop mixture about 1/2 cup at a time into skillet; flatten to 1-inch thick patties with a spatula. Cook about 3-5 minutes on each side until browned and slightly crispy, adding more oil as needed. They are tricky to flip because there's not much holding them together, which is why I prefer to skip this step; you could possibly try coating the patties in breadcrumbs first, but I personally haven't tried this to know how it would work. Serve the patties or hash topped with sour cream or yogurt if desired.

*You can use more water, as if for boiling the potatoes and cabbage completely submersed, but you will have to drain it off and add the cooking liquid (or milk) back in if you are mashing the mixture. Also, if you opt to include egg noodles as mentioned in the headnotes you may need more water, or you can cook them separately and add them to the vegetables when they're finished cooking. When adding noodles, there is no need to mash the vegetables, just toss it all together with plenty of butter, salt and pepper!

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