• Gary Clarke

Bubble & Squeak

After my great-grandfather left the family to fight in the war, life on the farm became very tough for my great-grandmother (Nanny Little). With the stress of running the farm alone and the demand for food production increasing, the Women’s Land Army was called in to help. For a woman as proud as my great-grandmother, this acceptance of aid was a failure to her husband and to herself. There was a division on the farm from the start between Nanny Little and the volunteers; meals were eaten separately, there was no social interaction between the two groups, and the kids were encouraged to stay away from the new people on the farm. This state of division existed for a year, from the Christmas of 1939 until the night of November 14th 1940.

On this night, the Luftwaffe dropped five hundred tonnes of explosive material on the small town of Coventry. 568 people died and 1200 were injured. The city was devastated and so was my family; eight family members died that night, and the shock of it destroyed Nanny Little’s resolve. She shut down and retreated to her bedroom. My gran and her siblings were still too young to properly look after themselves, and for five days they didn’t eat.

This was when Agnes, head of the Women’s Land Army volunteers, stepped in to help. Agnes was the eldest child of five and the only daughter in the family. All her brothers were fighting on the front and she could not stand and watch kids struggle. Ignoring the rules set down by my great-grandmother, Agnes went into the house and then, along with my gran, went around the farm gathering whatever food they could and made them something to eat.

This was the first time my great-grandmother came out of her room since the attack. She re-joined her kids and allowed the volunteers into her house. No work was done on the farm that day. Instead, the volunteers and my gran shared stories about the war and those who were fighting on foreign soil.

To my gran, Bubble and Squeak, or ‘rumblethumps’ as Agnes called it, became a comfort food and a family tradition. Whenever someone in or close to the family dies, we will gather around her house and she will cook for us the food that helped her own mother with grief that we could barely imagine


Serves 4

  • 6 tbsp butter

  • ½ onion, finely chopped

  • leftover potato, mashed (around 1 potato per person)

  • leftover veg finely chopped (about a handful per person)

  • leftover meat/fried bacon (optional)

  • salt and pepper


  1. Mix together the vegetables, potato and meat, if using, then form into thin patties.

  2. Melt the butter in a large pan, over a low heat.

  3. Add the potato, vegetables, and meat. Turn up the heat and fry for 5-7 minutes until soft and beginning to brown.

  4. Once cooked through, press the mixture into the base of the pan with a fish slice. Cook for one minute and flip. Hold the mixture down again, then turn out onto a plate.

  5. Serve.

Image ©Nicole Bratt Original via Flickr / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike

#LeftoverCooking #FamilyHistory #HomeCooking #Cooking

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