Recently, the weather lady has predicted “organised showers” on several occasions. It’s a curious phrase, with its implication that sometimes showers might be disorganised, even chaotic. Is there some OCD weather clerk on duty now and then, organising the rain? And what, precisely, is ‘organised’ in this context? To my meteorologically unschooled mind, what we have had lately has been drizzle and a sudden drop in temperature that has had us preferring porridge for breakfast and, in conjunction with an accumulation of petty frustrations, induced a craving for comfort food for supper.
What better comfort food than Bubble and Squeak? The very name is evocative of friendly, cheerful companions (I once knew Guinea pigs who went by this name) and food that appeals to the auditory as well as the gustatory, olfactory and visual senses is rare enough. Snap, crackle and pop, inventions of the ad-men, fail dismally in all respects.
Bubble and Squeak has an almost atavistic appeal, and certainly figures among my earliest memories: rationing was in force throughout my childhood, so things grown in the garden or allotment, like potatoes, carrots and cabbage, were essential to fill tummies. Also, I didn’t like meat so my poor mother was driven to find cunning ways of sneaking protein into my diet. Sometimes, a tin of corned beef went in, or the ubiquitous Spam.
I had no leftovers, so the potatoes and cabbage were cooked fresh, but that is not a disadvantage. A roughly chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic sizzled happily in the pan, turning translucent and filling the kitchen with that mouth-watering smell that is so unpleasant two hours later. Goose fat is the best fat to use, but I didn’t have any and am paying lip service to reducing my cholesterol, so I used sunflower oil.
Bacon and sliced tomatoes joined them till they were nicely cooked, then I removed the bacon and tomatoes and dumped the mashed potatoes and chopped boiled cabbage in with the onions, getting them beautifully browned with crunchy crispy bits. The bacon and tomatoes could have stayed in the pan, but I find that effect less aesthetically pleasing and prefer to serve them as a decorative garnish, along with a poached egg (must get the protein in there).
De ovibus apalis disputandum est. There are disputes and debates about the best way of poaching eggs and this post summarises the situation very well.
I refuse to use those metal pans that produce a sort of egg cake, and like to drop the egg into the water just before it boils. I’m told that if you whip the water into a vortex and drop the egg into the centre of the vortex, it will emerge perfectly spherical, but whenever I’ve tried this I have only managed to scald myself. I think you need a very large pan and three hands for this trick, and I’ll leave it to the professional chefs. A pinch of sea salt or a drop of vinegar in the water is often recommended (yet another use for vinegar) and I have tried lowering the egg still in its shell into the hot water for a few seconds before breaking it, as this helps the outer layer of white to solidify. If you try this, though, it really has to be only seconds otherwise you end up with a boiled egg. Slipping it into a warmed cup first (better than a ramekin, a cup has a handle to save you scalding your fingers) does seem to help keep most of the white together. I did none of these and luck was on my side. Yesterday’s poached eggs were beautiful until I slid them onto the slotted spoon, at which point the white opened up to give the yolk a peek at its bed before its demise. It still looked pretty.
Postprandial contentment was high on the register, minor frustrations faded into oblivion and nobody cared less about whether the showers were organised or not.