My dad went back to Ireland last night after a month-long stay with us. It's nice to get my house back to myself, nice not to have to be on "best behaviour" and consider the needs of another person all the time. But I miss him already. The weather is dark and cold and wet and blowy here, and the weatherman says it's going to stay like that for several days at least. I'm tired. I have a bit of a headache. I badly need some comfort food.
Last night I made a special meal for the last dinner of dad's visit. We had big Yorkshire puddings the size of plates, filled with mashed potatoes and good sausages and roast butternut squash and gravy. There are leftovers of all those things in the fridge, except the Yorkshire pudding. I decide to make some bubble and squeak, or ca'ad waarmed up as it's called in the North East of England.
I put some butter in a big frying pan and when it is melted I add the leftover veggies and chopped up cooked sausage. The ingredients don't matter - there should be something potatoey, and ideally something cabbagey and something meaty, but you can make it with any leftovers at all. I press the ingredients down with the back of a wooden spoon and let them fry until I think they have started to go brown on the bottom. Then I stir it all up again, press it down, and leave it again. I keep doing this until it is hot all through, with brown bits mixed up with the rest of it. It smells indescribably fantastic - one of the best smells in the world. But you have to be patient. Bubble and squeak isn't just reheated leftovers. What would be so great about that? It's the caramelised golden bits that make it irresistible.
When it is hot all through, with brown (really quite dark brown - be brave. If a few bits are actually black that's no bad thing) bits all through, I press it down one final time and leave it in the pan. This is the test of your nerve. You have to leave it until the bottom is brown and slightly hardened. Soft mashed potato and squash and sausages are transformed into an object that can hold itself together when you turn it out onto the plate. You can't see when it's ready, you just have to judge the right time to hold the plate over the pan, then quickly flip them over so the bubble and squeak falls onto the plate in a beautiful round brown cake.
Mine doesn't do that. To be honest, it rarely does. Usually something sticks and needs scraping out of the pan. It doesn't matter. It tastes delicious either way. I eat mine in front of the TV with a pot of tea.
This is health food. Yes it is. It is. It's mental health food. I feel better, anyway.