Have you ever met someone and known instantly that you were soul mates? I’m not speaking in terms of the Nicholas Sparks type of rain-drenched, starry-eyed soul mate, I mean someone you meet and immediately think, “Wow, you’re one of my people.”
When I was a mission worker in Belfast, Northern Ireland, there was a family whom I instantly knew to be my soul mates: my folk, my people. They’re called the Blakes. Every single week, the Blakes fed me delicious food. You see, my soul and my stomach are closely related. I would arrive on a (perpetually cold, rainy) Friday evening and collapse on their couch after helping with a children’s after school program and their golden retriever, with the slightly obvious name of Goldie, would come and sit by me. I would stay in that position until my stomach was awoken by the delightful smells wafting from their colorful, teeny Irish kitchen and I would follow it until I was stirring, chopping and, oh yes, tasting.
These soul mates of mine would feed me every single Friday so that I could then walk the couple of blocks to the church for evening youth programs. They fed me with sarcastic, witty banter. They fed me with company and warmth on a dank, dark night. And they fed me with heaping plates of the most glorious, inventive food I’d ever tasted.
Today, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day’s imminent arrival, I share with you my favorite meal made by my Northern Irish soul mates: bubble and squeak. The bubble is from golden brown melted cheddar on top; the squeak is from bacon used in the base of this whimsical cousin of shepherd’s pie. Last week’s recipe was for one; today’s recipe just begs to be shared with whomever you call “your people.”
Bubble and Squeak
Serves 6 hungry Irishmen/women
1/2 lb. bacon, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 head savoy cabbage, thinly sliced (savoy cabbage is more “crinkly” - technical term - than regular green cabbage and has a better texture)
4 carrots, sliced lengthwise in half and then chopped
10 cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms, chopped
3 cloves garlic, whole
4 potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
1/3 c. dry red wine
4 T butter
1/2 c. whole milk
1/4 c. cream cheese
1-1/2 c. grated white cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
parsley, for garnish
Place potatoes and whole garlic cloves in a large pot, cover with water and bring to boil, covered. Boil until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
Drain and then return to the hot pot and leave on heat for a minute to evaporate excess liquid. Put butter and milk in a glass measuring cup and microwave, until butter is melted, about 30 seconds. Mash potatoes and garlic, adding in the butter and milk until smooth and creamy. Add cream cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Heat a dutch oven on medium heat with olive oil. Add bacon and onions, cooking until bacon is crisp and onions are translucent. Add carrots and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add cabbage, mushrooms and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Add red wine and scrape up all of the flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 t. pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, allowing the wine to reduce. The longer you cook this, the better it tastes. Layer the mashed potatoes on top of the cabbage and bacon mixture and top with grated cheddar cheese. Bake at 400 degrees, until the cheese is brown and bubbly on top, about 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired. Gather your people and enjoy the delicious flavors of a wee bit o’ Irish hospitality.
Share your beloved recipes with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.