Espana's Neil Taylor makes British bubble and squeak for Boxing Day
Ever since he was a child growing up in England, Neil Taylor has looked forward to Boxing Day. Each December 26, his mother would make his favourite holiday dish, bubble and squeak, using leftover vegetables from Christmas dinner.
The family would have the fried potato dish, which is named after the sounds it makes during the cooking process, for lunch with cold sliced turkey or ham. “Sometimes we’d have eggs with it, or gravy—whatever was around in the fridge,” Taylor recalls in an interview with the Georgia Straight at España (1118 Denman Street), where he is co-owner and executive chef.
The holidays have always been an important time for Taylor’s family. Back in Berkshire, his grandparents would visit and his mother would cook a Christmas feast for up to 10 people. He remembers those meals fondly and credits his mother with sparking his interest in cooking by teaching him some of the British classics early on.
“I worked at my first really good restaurant, called Kensington Place, in Notting Hill Gate, and the chef there was one of the first chefs in London to make British cuisine its own,” Taylor says. “British food used to have a bad reputation, but now London’s one of the top five dining cities in the world. British food is something that I love cooking.”
In 2008, Taylor moved to Vancouver to cook at Cibo Trattoria. He stayed at the Italian restaurant for four years before making the leap to opening his own business—and making the switch to Spanish cuisine.
Taylor explains that Spanish food incorporates influences from North Africa and parts of Europe. “It [Spain] has a very eclectic, diverse cuisine so it kind of allows me to go in a few different directions,” he says, adding that he used to travel to Spain with his family when he was a child.
Now, when he cooks at home for his young family, Taylor sticks with British favourites. Over the holidays, he’ll make a goose for Christmas and then fire up a bubble and squeak the next morning. To pair with it, Taylor recommends a bloody mary.
Neil Taylor’s bubble and squeak
8 oz (227 g) smoked bacon strips, cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 red onions, sliced
1½ tsp (7 mL) fresh rosemary, chopped
1½ tsp (7 mL) fresh thyme, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1.5 lb (681 g) roasted potatoes, roughly diced
1.5 lb (681 g) cooked root vegetables, roughly diced
- In a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat, cook the bacon for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crispy.
- Add onions, rosemary, and thyme and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions start to brown. Add garlic and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture into a large bowl, leaving some oil in the pan, and remove pan from heat.
- Add potatoes, vegetables, and nutmeg to the bacon mixture. Using a spoon, mix everything together and break down the vegetable pieces. Reheat the pan to medium. Pour the mixture back into the pan, using a spatula to press it down so that it resembles a thick pancake. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
- Flip pancake by placing a large plate over the pan and carefully inverting it onto the plate. Slide pancake back onto the pan and cook on the other side for 15 minutes, or until both sides are golden brown and crispy.
- Serve alongside slices of cold roast turkey or ham, or top each serving with a fried egg.
Yield: 4 main-course servings or 6 appetizer-size servings.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.