Things That Go Rumbledethump in the Night



In honour of Robbie Burns Day here is a favourite Scottish recipe to warm you straight to your chilly bones.

Rumbledethumps (pronounced rumble-dee-thumps), the traditional potato and cabbage dish from the Scottish Borders is a smart and delicious way to use up leftover mashed potatoes and cabbage, but it is so good that you will probably want to make it from scratch.

Similar to Irish colcannon, this one pot meal can be served as an accompaniment to a main course, like a ham or roast pork, and stands up on it’s own as a full meal too, maybe served with a fresh green salad.

There are as many variations on this dish as there are spellings of it, but true Rumbledethumps should have mashed potato, cabbage, onion and a slightly chewy cheddar cheese topping. That being said, you could also use leftover mashed turnip with or instead of spuds, or a little cream in the place of butter, or use savoy, green or red cabbage, and even kale. You could go over the top, and try to doll it up with roasted garlic or a high falutin’ cheese for the topping, but that would sort of defeat the purpose; even made from scratch, Rumbledethumps should be simple, cost-effective, and rustic. Perhaps it is these steadfast, salt of the earth qualities that inspired Gordon Brown, Britain’s Prime Minister from 2007-2010 to declare it his favourite food!  That, and the fact that it is irresistibly comforting and delicious.


What do you suppose Gordon Brown is thinking about here? Rumbledethumps perhaps...

What do you suppose Gordon Brown is thinking about here? Rumbledethumps perhaps…


It is also a great way to get the little ones to eat cabbage, often regarded as one of the world’s healthiest foods,

high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, known to reduce cholesterol and linked to cancer prevention. Mixed with the goodness of potatoes, mashed with their jackets on, in addition to the health benefits offered by onions makes this a win-win one pot dish.

The curious name is said to refer to the sound that the ingredients make when “being knocked about in a pot,” but according to my mother in law, of the Clan MacGillivray, the odd name refers to the sound your tummy makes an hour or so after eating it! (Blame the cabbage!) Regardless of the origin of the name, this is healthy, classic comfort food that you can make in a jiffy. And should you have leftover leftovers, it makes a great, hearty and warming breakfast the next morning served up with some bacon and eggs.





Serves 4



3 cups mashed potatoes (with skins on) or combined potato and mashed turnip

1 onion, diced

1 cup thinly sliced cabbage

4 Tbs butter

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Optional-1 cup chopped kale

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper



Preheat oven to 350 F

-Place mashed potatoes (and turnip) in large bowl.

-Sauté onions and cabbage  (and kale, if using) in butter, stirring occasionally, until onions and cabbage are slightly translucent, about 5 minutes

– Remove onion and cabbage from heat and mix with potatoes (and turnip). Season with salt and pepper.

-Spoon mixture into buttered casserole dish and top with cheese.

Place in oven, uncovered, 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbled and slightly leathery.

Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving

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