Colcannon is something I just had to try this year. In Ireland this dish is traditionally served on Halloween. Until quite recently this was a fast day and no meat was eaten. The name of the dish is derived from the Gaelic “cal ceann fhionn”, which translates to “White Headed Cabbage.”
This is a dish that I’ve meant to try for a very long time, but seem to have managed to avoid for one reason or another. I’m sorry now that it took me so long to get around to it, as this is an intensely flavored yet supremely subtle combination that elevates both the humble potato and cabbage to levels I didn’t think either was capable of. It went perfectly with the corned beef and potatoes we traditionally have on St. Paddy’s Day, and played extremely well with a good pint of stout. It is also completely vegetarian, which is a swich from my normal offerings, though that is something I’m trying to remedy.
Colcannon is made with either kale or green cabbage. I used the cabbage on this round simply because it is obscenely inexpensive at this time of year at most stores in the U.S., whereas kale is not inexpensive at all right now in my location. It really doesn’t mater the cost any longer, though. This is something I’ll be making throughout the year from now on.
This recipe was made verbatim from My Irish Cook Book, by Monica Sheridan, printed in 1966. A reprinted and updated edition is available under the title The Art of Irish Cooking. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to experience Irish fare at it’s best, which is to say, home cooked and full of the love of the food itself.
- 8 potatoes
- 2/3 cup milk
- 6 scallions
- 1.5 cups boiled green cabbage or curly kale
- 2 tbs butter
- 1 tbs chopped parsley
- Pepper and Salt to taste
Peel the potatoes and steep in cold water for 1 hour. Cover the potatoes with cold salted water and boil until tender. Drain well and dry off by laying a folded cloth on top and returning the pot to a gentle heat for a few minutes. Now mash the potatoes.
Add the boiling milk and scalded, chopped scallions and beat until fluffy. Toss the cooked cabbage, finely chopped, gently in the melted butter. Add the potatoes, together with the parsley, and fold well. Season generously with pepper and taste for salt.
TIP! To mellow the scent of boiling cabbage, which can be a bit potent for most people, simply peel a small onion and add it to the boiling water with the cabbage. The onion sweetens the odor of the wilting greens and renders it far less offensive.
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
The next time I make this dish I think I’ll wilt the cabbage by sauteing in butter rather than by boiling. I think it will make for a deeper and more intense flavor. It may not be traditional, but I think it will still be good!
Links to other recipes like this one: