Up until a week ago, I believed that the main ingredients in the most comforting of Irish foods, colcannon, were potatoes, milk, butter and cabbage.
So it came as quite a surprise to find out that cabbage is a substitute, and that kale was indeed the more traditional green to use when cooking colcannon, a kale/cabbage studded mashed potato.
Odd, considering that cál ceannann means ‘white-headed cabbage’…
When reading up on this Irish mash dish, I found Nigel Slater’s amusing column on colcannon, and how such a versatile dish with many variations can really only be called colcannon if it’s made up of potatoes, kale and milk. ‘Any changes you make to the classic,’ Nigel says, ‘will result in your dish getting a new name.’
Yet it was Nigel’s nifty twists that appealed to me more than the traditional version, so I tested it out on some Irish friends. One refused to acknowledge it as colcannon because that’s not how her mum and grandmother and great grandmother (etc.) made it; another said that as long as there were green specks through the mash, it was all good. The third didn’t really care what I called it as long as I gave her another helping.
I will admit that kale would make for a brighter, more noticeable green element to the mash, but the cabbage and leek mix made for a much mellower flavour that complimented the buttery potatoes quite well.
So, happy St Patrick’s Day everyone, and may you enjoy your colcannon any way you like it.
- 900g floury potatoes (peeled, coarsely chopped)
- 40g butter (divided)
- 80ml warm milk
- 60ml crème fraiche
- 250g leek (white and pale green part only, finely sliced)
- 300g savoy cabbage (finely shredded)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- Extra butter to serve (optional)
- Place the coarsely chopped potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for around 20 minutes, or until tender.
- Drain and return to the saucepan over low heat. Stir the potatoes a bit to release the steam, then remove from heat. Add 20g of butter, the warm milk and the crème fraiche and, using a potato masher, mash until smooth and combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile, melt the remainder 20g of butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until they start to soften. Add the shredded cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 7 minutes.
- Once cooked and still warm, fold the leek and cabbage mixture through the mashed potatoes. Season with salt to taste and serve topped with chopped chive and extra optional butter.
Recipe adapted from Nigel Slater.