Colcannon

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Although there are variations of potato/kale combos found all over Europe, I’m inclined to believe that the Irish variation, colcannon, is grandaddy of them all. First of all, the Irish basically own the creative rights to cabbage. The Romans introduced cabbage to most of Europe back in the day, except that when they got to Ireland it was already there! By tracing the word for cabbage linguistically, it appears that cabbage has been a part of the Irish (well, Celt at the time) diet since the Iron age. Potatoes weren’t introduced to Europe until the 16th Century, with the Irish and French being the first to really embrace them, and so colcannon came about sometime thereafter.

Although colcannon is treated as a St. Patrick’s Day dish here in the US, it’s traditionally a Halloween dish in Ireland. Some families would put a plate of colcannon outside their front door with a large chunk of butter in the middle to feed ghosts/fairies that were passing by. It also was closely related to marriage divination, in that trinkets (wedding rings, coins) would be hidden in the colcannon and the girl that found the trinket would be the next to marry.

You’ll Need:
2 lbs potatoes (russet or yukon gold)
1/2 cup onion, leek, or green onion, chopped finely
6 tbsp butter
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups kale (stems removed, about five stalks)
salt and pepper to taste, probably about 1/2 tsp each

Wash and peel your potatoes, and then take a pretty picture of them.

Next, cut the potatoes into large, evenly-sized chunks. Fill the pot with cold water, enough to cover the potatoes by a good inch. Bring to a boil and gently boil for about 15 minutes, until fork-tender.

Meanwhile, separate your kale from their stems, and chop into small pieces.

Don’t throw out your kale stems! They can be used in all sorts of ways, like kale stem pesto.

Also, chop up your leek, green onions, or regular onion and set it aside. Leeks are the more traditional of the three (and what I used), but they’re a little harder to find, so any of these onion-esque ingredients would be fine.

Once the potatoes are ready, drain them and set them aside. Using that same pot, add the butter and heat it on medium heat. Once it’s melted, add the leek and simmer for about one minute.

Add the kale and sauté for another 3 minutes, until the kale has softened but before it starts to darken. Add the potatoes and cream, reduce the heat to med/low, and mash everything together with a potato masher. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately. The dish goes well with savory meats, sausage especially. The chicken and apple sausage from US Wellness Meats was an excellent pairing with the colcannon’s creamy taste, and I’ll have another sausage recipe on the site in the next couple days as well.

22 thoughts on “Colcannon

  1. Interesting – I had no idea this was a common dish. My Dutch in-laws introduced me to it (they call it something very Dutch and totally unpronounceable). They do it slightly differently, a key ingredient being a ton of bacon fat :) Thanks for the tip about the kale stems too!

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    1. Boerenkoolstamppot ;-). We use more kale : kale:potatoes = 3:8. It looks much greener. Potatoes and kale all together in a pot and gently boiled for 30 min. No bacon fat, a little milk to make it smoother. Delicious!

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  2. Just discovered this recipe and blog today! Absolutely wonderful.

    Trying to eat paleo as best as possible in Japan, so I made with a slight twist. Instead of kale, I used the leaves of the wasabi plant, which while much milder than the root, still have a slight “kick”! Coupled it with some imported sausage (no local sausage), and I’m in heaven. Not a cheap dish here, but WELL WORTH IT!

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  3. I finally tried this – so yummy!
    We don’t have kale around here, but the most typical soup in Portugal is a thing called caldo verde (portuguese for “green broth”), which is basically a potato and collard greens soup – so, I did it with finely chopped collard greens :)

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  4. I LOVE Colcannon, but my daughter wouldn’t eat it since she found 1/2 a cabbage worm in hers (imagine!), so I’ve made it with spinach, and she loves it! I want to try it with a previous poster’s suggestion of collard greens. And thanks so much for the tip of using the stalks in pesto; I’m guessing you can do that with any veggy that’s not woody. I’m one of those who uses practically every inch of my broccoli, too. When peeled, the stems are almost better than the florets! LOVE your site! Just discovered it by accident, looking for a decent way to make a tender Eye of Round Roast and have been reading everything here since then… And I will be trying your Perfect Eye of Round Roast Friday, and I can’t wait!

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  5. So are you saying that the Irish had it all that time but never shared it with England or the rest of Europe…how rude. Anyway mashed potatoes is simply the greatest comfort food in existence. Can’t go wrong.

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  6. I made this recipe last week and served it with sausage as suggested. I have also been wanting to try bone marrow so I bought some marrow bones and roasted them up as well. We scooped out the marrow right onto the Colcannon and it was amazing, although my 2 year old ate most of the marrow and left my husband I with scraps! A very rich dinner but nice for a treat. Then I fried up the leftover potatoes as cakes with the leftover sausage for breakfast the next day with a fried egg on top (for my husband and daughter, as I don’t eat eggs). This recipe will definitely be added to my regulars.

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