Though it’s likely I have at least a little Irish blood in me since my ancestors were reportedly evicted from Scotland (due to alleged horse-rustling) and transferred themselves over to Ireland, I was not introduced to colcannon until I worked at the Seward Cafe with historian and cook Frank Siegel.
Frank would work tirelessly to create Irish feasts on All Hallow’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day, researching and cooking traditional dishes and writing an elaborate menu with the Gaelic terms and history of the dish. He was a true scholar. I was told he once made a recording of Gaelic poetry then insisted that it be re-recorded because he had used an incorrect dialect of Gaelic for the poem.
Frank, you really made those days into holy-days for us.
Go raibh maith agat, my friend.
Colcannon is basically cabbage, leeks and potatoes with butter and cream, sometimes kale. There are countless home recipes of this dish and this is but one.
Foodtimeline.org says it well:
The word ‘colcannon’ is from the Gaelic cal ceannann’ which literally means white-headed cabbage. However, the cannon’ part of the name might be a derivative of the old Irish cainnenn’, translated variously as garlic, onion, or leek. Therefore it can be suggested that in its earliest form colcannon may have been a simple mixture of some brassica and allium.
Brassica and Allium. Then a Nightshade added in sometime after the 16th century. Mix it all up with Dairy and you have a tasty meal to keep you alive and well.
Erin go Bragh!
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25-60 minutes
Simmer in a pot:
2 pounds Potatoes, quartered
Cook the potatoes until soft, 10-15 minutes, then drain and mash.
Meanwhile, simmer in another pot:
1 1/2 pounds Cabbage, shredded, maybe some Kale too
2 cups Leeks, chopped
1/2 stick Butter
2 cups Milk and Cream mixed together
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg, ground
Sea Salt to taste—more than you think because of the potatoes—maybe 2 teaspoons
Pepper to taste
Cook 8-10 minutes then turn off the heat.
Mash the potatoes into the cabbage mixture, then add:
Cooked Bacon pieces, crumbled (optional)
Spread into a 9×13 pan.
Broil in the oven, or prep ahead and reheat in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Enjoy with Lamb, Soda Bread, and a chewy dark beer.
Sláinte and Good Health!