Colcannon is a simple, delicious and easy to make Irish side dish traditionally cooked for St. Patrick’s Day. Made with potatoes, cabbage and other greens boiled and mashed together makes this blissfully simple Colcannon, an Irish Gaelic word meaning white-headed cabbage, grounded in Old Irish terms for cabbage or kale (cāl), head (cend or cenn) and white (find). In the American South and Midland, “corn dodgers” were boiled as dumplings with cabbage and ham.
For Ages, potatoes and Cabbage have been sustenance foods in Ireland. The Irish have been thriving on this classic combination of potatoes and cabbage for hundreds of years. Filled with abundant vitamin and mineral nutrition, and possessing a creamy satisfying richness of flavor, colcannon is a tribute to the Irish gift for making the simplest foods into something special.
Generally Irish side dish recipes for are ecstatically simple. Basically, boil or mash vegetables, add a shamrock for stylish effect and this Irish Colcannon is creamy mashed potatoes made green with cabbage or kale and seasoned with salt and pepper. The thought of a plate heaped with Colcannon is enough to make people sing – literally. “The Skillet Pot” is a traditional Irish folk song. Colcannon is a popular dish although not as widely eaten as Champ or Poundies but is equally delicious.
Irish cuisine is a style of cooking originating from Ireland and the cuisine takes its influence from the crops grown and animals farmed in its temperate climate. The introduction of the potato in the second half of the 16th century heavily influenced Ireland’s cuisine thereafter.
Traditional Irish dishes are Irish stew, bacon and cabbage, potato, boxty, coddle, colcannon and (mainly in Ulster) fadge. Potatoes form the basis for many traditional Irish dishes and initially a garden crop and thereon became the main food crop of the poor. As a food source, the potato is extremely valuable in terms of the amount of energy produced per unit area of crop. The potato is also a good source of many vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C when fresh.
Surprisingly most of the Irish dishes have all sorts of ways of cooking potatoes, with festive names like champ (made with mashed potato, scallions, butter and milk), boxty (a kind of potato pancake), and colcannon. Colcannon, in Irish means ‘white-headed cabbage’ and is also the name of a song about the dish. Colcannon is traditionally prepared from mashed potatoes and kale (or cabbage), with scallions, butter, salt and pepper added. It can contain other ingredients such as milk, cream, leeks, onions and chives. Combined with the lovely greenness of kale and leeks and the alluring comfort of buttery mashed potatoes makes a enticing serving next to some beautifully roasted lamb or turkey roast.
Colcannon is often eaten with boiled ham or Irish bacon. At one time it was a cheap, year-round staple food, though nowadays it is usually eaten in autumn/winter, when kale comes into season. An old Irish Halloween tradition was to serve colcannon with prizes of small coins concealed in it, as the Irish, English and Scots do with Christmas pudding.
Cabbage is a popular leafy green vegetable distinguished by a short stem upon which is crowded a mass of leaves, usually green but in some varieties red or purplish, which while immature form a characteristic compact, globular cluster (cabbagehead). The plant is also called head cabbage or heading cabbage, Cabbage leaves often have a delicate, powdery, waxy coating called bloom. The occasionally sharp or bitter taste of cabbage is due to glucosinolate(s). Cabbages are also a good source of riboflavin. Normally the spherical cluster of immature leaves are the only part eaten. Cabbage is used in a variety of dishes for its naturally spicy flavor. The so-called “cabbage head” is widely consumed raw, cooked, or preserved in a great variety of dishes. It is the principal ingredient in coleslaw and Sauerkraut.
Kale is king and along with leek, potatoes, green onions, it is one of the nutrition stand-outs among vegetables. It fights fat through its ability to mingle in a variety of roles — in side dishes, combined in main dishes, or in salads. Kale is unusually high in fiber and helps create the bulk you need to fill you up and to keep you full for a good amount of time. Kale is also an excellent source of nutrients, especially vitamin A and calcium. With a combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, kale is a dieter’s dream food.
Preparing Colcannon is very simple and easy to cook. Put the potatoes (3 pounds) in a medium pot with water adding little salt and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender (15 to 20 minutes). Drain in a colander. Peel skin and mash.
Return the pot to the stove and set over medium-high heat and add 4 oz trimmed kale leaves, 1 leek, light parts only, chopped, 1 bunch green onions, chopped (keep some for garnishing at the last). Cook the greens in salted water for 5 to 6 minutes or until they are wilted and have given off some of their water. Drain water and keep aside.
In the blender add onions, boiled kale and leeks and 2 tablespoons room temperature butter and puree to a smooth paste. Add this mixture to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add ¼ cup cream or milk and combine all the ingredients well. Finally garnish with finely chopped green onions on top and a huge knob of butter in the center.
You can also add cabbage instead of Kale which is an excellent source of vitamin C. It also contains significant amounts of glutamine, an amino acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. Cabbage can also be included in dieting programs, as it is a low calorie food.