Ireland: Colcannon

Colcannon, from Gaelic meaning "white-headed cabbage" is a traditional Irish dish made ​​from potatoes, cabbage or kale, leek or scallion and cream. #halloween #ireland #196flavors



This week, we’re scaring the hell out of you on 196 flavors. No recipe with rat tail or toad blood, but just a week featuring the culinary traditions of Halloween.

As Vera told us earlier this week, Halloween is a pagan holiday that originated in the Celtic countries. This tradition was then exported to North America and is now celebrated, and probably more commercialized, around the world.

With the commercialization of the holiday that celebrates the dead, we almost forgot the traditions from those Celtic countries, countries that are now represented by Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Britain.

It is to Ireland that we are headed today for a dish that alone represents Halloween. Like many traditional and ancestral dishes, colcannon is a poor man’s dish.

Colcannon, from Gaelic cal ceannann meaning “white-headed cabbage” is a traditional Irish dish made ​​from potatoes, cabbage or kale, leek or scallion and cream. Depending on the region, it may also include ham or Irish bacon.

Although cabbage in all its forms has been used in European as well as Irish cuisine for centuries, potato was only introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century. This dish was therefore created around the eighteenth century.

One of the first Irish references of this dish lies in the Journal of William Bulkely of Bryndda near Amlwch in Anglesey, who had made ​​two trips to Dublin in 1735. The dish was introduced to England later in the eighteenth century, where it became a favorite among the upper classes.


In Ireland, colcannon was traditionally associated with the celebration of Samhain or Halloween (October 31st), and was used for the purpose of marriage divination. Indeed, it is customary to hide a coin, a ring or a thimble, often golden, in bowls of colcannon. The person who would find the charm would marry within the year. Unmarried girls would even fill socks with spoonfuls of colcannon and hang them from the handle of the front door in the belief that the first man who would walk through the door would become their future husband!

The custom of the coin and marriage divination can also be found in other traditional Irish Halloween recipes like Barmbrack.

No ring in our colcannon. My dentist is rich enough as it is! This week, like almost every year around Halloween, my in-laws came to visit us from France. The opportunity for me to cook fancy dinners like a blanquette de veau or veal stew (soon on our blog) as well as red mullets with potato scales, a recipe from Chef Paul Bocuse that I published on our Instagram account.

That night, I served colcannon with the red mullets. This side dish had a huge success with everyone. Who knew a simple puree could please that much!

That’s it for the story. I leave you with the traditional song of colcannon, also known as The Skillet Pot, here performed by Mary Black.

colcannon 2b

Recipe of Colcannon

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (for 6 people)

    1 lb kale
    1 lb potatoes
    2 leeks, thinly sliced
    1 cup heavy cream
    4 tablespoons melted butter
    Pinch of mace (optional)


Dice the potatoes and boil in a saucepan until tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Coarsely chop the kale and boil in lightly salted water for about 10 minutes.

Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a saucepan. Add leeks and cook over low heat until tender, about 10 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and place in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper. Add mace (optional).

Beat with a hand mixer until fluffy.

Put the potatoes back to the saucepan over low heat.

Add cream and leeks.

Stir in kale and beat with the hand mixer.

Remove from heat and serve in individual bowls.

Make a well in the center of each bowl.

Fill each well with melted butter.