We are headed to Ireland today for a traditional and ancestral dish called colcannon.
What is colcannon?
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.
What is the origin of colcannon?
One of the first Irish references of this dish can be found 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!
No ring in our colcannon. My dentist is rich enough as it is! I served colcannon with red mullets. This side dish was a huge success with everyone. Who knew a simple purée 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.
- 1 lb kale
- 1 lb potatoes
- 2 leeks , thinly sliced
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
- Pinch mace (optional)
- Dice the potatoes and boil in a saucepan until tender, about 20 to 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.