Friday, October 28, 2022

An Ode to Colcannon – from a Conscientious Objector to Cabbage!

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I’ve been having a bad week in my kitchen – you know the kind of week where nothing quite goes as expected. The worst was my attempt at making chocolate caramels. They turned out fine - dark, chewy, and very, very moreish. However in the process of getting the mixture up to temperature, I enamelled my favourite stainless steel saucepan. It has taken a week of inventiveness and ingenuity to remove the shiny black sugar coating from the metal. I believe I have invented a substance that NASA might want to consider for tiling the space shuttle.

Moving swiftly on... imagine it is a perfect Halloween evening – wild and stormy. There’s a log fire blazing and an open bottle of wine on the mantelpiece.

Traditional Irish Colcannon for Hallowe'en (though any excuse will do)

On the menu: corned beef with colcannon. The corned beef is a cinch to cook. Rinse it, weigh it and pop it in a pot just large enough to take it and a few ancillary vegetables. Add an onion and sprinkle in a large pinch of ground cloves. Bring it to the boil, then cover and turn the heat down to a gentle bubble, giving it 25 – 30 minutes per pound/half kilo.  The piece I’m cooking is 1.5kg or about 3lb and will take an hour and a half. I’ll fling a few carrots in to the pot about half an hour before the meat is finished cooking. Really, the meat is just an excuse to make its perfect partner – a dish of butter, peppery colcannon (cál ceannann).

As a conscientious objector to cabbage, I astound myself with my devotion to colcannon – which is essentially buttery mashed potato mixed with finely chopped curly kale (fancy cabbage, but cabbage all the same). Traditionally eaten at Halloween, I shamelessly sneak it into meals whenever I can find kale.

About fifteen minutes before the beef is finished cooking, prepare the colcannon.


For 4 people, you will need...

4 – 6 potatoes (I use Rooster – a good, floury potato)

50g Irish butter

110 mls hot milk

a large pinch sea salt

white pepper to taste

200g curly kale (or leafy green cabbage)

4 spring onions (scallions) finely chopped

An optional extra 50g butter to bury in the mash


1    Peel the potatoes and cut into slice about ½ cm thick. Place in a saucepan and barely cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to simmering, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the point of a knife easily pierces the potato slices.

2    While the potato is cooking, add the curly kale (or green cabbage) to another saucepan of boiling water with a teaspoon of salt. Cover and boil for about 5 minutes or until tender. Drain and chop very finely.

3    When the potatoes are cooked, drain the water from the saucepan and leave the potatoes uncovered for a minute or so until most of the steam has evaporated. Add the butter and hot milk and, using a potato masher or a sturdy hand-held whisk, reduce the potato to a smooth mash. (Don’t be tempted to go mechanical as it overworks the potato and can result in an unpleasant gluey mess). Add salt and white pepper, mixing thoroughly. Taste and add further salt and pepper if necessary.

4    When you have prepared the basic mash, add in the curly kale or cabbage and chopped spring onions. Transfer to a warm serving dish with the optional extra 50g of butter cut into three pieces and buried deep in the fluffy mixture to melt into little pools of gold.

((f(First published Oct 2010)


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  1. Sounds like a easy and yumm recipe.

  2. MMMMM, I never thought about using kale instead of cabbage. Kate @ kateiscooking

  3. I totally understand your saucepan-burning plight--literally ruined a nonstick one the other day. But that's what happens with kitchen experiments sometimes. At least you have some yummy chocolate caramels as a reward for your hard work!

    Now, this colcannon looks really, really great. I've never tried it before, but the mixture of potatoes and kale sounds too good to resist!

  4. I am so sorry I hadn't read your blog before halloween I made up my own version of colcannon which everybody liked but certainly didn't sound or look as good as yours! Will give it a go again at the weekend.

  5. I had to look up colcannon... seems to interesting and very yummy!

  6. I am getting the hired help to rustle this up tonight with some mustard clove and honey baked ham.

    fabulous dahling - might even warm my icy heart!

  7. Thanks so much for this recipe! Colcannon is a favourite childhood memory of Halloween, my late Nana called it "curly green potatoes" and used to hide money in it. My attempts to recreate have always been hit and miss, however I really enjoyed making and eating this version, I think using white pepper instead of black made all the difference.

  8. Second recipe I cooked this week that mentioned ground white pepper, it has to go on my shopping list.

  9. Made this recipe, worked a treat. Thanks a mill Hyster.


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