Wednesday, October 27, 2021

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. 

(First published Oct 2010)


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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Valentine's Day 2021 - sharing is not really an option

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Looking back over previous  Generosity Day / Valentine's Day posts, I'm struck by the fact that all the sweet treats are for sharing - with your darling, with your friends and family, with your colleagues - not really an option for many people this year! 

You could make smaller portions and share a virtual sweet moment with your darling, friends and family, colleagues and send them the recipe so they can turn that virtual moment into a moment of deliciousness.

I'm reposting Baileys Chocolate Biscuit Cake; Sour Cherry Rocky Road, and 'Just Because...' cookies

I'm not sure which of these was my favourite... I think if I had to make a choice, it would be the Rocky Road (which is almost too delicious to share anyway!)

Stay safe

Mwah! x

Love is ... sharing your Baileys Chocolate Biscuit Cake

For me, love is in the every day things.  It’s in the whole-hearted, rib-cracking bear-hugs from my godson; in the slightly soggy, pre-licked crisps offered by my three-year-old niece when you know she really, really, really wants them herself (“Thanks honey, but you have them, I insist! No, really – I insist”.
I asked friends and family what love meant to them. It turns out, it isn't in the grand gestures. Love is... in having the washing up done for you; in getting a cup of tea... just the way you like it... brought to one’s boudoir. Love is in chocolate; in a tiny posy of primroses; in a bunch of daffodils (preferably not ones stolen from the local park); Love is in a ‘Thank you for feeding me’ lick from a four-legged friend (awwww - but don't be giving the dog chocolate now - it will probably wolf it down and then be sick as a ... dog... or worse); it's in a crayoned picture of you looking like a happy witch; in a warm hand that reaches for your cold hand; in sharing a bag of salty, vinegary chips; Love is in cupcakes, hot from the oven; in a hug, just when you need it; it seems that love happens in lots and lots of small ways, - funnily, many of them food-related. ... read on for recipe

Sometimes ...  often  ... ok ... practically all the time, life doesn’t go according to plan. The road ahead usually has a few lumps and bumps lurking, ready to trip us up as soon as we cast our attention elsewhere... (click on the post to chortle at the lumps and bumps that were happening that week). 

The good news is that life’s little wrinkles can often work out for the best. Most lumps and bumps can have a silver lining... like when I drop my heavy cookery notebook on my foot (bump, lump) and a little scrap of cardboard falls out. It’s my sister Veronica’s incredible Rocky Road recipe (silver lining).

In general I HATE marshmallow, I HATE desiccated coconut, and I’m not particularly fond of milk chocolate either. However when these ingredients get together with crunchy salty nuts and chewy sour cherries and go skinny dipping in dark chocolate, magic happens. I will happily eat this version by the kilo – leading to further lumps and bumps if indulged too often. 
 ... read on for recipe

Love is bigger than just romantic love. It’s in the everyday things:  it’s in the email/card/text/call that says between the lines “Hey, I was thinking of you”. It’s in making the dinner/walking the dog/cleaning the bathroom/rescuing the laundry from a sudden rain shower without having to be asked. It’s in accepting the irritating imperfections right along with the good qualities that are so much easier to love, whether you are family, friend, or lover.
Since 2011, there has been a move to ‘reboot’ Valentine’s Day as Generosity Day; to make it less ‘cosy couples’ and more egalitarian. At first glance, this smacks of an ‘everyone-gets-a-medal’ race, but why not!  Generosity Day is an opportunity to practice random acts of, well, generosity. It is a day for giving rather than taking. ... read on for recipe

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