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Colcannon is a traditional Irish potato dish, closely related to champ. It is made with a base of mashed potatoes mixed with kale or cabbage, and creamed with butter and milk. Numerous other vegetables can be used in colcannon, and a vegan version can easily be made with margarine and soy milk. The dish is closely associated with Halloween, but it is made year round as well, with slight variations in different regions of Ireland.
Potatoes play an important role in Irish cuisine because they grow well in rugged soil and poor weather conditions. There are also myriad uses for potatoes, making them a highly versatile food source. Especially when mixed with dark leafy greens like kale, as potatoes often are in Ireland, they are also an excellent source of nutrition, though potatoes alone are insufficient. When making colcannon, pick out starchy potatoes such as Russets which will hold up well through the cooking process.
To make colcannon, start by loosely chopping six large potatoes and boiling them until they are tender. As the potatoes near the end of their cooking time, simmer four tablespoons of butter with one half cup milk and chopped chives, leeks, green onions, or scallions. Drain the potatoes, and mash them together with the milk mixture. Some cooks prefer to strain the milk to remove the flavorings for a more even texture.
In a separate pan, cook roughly chopped cabbage or kale until it is tender. Drain and mash together with the potatoes and milk, creating a chunky mashed potato dish which will gradually turn slightly green. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with parsley and more butter, if desired. Additional butter will make the dish taste more rich, although too much can turn the colcannon greasy and unpleasant. After the colcannon is satisfactorily seasoned, it is ready to serve.
The flavor can be varied with the addition of spices like mace or nutmeg, for cooks who find plain mashed potatoes too boring. Colcannon is a frequent choice of Irish side dish, to accompany foods like corned beef or roasted meats. It can also be served straight, of course, and intrepid cooks might want to try frying leftover colcannon in the morning for breakfast potato patties. At Halloween, the cook usually hides a coin or small treasure in the colcannon, and the person who stumbles across it can look forward to good luck in the coming year.
Colcannon sounds like a wonderful way to spice up regular mashed potatoes! Onions and kale are both packed with flavor, so they would add a lot to the taste of the dish. Green onions are particularly pungent!
I probably wouldn’t put the extra margarine on top. I actually like using just a touch of margarine in all of my recipes, because I like to keep my fat and grease intake to a minimum. Also, too much can hide the flavor of what’s underneath. On the same note, I would use just a small dash of salt as well.
My British neighbor isn’t too fond of American food. He still uses his recipes from the UK. Among these recipes is one for winter vegetable colcannon, which he shared with me.
He starts with one and a half pounds of plain, hot mashed potatoes, which he mixes with eight ounces of cooked kale and eight ounces of cooked carrots in a large bowl.
He heats four fluid ounces of both double cream and milk. Then, he adds six chopped spring onions and cooks them until they are softened. He stirs this warm mixture into the mashed veggies.
He then places the colcannon on a warmed dish. He makes an indentation on the surface and pours two ounces of melted butter on top, and this forms a puddle. After that, it is ready to be served.