Colcannon – A True Irish Dish

Since today is the original St. Patrick’s day for 2008 (the church moved it to Monday since it was interfering with their holy week), I thought I would celebrate by making something other than the typical Irish-American corned beef and cabbage. After reading a number of Irish country cooking books, it was clear that Colcannon is a very special dish as it is served serving the Lugnasa (August) Festival following the first harvesting of the new potatoes of the season. Often, this meal was started out with a saying, “Death to the Red Hag,” referring to famine.


The dish is quite simple, consisting of leeks, cabbage, potatoes, butter, garlic, salt, ground pepper and mace. Simply braise the cabbage until tender and set aside. Boil sliced potatoes with the skins on until tender and set them aside. Clean and slice the leeks and place them in a saucepan, covering them with milk. Bring to a near boil and simmer until tender. Mash the potatoes and add the leeks and cabbage, but don’t mash the leeks and cabbage too much. Add the salt, garlic, mace, ground pepper and butter. Pour into an oven safe dish, make some kind of a neat design on the top and then broil until browned. Serve once cooled slightly.

My impression is that this is nothing more than mash potatoes with a bit of spice. I used a combination of allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon as I didn’t have any mace sitting around, so I think the spice was more intense than it needed to be. I would probably add a bit more garlic and salt, as well.  I might even try it with red cabbage and rosemary, which has more flavor than the white cabbage. Heck, I might even stir in some chopped Irish Boar sausages or corned beef for experimentation.


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