Traditionally, colcannon is an Irish dish composed of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale. But with a few twists, this dish is lightened up for the 21st Century, and stars in three delicious left-over creations.
St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, a time to visit some of the traditional dishes that traveled from Ireland to our New England communities. We’re not talking about green bagels or beer here, but home-cooked dishes that called the hungry to the table.
Comfort food at its best!
Colcannon is peasant comfort food at its best. This combination of mashed potatoes and cabbage is tasty, satisfying, filling, and uses easily found, inexpensive ingredients. This humble bowl of mash is served on its own with butter added to a little crater in the center of the moon, which melts! It is often accompanied by a protein such as Irish bacon or sausages, but often it’s just enjoyed on its own.
At this time of year, we can easily make it from local produce from our winter markets!
Kale is frequently substituted for the cabbage, and various herbs can be added for interest, such as scallions, chives, parsley, or rosemary.
Let your supper tell your fortune!
Colcannon can also tell your fortune! According to Smithsonian Magazine (Oct. 2018), colcannon was often served on Halloween with tokens placed inside, such as coins for wealth, a bit of old rag for poverty, all of which predicted the coming year. Although tempted, I didn’t do that here.
Let’s lighten this up
While delicious and satisfying, colcannon can be on the heavy side. With many folks watching their carbs, lightening it up is actually easy without sacrificing flavor. – just substitute some of the potatoes with either riced cauliflower or celeriac, the exact proportions are not important. Celeriac has half the carbs of potatoes, and cauliflower about a fifth! If you use a mix of all three, you still get the potato flavor, and they are all nutritious.
In this dish, I’ve used all three, but you can mix and match what you like.
We need color this time of year. I chose blue and red skinned potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled, carrots for flavor and color, and purple cabbage, just to be different. If you can find purple or pink fleshed potatoes, use those because they have a higher mineral content than white.
Let’s roast the cabbage instead
Usually, the cabbage is sautéed and added to the mash, but I’ve found that roasting it in the oven gives us a more intense flavor with a bonus of crispy bits. Plus, you don’t have to babysit it on the stove, it can roast away while the other vegetables simmer.
In my family, our mashed potatoes are always laced with roasted garlic. The little heads can roast right alongside the cabbage and onions, and they lend a lovely flavor to the whole dish.
Fast food later in the week
Any recipe that can be used for two or more meals means fast food on another day, especially if it can be transformed into a totally different meal with little effort. Make a big batch of this, and use the leftovers later in the week in dishes that span breakfast to dinner.
Rice the cauliflower in a food processor, or buy already riced to save time. You can make this non-dairy by substituting your favorite plant-based milk and vegan butter. In keeping with the Irish theme, I used oat milk here just for fun.
Of course, you can also add coins, or other charms, and predict everyone’s future, which might include a nap!
- 2 lbs. potatoes, a mix of colors, diced
- 1 small head celeriac, diced
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 small head cabbage, sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 large head of garlic, wrapped in foil
- ½ lb. or so riced or finely chopped cauliflower
- ½ stick butter or vegan butter, melted
- 1 tbsp. chives or other herbs, minced
- Lots of freshly grated black pepper
- Salt to taste
- ¾ cup warmed oatmeal milk or other milk
- 2 scallions, minced
- Room temperature butter
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place potatoes, celeriac, and carrots in a large pot of salted, cold water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vegetables are nearly cooked, about 30 minutes. Add the riced cauliflower and continue to cook until everything is tender.
In the meantime, drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil, spread out the cabbage and onion evenly. Wrap the garlic in foil, and place it on the sheet as well.
Bake for 30 minutes or so, turning once. The cabbage will be cooked with little crispy edges around the outsides of some pieces. Tent with foil to keep warm. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of the head and mash with a fork. Set aside.
Start warming the milk, and add the butter so it will melt. If you like, this is a great time to add scallions and maybe a bay leaf to impart more flavor to the milk.
Drain the vegetables and place in a large bowl. With a hand masher, start mashing the vegetables. Add the mashed garlic, chives or other herbs, and lots of black pepper and salt to taste.
Drizzle in the warmed milk and add the cabbage mixture, Mix well..
Place in a serving bowl and make the crater in the middle where you’ll dollop some more butter to melt.
And now, the uses for the leftovers:
Thrice Baked Colcannon Potato Skins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake until tender:
- 2 large Russet potatoes
Once the potatoes are cooked, let them cool until you can handle them. Leaving a rim around the potatoes, scoop out the insides to a bowl. Add:
- 2 cups leftover colcannon
- 2 tbsp. snipped chives or parsley
Stuff everything back into the shells and turn the oven heat up to 450.
In a small saucepan, combine:
- 2 tbsp. butter
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Cook, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are just starting to brown.
Top the potatoes with the crumb mixture and pop them back in the oven and cook for 10 minutes or until the crumbs have finished browning.
You can also top the potatoes with cheese rather than the breadcrumb mixture, even faster!
Irish Potato Cake
- 2 cups colcannon
- ½ cup onion or shallot, finely minced
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 tbsp. parsley, minced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
The day after, mix together the colcannon, shallot, flour, and parsley.
Heat a 9 1/2″ non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium high. Add the oil, let it heat for a few minutes, then add the colcannon mixture all at once, patting it down to make a uniform thickness.
Cook until the bottom is browned. Gently, slide onto a plate using a large spatula, place the pan on top and flip to brown the other side.
Serve straight up, or top with fried eggs, scallions, parsley, sour cream, toasted carraway seeds, or even ketchup!
You can also form this into patties and make individual servings.
Cream of Colcannon Soup
If you have left-over colcannon, use it to make this hearty soup. I added some left-over corn I had waiting in the refrigerator, and it was perfect! In fact, if I make this again, I’ll add the corn even if it is not left-over.
If you’ve used purple cabbage, the soup will be a lovely shade of lavender…
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups left-over colcannon
- 2 cups soy or low-fat milk
- Any other veggies that need to be used up (optional)
In a large pot, heat olive oil and add the onion. Sauté until soft, and add the garlic, and continue sautéing until fragrant, less than a minute.
Add the colcannon and the milk as well as any other veggies you are using. Warm to desired temperature.
Serve with a drizzle of pesto or sour cream, or just a few herbs on top.
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