Precisely how the humble spud arrived in Ireland remains something of a mystery but the best estimates suggest that it took less than 70 years from the time it was spotted in Peru by conquistador Juan de Castellanos (he called it a “truffle”) to being planted on Irish farms. Potatoes are mentioned in an Irish farm lease dated 1606, a time at which many Europeans still regarded this lumpy underground newcomer with suspicion. Within 250 years, thousands of Irish properties comprising less than one acre grew potatoes as their only crop. Potatoes were central to the Irish diet, and for more than a third of the population it was literally all they ate. Because potatoes are so nutritious this was no bad thing—until disease struck potato crops in 1845, ultimately killing a million people through illness and starvation, and causing two million more to emigrate to the Americas and the Antipodes.
None of this diminished the Irish passion for potato, and one of the most celebrated of all Irish dishes is colcannon, a comforting, creamy mix of mashed potato and chopped greens. The name means “white headed cabbage” but it is also traditionally made with kale. We like it best with crinkly savoy cabbage but Irish eyes will still smile should you choose to experiment with other cabbages or leaves—we are really only fussy about the parsley, which should be the curly variety.
Popular year-round, this dish is a particular favourite at Halloween. Diehard traditionalists and those with high-level dental cover may, on this occasion, hide coins or a ring in the bowl of colcannon—money means wealth is on its way and a ring signals a wedding. Single ladies with an adventurous bent and a passion for challenging laundry jobs may hang a sock stuffed with colcannon on the front door handle: superstition has it that the first man through the door will be the one they marry.
For our part, we think eating colcannon is a better idea. It couples beautifully with bacon rashers or ham sliced from the bone for a simple supper; or make a meal of it with corned beef or plump pork sausages.
- Remove the core from the cabbage, discard, and cut the rest into chunks. Place in the mixing bowl and chop 10 seconds/speed 4.
- Add butter cook 8 minutes/100 degrees/Reverse/speed soft. Take the cabbage out and set it aside. There may seem to be a lot of liquid but don’t worry.
- Rinse the mixing bowl and add the potatoes and the milk. Cook 20 minutes/100 degrees/ speed soft with the MC in. The milk may froth up on the lid once it begins to boil, just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t spill. At the end of 20 minutes the potatoes should be soft and will have absorbed nearly all the milk. The mixture should be making a splutting noise, like porridge. If not, continue to cook with the MC out until any excess milk evaporates.
- Insert the Butterfly. Whip the potatoes 20 seconds/Butterfly/speed 3.
- Season to taste with salt and white pepper and whip again 20 seconds/Butterfly/speed 3. The potato should be “pillowy” and super smooth.
- Add the cabbage, including any liquid, and mix together 10 seconds/Butterfly/Reverse/speed 3. If you like, a little extra butter and a dash of cream will make the colcannon a bit more luxe. If you are including chopped spring onions, add them now.
- Serve the colcannon in a mound. Make a depression in the top and sit a little pat of salted butter in the hole. Scatter with roughly chopped curly parsley.
AND … Leftover, refrigerated colcannon can be formed into patties, then floured and fried to make colcannon “cakes”—brilliant for breakfast with a poached or fried egg.