Lots of foods have become synonymous with Ireland or St. Patrick’s Day: Soda Bread and Shepherd’s Pie, to name a few. Colcannon might be lesser-known on a global scale, but to the Irish, it’s a true taste of home.
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made with mashed potatoes, cabbage (or kale) and leeks, yet somehow, most parade-going, Irish heritage-loving Americans have never heard of it. It’s tasty and easy to make, so it’s surprising it never caught on here.
The name colcannon is said to have originated from the Gaelic phrase “cal ceannann,” meaning white-headed cabbage, the vegetable most commonly mixed into the potatoes.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, potatoes, cabbage and leeks were considered to be food for the common man, so it makes sense the Irish would eventually combine all three into one meal.
While it’s unclear exactly when colcannon was first prepared, given Ireland’s history with poverty and famine, it’s safe to assume it was invented out of a necessity for hearty fare and likely an excess of potatoes.
Leeks are usually mixed in for extra flavor.
Sometimes other affordable vegetables, herbs, or dairy are added to make the dish more substantial. Other recipes call for the addition of kale or bacon.
Colcannon is served for St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, but it also became a favorite dish on Halloween, a holiday with Celtic and Irish origins. On Halloween colcannon was molded into a large ring with small trinkets hidden inside the mash, according to Irish Central.
To make Colcannon part of your St. Patrick’s Day party, follow this traditional recipe:
6 large Irish Potatoes, peeled and boiled
6 spring onions, scallions or chives, finely chopped
1/4 pint of milk or cream
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. boiled green curly kale, finely chopped
2 oz. butter
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Mash the potatoes finely.
In a separate pot, add the milk and onions. Bring to a boil. Add the kale and half the butter.
Add milk and kale mixture to potatoes and beat well, until light and fluffy.
Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and remaining butter.