Colcannon For St Patrick’s Day

Colcannon For St Patrick’s Day

Last November I went to Ireland.

I have three Irish great-great-grandmothers, and they all left their homeland in about 1849 to escape starvation.

On my recent trip, my brother and I met with a genealogist at the Skibbereen Heritage Center. We wanted to trace what happened to Jane, one of the more colorful of these ancestors. She came from the Skibbereen Workhouse. Her family had ended up there in the Great Famine of the 1840s. To get into the Workhouse, where you might get one or at most two meager meals daily, you had to be destitute. And this area of Cork was destitute. When the potato crop failed, mass starvation stalked the land. While Ireland today is prosperous and produces beef and dairy products for export, its sad history led to poverty for most of the people. Books have been written on the mismanagement that caused the starvation, but it is not hard to understand why the Irish people had come to depend on the easy-to-grow potato.

It is delicious.

Potatoes are the perfect food. Potatoes are fiber and protein, but no fats, the potato is dense with vitamins B6, magnesium and manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and, crucially, vitamin C, which prevents scurvy. Potatoes are carbohydrate-rich, too. You could eat potatoes and cabbage and be pretty healthy. So, if you are going to remember Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, enjoy this nutritious and filling side or main dish!

Colcannon for St. Patrick’s Day

The ingredients

2 lbs. Russet or Yukon potatoes

4 cups kale or cabbage or a mix of both, coarsely chopped. Or make it easy, use one of those prepared packages of kale, broccoli, and other cruciform veggies

1 bunch of spring onions (3 or 4), white and green parts chopped into little rings

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine ( optional)

Chives for garnish, chopped

6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus 1 tbs for serving

½ cup milk or half and half

1 tbsp salt for the potato water, plus salt and fresh ground pepper to season.

The recipe

Fill a big pot with enough water to cover the potatoes.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Put them in the pot with 1 tbsp salt and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat to medium, and cook till fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In the same pot, add the 6 tbsp butter and let it melt over medium heat. Throw in the chopped kale and cabbage and let it cook gently till wilted for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic (if using) and the spring onions and cook another couple of minutes.

Add the drained potatoes to the vegetable mix. Start to mash everything together while adding the milk. When mashed to fluffiness, the colcannon is ready to eat.

Dab another pat of butter in the middle, season with salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper, and sprinkle with chopped chives to serve.