Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Colcannon and Champ - Potatoes Forever!

In the spirit of St. Patrick's day and Connections for Women on going 'find the Irish baby' contest, I'll share two of my favorite potato recipes. True, the Irish ate an enormous amount of potatoes, it was the staple of a poverty stricken nation's diet and, it was the blight that destroyed the crops that brought on the famine and the massive diaspora; also true that in the forties and fifties of the last century, Ireland was rich in dairy products and cream and butter used liberally. My grandmother, feeling sorry for us living with rationing in England, devised many methods for sending us contraband - butter stuffed in a goose perhaps the most interesting! I have clear memories of the postman riding up on his bike with an absolutely reeking package tied to the rack behind is seat. It took a while for me to understand why my mother would open this revolting package and search it before burying the contents - she was looking for the nylon stockings that my gran would also stuff in the goose! To this day I cannot abide the smell of goose in any form.

Just a plug here for my favorite author. If you want to read a novel of middle-aged coming of age combined with Irish history, read 'My Dream of You' by the late Nuala O'Faolain.

Dinner at my grandparents small farm was served mid day and always included potatoes rich in butter and cream. My favorite version of mashed potatoes goes by the name COLCANNON - once the food of the poor, I noticed on a visit to Dublin a couple of years ago that it's now found on the menus of trendy Irish restaurants showcasing Irish grown foods. Along with CHAMP, it's hard to imagine more sublime mashed potatoes . I've gone easy on the cream in these two recipes but if it's a once a year treat - go for broke. Served with really good, artisanal sausages and a side of green beans or peas, both make wonderful and easy suppers. Also great with thick slices of ham.

COLCANNON - Four hearty servings
  • 1 llb of young green cabbage or young spring kale.
  • 1 llb of small new, thin skinned potatoes
  • 6 spring onions/scallions/green onions
  • 2/3 Cup of milk or cream
  • 1/2 Cup butter
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • dash of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. sugar
Finely shred the kale or cabbage first removing core of the cabbage or thick stems on the kale. (I use a Cuisinart shredding blade for the cabbage) for the kale, pile the leaves on top of each other and use a very sharp knife to cut intro thin shreds.
Toss the shredded greens in a bowl with freshly grated nutmeg and the sugar. Place in a steamer and steam until very tender but not soggy! Should still have a little crunch to them. (This cooking method is excellent treatment for cabbage, even cabbage haters love it.)
Meanwhile boil the potatoes unpeeled until fork tender. With young, thin skinned potatoes there is no need to peel them. If you don't like the idea of unpeeled potatoes, boil in the skin and then peel.
While the vegetables are cooking, chop the scallions into tiny pieces and add them, along with the milk/cream to a saucepan, bring to the simmer and cook about 5 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, mash well and season with salt and pepper. Beat in the scallions and milk and then incorporate the steamed kale or cabbage. Mound into an oven proof serving dish, cut the butter into four parts, poke four holes in the mound of potatoes, insert the butter into the holes and pop the whole dish under a broiler for about five minutes or until lightly browned on top. Serve so that each portion has a hidden pocket of butter!


Exactly the same process as above but minus the green vegetables, nutmeg and sugar. It's common to substitute a handful of chopped parsley for the green onions in this recipe.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Let's talk....Give us your comments

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.