I was thinking about colcannon lately. As you do.
To be honest, it’s been on my mind ever since I heard my niece express the following fond and particularly Irish hope a few weeks back: “I hope my Ma makes colcannon”.
And it occurred to me that I do not make colcannon half often enough. Mashed potatoes, cabbage or kale, butter, milk and maybe some scallions – it’s supremely comforting food.
So, it was with colcannon in mind that I went out the other day in search of cabbage. Only what I found was curly kale. Hmph. Of course I know that kale is the more traditional addition to colcannon, but childhood experience has led me to regard it as cabbage’s tougher and frankly less appealing cousin. It has not, therefore, been a vegetable that I have sought out but one that I feel I have to deal with whenever it is foisted upon me.
I looked long and hard at the frilly green leaves and decided, somewhat reluctantly, that perhaps it was time to give curly kale a second chance.
And lo and behold, the combined wisdom of the masters spoke of kale pesto, puréed kale, kale steamed and sautéed and even salads with kale. The message seemed clear: make fine enough shreds of it and the long remembered toughness would be a thing of the past. Suddenly the world was full of kale possibilities.
So I blanched and chopped and added some things to curly kale that – who’d have thought – brought it in a Mediterranean direction. And I used it to make a kind of colcannon. Except it was colcannon meets tabouleh. And as I ate what I had made, I saw curly kale in a whole new light. And it was good, believe me, all so very good.
Minced Kale (for Colcannon and other things)
To the kale and spring onions that you would traditionally add to colcannon, I’ve added some garlic, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice. While this little mixture is entirely simple, the whole idea of using kale in this way was, for me, a revelation.
The result is some seasoned minced kale that can be sprinkled on boiled or roasted potatoes, added to a dressing for potato salad or mixed with mash to make a kind of colcannon. Or you could add bulghar, tomatoes and mint to make tabouleh. Your call.
- curly kale, about 100g after thick stalks removed
- 4 tblsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 spring onion, white and green parts sliced
- 1 small clove garlic
- 1 tblsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 0.25 tsp fine salt
- freshly ground black pepper
You’ll also need:
- A food processor or mortar and pestle for combining everything.
- Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the kale, bring back to the boil and boil for about a minute, then drain and rinse well under cold running water. Squeeze any excess water from the kale.
- Add the kale, parsley, spring onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and a few twists of black pepper to the food processor and blitz until everything is finely minced. Alternatively, chop the kale, parsley, spring onion and garlic very finely and combine with the other ingredients using a mortar and pestle.
- Sprinkle over steamed or roasted potatoes, add to potato salad or use to make colcannon (see below).
- There are plenty of other potato-friendly things you could add in here, such as mint and I think possibly a little vinegar, or to make more of a sauce or dressing, add more olive oil and lemon juice.
- Makes about 100g (enough for a batch of colcannon as below)
Colcannon à la Spud
- 800g potatoes (4 medium specimens), preferably a floury variety
- 200ml milk (or more if you prefer a looser consistency)
- 50g butter
- 0.5 tsp fine salt or to taste, plus more for boiling the potatoes
- 100g minced kale (see above)
You’ll also need:
- As always for mash, a potato ricer is the tool of choice, but it’s not mash-threatening if you don’t have one.
- Peel your potatoes and cut into roughly even-sized slices, around 1-2cm thick. Rinse them under cold water.
- Bring about 1.5l of water to the boil in a saucepan, add about 2 tsp salt and the potato slices. Bring back to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, for around 12-15 minutes or until just fork-tender.
- When the potatoes are done, drain well and return them to the saucepan. Then either let them sit, covered by a tea-towel, for about 5 minutes or place the pan over a low heat and stir the potatoes gently for a minute or so while they dry out.
- Put the cooked and still warm potatoes through a potato ricer if you have one, or mash with a potato masher or, if all else fails, a fork.
- Add the milk and butter to small heavy saucepan and place over a medium heat just until the butter has melted. Then remove from the heat and mix into the potatoes. Add the salt and minced kale, taste and adjust seasonings. It’s perfectly alright to eat a bowl of this on its own, though it’s the ideal accompaniment to boiled bacon or would be quite at home with a fried or poached egg.
- You can make a more classic version by adding some sliced spring onions to the milk as it heats and by replacing the minced kale with plain kale that has been shredded and steamed.
- Colcannon for around 4 to 6 people