From The Potato Year by Lucy Madden published by Mercier Press, © 2015. Published with permission.

  • Freshly Dug Potatoes from a Market in County Cork Freshly Dug Potatoes from a Market in County Cork
  • Colcannon


From The Potato Year by Lucy Madden published by Mercier Press, © 2015. Published with permission.

This recipe and accompanying notes are from The Potato Year: 300 Classic Recipes, written by Lucy Madden and published by Mercier Press, a publisher based in Cork and dedicated to Irish culture and its stories.  In wanting to showcase this charming book that makes a compelling case for the potato as a versatile and flavorful ingredient, I chose this recipe for Colcannon, one of Ireland's most traditional and loved dishes.  In this version, the dish can be made with either kale or Savoy cabbage, making it particularly in season in the autumn, which is exactly where Ms. Madden places it during her year of potatoes.

"Fresh kale with its vivid green shoots is a luxury at this time of year.  This is a traditional Irish way of dealing with it and often eaten at Hallowe'en with the inclusion of a gold ring, a thimble, a button and a sixpence.  The Oxford English Dictionary has claimed that the word derives from 'cole' meaning cabbage and 'cannon' referring to the pounding of the mixture with a cannon ball.  This would seem to arise out of the usual Anglo-Irish misunderstandings and it is more likely that the word comes from cal ceann fhionn -- white-headed cabbage.  In his History and Social Influence of the Potato, Redcliffe Salaman writes that in the seventeenth century 'colcannon ... was much favoured and found its way to the tables of the upper classes in England.  It was composed of a mash of potatoes and brussel sprouts, highly flavoured with ginger and the like ...'  It sounds about as authentic as Swiss Roll." 



  1. Drain and purée the potatoes. Meanwhile have your kale cooking -- either steamed or boiled.
  2. Add the scallions to the milk or cream and bring to the boil, at which point add to the potatoes, beating well until a smooth mixture is attained.
  3. Finely chop the kale and add this, together with the butter. Season well.
  4. If necessary reheat. Serve with more butter.


'Did you ever eat Colcannon
When 'twas made from thickened cream,
And the kale and praties blended
Like the picture in a dream?
Did you ever take a forkful
And dip it in the lake
Of the clover-flavoured butter
That your mother used to make?
Oh, you did; yes you did.
So did he and so did I,
And the more I think about it,
The more I want to cry,
Ah God be with the happy times,
When troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon
In the little three-legged pot.'

-- Traditional rhyme





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