Several years ago I visited Ireland with my sister and our long-time friend. One of my absolute favorite parts was climbing the mountain Benbulben. The elevation is just over 1700 feet, making it not quite a hundred feet taller than Green Mountain, which is a small peak you can climb that’s about a half hour from my house. It’s just a couple miles to the top, and it’s an easy enough hike that you aren’t totally dead at the end. How hard could climbing this little Irish hill be?
Well it turns out, it was pretty hard. Benbulben is kind of a wedge-shaped tabletop mountain, and as you can see from the picture above, it’s got some pretty steep cliffs there. (Those little colored dots are the three of us girls) In order to climb it, we had to traverse along the side of the mountain to the point of the wedge, around the other side, to an easier spot to work our way up. Then we walked across the TOTALLY flat top, to the other side, and slip-and-slided our way down. Also, there are no TRAILS, we just picked our way up and down little crevasses and over barbed wire fences and past scared sheep and through a nasty cold rain and wind storm that kicked up as we approached the top. And we were all wearing thin little tennis shoes, while we splorged across a mucky, nasty, oozy bog. SO MUCH FUN!
It was. It really was. It was hard, and gross at times, and my sister kept saying, “are you ok…?” because I guess my face was showing a rather un-fun attitude, but it was a blast. I climbed a crazy mountain! With no trails! With soggy feet! I climbed barbed wire fences! My friend took the best picture of me that’s ever been seen and then promptly lost her camera somewhere on the backside of the mountain! Climbing Benbulben was a crazy adventure, and a whole story on it’s own.
But today we’re talking about FOOD! Why am I talking about a mountain? Well, I was reminded of our glorious hiking adventure yesterday and all of our fun Irish adventures, so I decided to talk about quick and easy Irish meal you can grow in your own yard! I’m going to be honest, I did not have two of the three items grown yet so they are from the store. However, they ARE growING currently, so by fall I can make this all from the garden. What is it?
Colcannon! There are many different recipes out there, with different ingredients. According to an Irish cookbook I have the ONLY way to make it REAL colcannon is with kale, but we don’t like kale, so no kale for us. Also his recipe calls for scallions, and I found great success with leeks. This is another of my non-recipe recipes, so just do what you feel! It’s just food, man.
How to Make Colcannon (my way)
You will need: Potatoes. Probably any kind will do. I use russet usually, but I have purple ones growing and I think that’ll be quite fun. Cabbage or kale. Apparently kale is traditional, I used a lovely purple cabbage. Leeks or green onions. I like the flavor of leeks and I have a lot of them, but I also used green onions. Salt, pepper, milk or cream, butter.
Wash, peel, and boil your potatoes as you would for mashed potatoes. Note I am not giving any amounts. You should have MORE potato than cabbage/kale. So decide how many you’re feeding, and go from there. I think I used six big potatoes because this was our whole meal, but it makes a good side too. While the potatoes boil, start some water for your cabbage. Cut it roughly, and boil it too, for about ten minutes to soften. I used about a half gallon bag full of cabbage with my six potatoes. While all that is going on, heat a cup of your milk or cream in a small saucepan. (If you’re making a big batch, up the amount accordingly). Don’t let it boil! As it heats, add three-four tablespoons of butter. Chop your leeks or green onions finely, and add them to the warming milk and butter mix, and simmer for a few minutes. Don’t cook too high or you’ll get a weird filmly brown milk substance. Drain the potatoes. Drain the cabbage and let it cool a little, then chop it up a little finer. Mix potato, cabbage, and pot of milky-buttery-leeky-oniony goodness together and mash! Add plenty of salt and tons and tons of pepper, and then more pepper because I’m really weird with all my pepper. Top with more butter for serving!
The end. That’s all there is to it! It’s essentially mashed potatoes, with some cabbage and onions. As I perused the vegetable section of my Irish cookbook, it seemed to me that a great many of the potato dishes are in fact just mashed potatoes with slight variances. Or mashed potatoes cooked into a different dish. Or a dish topped with mashed potatoes. Like seriously, it’s Ireland. It’s all about the potato. Which is good, because my Hubbins loves some him some potato. And onions. So stay tuned for more potato and onion recipes, because honestly, we eat them a lot. Potatoes and onions are cheap after all, so save some money, and eat like the Irish!
OHHH and for a real treat, make this dish with some Kerrygold butter, which is in fact the best butter ever made on earth.