How We Survived... (Colcannon)

By • May 19, 2011 • 73 Comments

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Author Notes: When I think of a dirt cheap meal, many things come to mind (including things that make me want to get up on a high horse about how so many "cheap" foods have hidden costs and that we overvalue low cost in our society when it comes to food and blahblahblah). But, one of the main thoughts that pops into my head is about the foods that poor people, you know, the "commoners," have used to survive for centuries through dry seasons or long cold winters.
In much of the world this survival food is rice and legumes, or cornmeal porridge. But, for those of us from far far north it was storage vegetables and protein sources you caught. Two of the most basic survival meals in Norway through the years were lamb and cabbage stew (actually they used to use mutton, now they use lamb) or codfish and potatoes. It's actually a little funny because these days lamb and codfish aren't necessarily cheap. But cabbage and potatoes still are. And, I nearly always have some hanging around.
So, I decided to combine them for a dirt cheap dinner, augmenting them with the warm flavors of garlic and peppercorns. And then as I went to serve it, I realized, 'oh, I've just recreated colcannon. Ha.' But, a super delicious, personalized version of colcannon. And of course, as soon as I realized this I had to run and get some butter to add the butter eye (is that what it is called in English?)
The trick to making this wonderful is to treat both the potato mashing and the cabbage cooking with great respect. I rice the potatoes instead of smashing them to keep them light. And, I definitely think sauteeing the cabbage is preferable to boiling (although boiling would correspond more with a lot of the food of my childhood!). It's filling enough to be a whole meal by itself, and is easily doubled or even tripled. And it makes for a pretty balanced meal too. - fiveandspice
fiveandspice

Food52 Review: Fiveandspice's version of a classic Irish colcannon is truly a great dish that keeps you coming back for more. The sauteed cabbage caramelized and added a nice texture and color to the mashed potatoes. I loved the garlic and peppercorn infused milk that mixed in with the potatoes. Filling enough to be served on it's own, I paired How We Survived... with a piece of grilled salmon for a delicious meal. - jvcooksjvcooks

Serves 3 or so as a main dish

  • 2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided (I used unsalted, but you can use whatever you have)
  • 1/2 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced and cut into about 2 1/2 inch strips
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives or green onions, from the back yard :)
  1. Bring a pot of water with the potatoes to boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes are just fork tender. Drain.
  2. In the meantime, combine the milk/cream, garlic, and peppercorns in a small saucepan. Bring just to a simmer, then remove from the heat, stir in the sugar and salt and allow to infuse while the potatoes cook.
  3. In a large frying pan, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter over medium-high heat until foaming, then add the cabbage, stirring occasionally, and cook until softened and starting to get nicely browned in places. Remove from the heat.
  4. Cut 3 of the remaining Tbs. of butter into chunks and place them in the bottom of a bowl. Strain the infused milk/cream into the bowl. Then, using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes into the bowl. Gently fold the potatoes, cream and butter together with a wooden spoon. Then gently stir in the cabbage and the chives/green onions. Season with more salt to taste.
  5. Divide into bowls. Make a little divot in the potato-cabbage mixture in each bowl and add a pat of the remaining butter to each.
  6. If you have any leftovers, you can make them into potato-cabbage cakes the next day. Just stir in 1 beaten egg per cup of leftovers. Mix just until combined, then gently form the mixture into patties. Fry in butter until golden brown on each side, then serve. Yum.
Jump to Comments (73)

Tags: colcannon

Comments (73) Questions (1)

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6 months ago Victoria Brooks

I remember having a festival of sorts where everyone had to cook an ethnic dish for our residents to enjoy. I prepared 'Rumpeldythumps', a Scottish dish, which comprised russet potatoes boiled, mashed with butter and half & half. Sautéed cabbage and onions were added to this, placed in individual ramekins and sharp Cabbots cheddar was shredded and placed on top before placing under a broiler. Tasty!

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6 months ago CookOnTheFly

Made this tonight for my doubting British-heritage boyfriend. He is now a convert. He had no idea how yummy cabbage and potatoes could be together.

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6 months ago deanna1001

Making this tonight to serve along with corned beef. I will be expecting raves! Thanks again for a great recipe!

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6 months ago Ellen Fournier

I used to make colcannon when my kids were at home, but I confess I topped it with grated cheddar. thanks for the reminder; I think I'll make it tonight, sans cheese.

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6 months ago Rkelly3042

Liked the Colcannon-I admit I added leek..my Irish hub liked it a lot

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7 months ago walkie74

How is this recipe on gas? My Irish blooded friend threatened to, um, stinkbomb my house if I served cabbage, due to its effects.

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7 months ago Mary Heseltine

When you know that the staple diet in 19th century Ireland was potatoes cooked in their jackets and tumbled out onto the table top, dressed only with salt & butter - if you had a cow - you will understand that this version of colcannon is unutterably luxurious! The colcannon I was brought up with was mashed potato mixed with chopped scallions and kale, long before it got fashionable! Definitely some butter, but absolutely no cream. The moisture from the kale was/is enough to keep it soft. And, yes, there was always a little pool of melted butter in a hollow made by the wooden spoon as the finishing touch! We'll probably have some on St Patrick's Day this coming weekend. With the leftovers of the baked ham chopped and stirred into little potato cakes (no egg) fried gently in butter the following day. Lá Féile Pádraig sona daoibh!

Sausage2

7 months ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

I think it could work. Adding just a touch more cream and butter would help loosen it back up as it warms.

Open-uri20140713-32310-17kojl8

7 months ago Barbara Olsen

Oh I forgot to add I will use your recipe and Kerry gold irish butter, this will be a great recipe to add to my irish heritage, thanks.

Open-uri20140713-32310-17kojl8

7 months ago Barbara Olsen

My father was an Irish immigrant and one of the dishes my mother used to
attempt to make for him was similar she would cook russet potatoes and mash them with butter and cream along with chopped scallions, S&P. In another pot she would warm half, and divide the potatoes in to three bowls put a divot in the middle of the mound , which we were told to bury the hunk of butter i the mound and then she poured the warmed milk over. There was'nt any cabbage in it and my dad called it something that sounds like this "bruchen"

Mata_240

7 months ago jthelwell

The first time I had Colcannon, it was served spread on a baked ham steak. Have to try that this weekend.

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7 months ago Barbaralhomme

The McKenna/Galvin family has been enjoying colcannon for years. thank you for sharing .

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7 months ago Lorenza

Slainte'!!!
Blasted auto correct.....

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7 months ago Lorenza

Slain the, indeed!
This will be a perfect accompaniment to our St. Paddy's Day corned beef. A great change up from the expected boiled cabbage,carrots, and potatoes.

Awesome!!!

7 months ago froggie

nutmeg is a lovely addition, lorenza. :-) i added 1/3c roughly shredded fresh brussel sprouts (in the carmelizing step) and a few nubs of farmer's cheese + 1%milk in place of the cream. still pretty rich tasting, but w/ less fat. ps - if you give it a few "pats o irish butter" up top then that kind of cancels out the making it healthier part. ahhh well. we are a funny people. slainte!

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7 months ago Lorenza

And I cannot help myself from adding a bit of grated nutmeg to the milk/cream infusion. Plan to serve as a hearty side with meatloaf. Thanks for your lovely memory and recipe.

Stringio

7 months ago Madelaine Linebarger

Colcannon is one dish I do not lighten up, you just can't! I always buy Irish butter for it!

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7 months ago Jack Gaffney

If you're vegan like I am - not much of a choice! LOL

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7 months ago Jack Gaffney

Not sure why you consider having to "survive" colcannon, but whatever.
It's excellent and inexpensive and can be vegan using earth balance soy butter and coconut milk, or any other vegan milk

Sausage2

7 months ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

The headnote explains. :)

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7 months ago Kt4

Very good! I didn't have quite enough white potato for the amount of cabbage so I added 1 sweet potato. Also, I love garlic so chopped up what got infused in the milk and added it to the mixture. It's just me so there is plenty leftover for pancaking :D Lol

Stringio

7 months ago Andrea Clausen

The smørøye! Absolutely needed! (& in all oatmeal)
My dad fed us his version of Colcannon every single time he was in charge of feeding the kids. He always added smoked trout on top to "make it a meal". Absolutely one of my favorites then and now.

Sausage2

7 months ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Yes!!!!!! The smørøye!!!! I love that you know about it too. :) Definitely essential for any porridge as well.

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7 months ago walkie74

...I'm gonna guess "smørøye" is the "butter eye" mentioned above?

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7 months ago 9stein

We never had Colcannon growing up, but my German father showed us how tasty mashed potatoes were with sauerkraut. ;)

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over 1 year ago Nomnomnom

This recipe is excellent. Sure to be in regular rotation from now on. Thank you!

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh good! Glad you liked it!

Spiceroute

over 1 year ago Madhuja

I have never made colcannon before, but this recipe is going to change that! :)

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Enjoy!

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over 1 year ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I love this recipe, am making it tomorrow night. I love your headnote and plan to treat both the potatoes and cabbage with respect. Colcannon is one of my favorites,

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Always respect the cabbage and potatoes! :)

Dscn2212

over 1 year ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I remember everything about this vividly. Your headnote still stands in memory as the quintessential food story. It's lovely to see it again.

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you so much B! You have no idea how flattered I am that you would say that.

Dscn2212

over 1 year ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

'Tis true, m'dear.

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over 1 year ago creamtea

So glad you submitted again. Looks so good, and the leftover patties sound scrumptious.

Sausage2

over 1 year ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thanks creamtea!

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almost 3 years ago Amanda.b

I made this last night, and it was super good! beleive it or not, it was my first time ever cooking or eating cabbage!
I thought I was going to have some leftover to fry today like you suggest, but my boyfriend must've gotten up in the middle of the night and eaten all the leftovers! At least I know he really liked it ;)

Sausage2

almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Wow! I'm so glad you had a good first experience cooking cabbage! It's a winter staple around here. And, I love that your boyfriend ate it in the night. That's hilarious, and totally something my husband would do (and has done)!

August-me

almost 3 years ago petrichor

I have been oddly craving cabbage lately and this recipe (especially the idea of potato-cabbage cakes from leftovers) sounds amazing. Can't wait to try this out!

Sausage2

almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you! I hope you like it. (And personally, I don't think it's odd to crave cabbage at all! Though, I suppose most people would.)

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almost 3 years ago kiki-bee

The very first Dutch dish I learned to make on moving to the Netherlands was stamppot, which is mashed potatoes and leafy green vegetables. The Dutch love to mash their veg and potatoes together, and we eat it all winter long; my favorite is with curly kale, and escarole comes in close second. We add diced bacon and smoosh a nice chunk of smoked sausage into the top of the pile, or serve it with a baseball-sized meatball. Best winter dish ever. I will certainly give this one a go next time I have a craving for stamppot (hmm, maybe tonight...)!

Sausage2

almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

That's so cool to hear about! I think many countries across Northern Europe developed similar dishes, under similar conditions. A baseball sized meatball perched right in the center sounds awesome! I'm going to try that some time too!

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almost 3 years ago kiki-bee

Just made this last night, and it was even better than my favorite stamppot! It was just what I was craving, something warm and creamy and comforting to help soothe a nasty cold. Also, I really love the infused cream. I think it would be delicious by itself as a sauce over sauteed cabbage, sans potatoes.

Sausage2

almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

I am absolutely thrilled you liked it so much! And I love the idea of making an infused cream sauce and pouring it over sautéed cabbage. That would be fun to try, especially for anyone trying to keep their carbs down.

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almost 3 years ago deanna1001

I have the ingredients. And the will. And the desire. Think I'll pop a poached egg into that depression rather than more butter and call it supper tonight! Perfect!

Sausage2

almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

I hope you liked it! I loooove the idea of plopping a nice poached egg on top. Delicious!

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almost 3 years ago deanna1001

Oh yeah....that worked. Ridiculously delicious! Thanks again. New winter fave...

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about 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I could totally survive on this, delicious.

Sausage2

about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

:) Me too!

Lulusleep

over 3 years ago babytiger

I made this dish with some adjustments, like adding a little ham I had in the fridge. It's such a comforting dish. I made more than we needed so I could use the leftover as handpie filling for the next day.

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Mmmmmmm. I totally love the idea of stuffing leftovers into hand pies! That is something I shall definitely have to try!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I love everything about this - your thoughtful story, your beautiful photo, your simple ingredients, and the thread of love running through all. I look forward to trying it.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh, and congratulations on your well-deserved EP.

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you so very much boulangere! You're a dear. Also, I feel the exact same way about your 'use the good china eggs.'!

Summer_2010_1048

over 3 years ago Midge

This sounds so comforting and delicious, and super cheap in a good way!

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you. If only there were more things that were "cheap in a good way"! :)

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

Must. Have. Now.

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Haha! Thanks! It may be spring but I'm already hankering after it again, even though it's only been a few days.

Lorigoldsby

over 3 years ago lorigoldsby

This sounds "uncommonly" good. Love your insight!

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you so much lori! :)

Lorigoldsby

over 3 years ago lorigoldsby

Congrats on your EP!

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you lorigoldsby. You're very kind!

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over 3 years ago Helen's All Night Diner

Sounds really good!

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you Helen!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I love your detour into what is considered dirt cheap at what point in time and in various geographical areas.

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thank you boulangere. It's interesting to think about, isn't it?

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over 3 years ago Sagegreen

A big, nordic yum!

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thanks! Aren't nordic yums the best? ;)

Mrs._larkin_370

over 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Perfectly cheap and dellicious! Can't wait to try this.

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Thanks MrsL! I hope you enjoy it!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Comfort food doesn't begin to describe this.

Sausage2

over 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Haha, yes. This is definitely a super cozy meal (which is good right now because we've been having nasty rain in New England!).