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Colcannon (3 versions)

This is traditionally eaten in Ireland at Hallowe'en. Until quite recently this was a fast day, when no meat was eaten. The name is from *cal ceann fhionn meaning white-headed cabbage.

Colcannon should correctly be made with chopped kale (a member of the cabbage family) or green cabbage but it is also made with white cabbage.

Colcannon at Hallowe'en used to contain a plain gold ring, a sixpence, a thimble or button: finding the ring meant marriage within the year for the person who found it, the sixpence meant wealth, the thimble spinsterhood and the button bachelorhood."

Colcannon #1

Yield: 4 servings 1 lb Curly kale or cabbage, cooked 1 lb Potatoes, cooked 1 Onion, chopped 1 oz Dripping per lb. vegetables Salt and pepper Milk if necessary 1 Ring, wrapped in greaseproof paper Mash the potatoes or pass them through a food mill. Chop the cabbage or kale and add it to the potatoes. Mix well. Peel and chop the onion. Melt a little of the dripping in a large, heavy frying pan and cook the onion in it. Remove and mix with the potato and cabbage. Season to taste, and stir in a little milk if the mixture is too stiff. Add the rest of the dripping to the hot pan and, when very hot, turn the potato and cabbage mixture into the pan and spread it out. Fry until brown, then cut it roughly and continue frying until there are lots of crisp brown pieces. Just before serving, slip in the wrapped ring -- the trick, as you can see from the rhyme, is to make sure the ring doesn't turn up too soon -- then the children will eat it all willingly!

Colcannon #2

Yield: 4 servings 450 g Kale or cabbage 450 g Potatoes 2 Small leeks or green onion tops 150 ml Milk or cream Pinch of mace Salt and pepper 100 g Butter If using the kale, strip from the stalks or likewise remove the stump of cabbage before cooking in boiling salted water until tender but not overcooked. Drain very well and chop finely. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes, and while they are cooking chop the leeks or onion tops and simmer them in milk or cream for about 7 minutes. Drain the potatoes, season and mash them well, then stir in the cooked leeks and milk, adding a little more milk if needed. Finally blend in the finely chopped kale or cabbage (modern cooks will find a blender or food processor ideal for this). Add the mace and taste for seasoning. Heat the entire mixture gently, then pile in a warmed dish. Make a small well in the center and pour in the melted butter.

Colcannon #3

Yield: 4 servings 2 1/2 lb Potatoes (cooked, mashed) 1 c Cooked kale (finely chopped) 1 c Hot milk 4 Chopped scallions (optional) Butter Strip the heads of kale away from the stems and shred them finely. Kale is a tough vegetable which needs to cook for 10-20 minutes depending on its age. Cook as you would for any green vegetable in furiously boiling salted water until it is just tender. (Some people add 1/2 tsp baking soda to the water to help keep the kale at its brightest green.) Strain it and refresh it with cold water. Drain it thoroughly and squeeze out any excess water. Put the kale into a food processor with the hot milk and blend them into a green soup then mix through the mashed potatoes. Reheat it in the oven until it is very hot. This produces a dish fit for St. Patrick's Day in greenness. It is perfectly acceptable just to mix the kale and milk into the potatoes without recourse to the food processor, but the resulting dish is just speckled green. Do not use the processor if you are making colcannon with cabbage instead of kale. Don't forget the coin and the ring to amuse the children.