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.

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  • 1 lb (450 g) potatoes, peeled and boiled
  • 1 lb (450 g) curly kale or Savoy cabbage
  • 6 chopped scallions (spring onions)
  • ¼ pint (150 ml) milk or cream
  • 4 oz (110 g) butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Drain and purée the potatoes. Meanwhile have your kale cooking – either steamed or boiled.

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. Finely chop the kale and add this, together with the butter. Season well. If necessary reheat. Serve with more butter.