What would Halloween be without traditions, eh? We’ve got a very special, and rather unusual, Halloween Recipe for you – Irish Colcannon, with a twist.
Russet leaves. That’s the first thing Halloween brings to my mind. Russet leaves covering the lawn like a crunchy ginger blanket. Of course, I was one of the lucky ones. My Halloweens were spent at the house of my grandparents, a perfect Halloween stage ensconced a poplar-lined pine forest in the Wicklow Hills (very like the image below by photographer Peter Gordon).
Through that russet blanket my grandfather would drag massive chunky logs from the forest like some sort of behemoth woodsman and pile them high for a bonfire that would initially scare the stuffing out of me but that I would warm to over the night. Literally.
After adding my twig or two to the pyre, I’d pop inside, snooping for sweets that were ‘For tonight! Do not touch these until everyone is here! Ok, David?’ After a few fruitless raids of presses behind doors and hard-to-reach cabinets, I’d give up and join my grandmother in the steam and the smells of the kitchen where she was making the most unusual mashed potato that has never graced a cookbook. It turned out it was Colcannon – but with several twists.
Now, she made the buttery, creamy, smooth mashed potato pretty much the same as any Colcannon, but it was what she threw in there
afterwards that made my 8-year-old ears prick and think – ‘Ok, Granny’s really lost it. Muuuuuuuum…!’ Granny hadn’t lost it – she was just taking Halloween traditions a step further and adding the ‘treasure’ (usually found in Bram Brack cake) that would help tell the finder’s fortune for the following year. That treasure consists of the following:
Ring – Find this and you’ll be walking up an aisle within 12 months. I made an art out of finding these from the ages of 8-15 and I am still unmarried. Probably for the best really…
Coin – One guess what this means. Oh, yes – riches! At the Fallon’s, we would all laugh and make jokes about lending money but we’d always keep the coin. At worst, it could be used as bus fare.
Cloth – It’s not all fun and frolics with Halloween Colcannon. Sometimes you pick up the piece of parsimonious cloth and it’s a one way ticket to an empty wallet. Pinch of salt with this one – my Mum is quite comfortable and she’s found enough cloth to make a very cosy patchwork quilt.
Pea/Thimble – Our house wasn’t flush with thimbles so the pea usually stepped up to take the place of spinster warning. Pick the pea and (as a lady) you will endure life alone. Not sure what happens if a man picks this. Strangely enough, it never happened…
Button – Same deal as the pea, only for men. The more frugal diner would take this home and amend that cardigan that was missing a button. Bachelor or not, his clothes would always close correctly!
Right, then. You’ll be needing some Colcannon to put this lot into. Here’s a recipe that’s tasty enough to convince the person who collects the cloth, pea and button that life isn’t all that bad.
Bord Bia’s Halloween Colcannon Recipe
- 3 lbs potatoes, peeled, roosters work well
- 1 head of curly kale, well washed and finely chopped (or cabbage if you can’t source the kale), just cooked, drained and finely chopped,
- 6 scallions, (spring onions) finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the treasure:
- 1 ring
- 1 dried pea
- 1 small piece of cloth
- 1 button
- 1 coin
- greaseproof paper for wrapping
- Steam the potatoes over a pan of boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes until tender
- After the potatoes have cooked for 5 minutes, steam the kale just as the potatoes.
- When the kale is cooked, strain and leave aside, covered to retain heat.
- Heat a knob of butter and two tablespoons of water in a heavy-based pan with a lid.
- When the butter has melted and formed an emulsion, add the kale with a pinch of salt. Cover, shake well and cook over a high heat for 1 minute.
- Shake the pan again and cook for another minute.
- Drain off any liquid and then season the kale with pepper.
- Once cooked, add potatoes to a pot, add in the milk and mash until smooth, then beat in the kale and the remaining butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Wrap ‘treasure tightly in greaseproof paper and add to the colcannon
If curly kale is not available you can use finely chopped scallions which you add into the potatoes with the milk. Savoy cabbage also works well – use the same method as for the kale.