Celebrating Today’s Irish Cooking

March 14 00:00 2003 Print This Article

St. Patricks Day is perfect for celebrating the renaissance of great cooking in Ireland. Today, travelers go for the food, rather than despite it, touring the country to enjoy the breathtaking, green countryside and the dynamic energy of the cities. No longer condemned to breakfasts loaded with several kinds of fried pork, followed by a day of overcooked, monotonous pub fare, visitors now savor gourmet dishes as healthful as they are memorable.

For breakfast, you might enjoy toasted oat porridge studded with chopped nuts and drizzled with honey, or farm-fresh eggs baked in a nest of braised mushrooms, potatoes and carrots, accompanied by sliced tomatoes, a topping of melted Cheddar cheese and slabs of buttermilk brown bread. For dinner, you could have several innovative entres to choose from, like lean pork cutlets with barley-stuffed cabbage rolls, or roasted pheasant served with apple-grape sauce and a parsnip-and-potato puree.

Renaissance and updating are key in todays Irish cooking. Before the Great Famine of 1845-50, when more than a million died and another million emigrated, mostly to the U.S., even farmers and peasants benefited from a bounty of local foodstuffs. Wheat, oats and barley, lamb, wild game and berries were plentiful. What vegetables could survive the harsh climate, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, root vegetables and watercress, were also readily available.

Today, these foods are featured in contemporary ways, but the potato still rules in many variations. One of the better known is Colcannon, a combination of kale or cabbage and mashed potatoes, seasoned with onions. I make it using new potatoes, and leeks as well as onion.

Contemporary Colcannon

Makes 6 servings


  • 2 tsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp. butter, preferably unsalted, divided
  • 1 large leek (white part only), halved lengthwise, then sliced in 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 large red onion, halved and cut in 1/2- inch strips
  • One medium Savoy or green cabbage (1 1/4 lb.), quartered, cored, and cut in 3/4-inch slices
  • 8 small red-skinned new potatoes (about 1 lb.)
  • 1 can (15-oz.) fat-free, reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Heat oil with 1 tsp. butter in medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute leek and onion until they start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add half the cabbage, stirring and turning until coated with oil and wilted, about 4 minutes. Continue adding cabbage a handful at a time, until it is all wilted, about 8 to 10 minutes. Pan will be very full.

  2. Pour in half the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until cabbage absorbs broth, about 15 minutes. Add remaining broth. Cook until cabbage is soft, about 15 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, place potatoes in saucepan and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Bring to boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat and cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and cut them in half.

  4. Mix cooked potatoes into cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl. Dot top with remaining butter, cut into small pieces. Mix to combine and melt butter. Serve immediately. (Colcannon can also keep 3 to 4 days, refrigerated. It reheats well in a microwave.)

    Nutritional Infomation Per Serving:
    158 calories,
    4 g. total fat (1 g. saturated fat),
    27 g. carbohydrate,
    5 g. protein,
    6 g. dietary fiber,
    243 mg. sodium

Source: AICR

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