Colcannon plus: To Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day: a story and some food

May those who
Love us, love us.

And those that
Don’t love us
May God turn
Their hearts;

And if he doesn’t
Turn their hearts
May he turn
Their ankles.

So we’ll know them
By their limping.

There is a lot of Irish wisdom floating around this weekend: some sappy; some satirical.  But none embodies the true Irish spirit for me as much as this simple Irish poem.

“So we’ll know them by their limping” – That just sums it all up nicely….

We lived in Ireland for a year.  Our house was a typical terrace or row house: two rooms deep by three floors high.  It was old.  The walls were two feet thick and it had recently been remodeled to add a kitchen and bathroom.  We were right across the water from Cobh harbor (pronounced ‘cove’) where over 2.5 million emigrants embarked for a better place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

I had a large ottoman snuggled into one of the window spaces on the second floor.  It fitted the space perfectly.  I would sit in my little nook, have my morning coffee, write in my journal and watch the world go by.

This is how I became aware of the daily activities of our next-door neighbor, Mickey.

Each day, around mid-morning, Mickey would leave his house with a small plastic bag. He would slowly meander across the street, walk along the walls of the pier for a bit, then lean over and look across the water…gazing out to sea, as it were.  (Mickey had been a fisherman.)

When he stood back, the plastic bag was gone.

Then he would saunter over to the public outhouse and disappear. About fifteen minutes later he would emerge and walk briskly back across the street to his house, morning chores complete.

We never saw Mickey’s wife (although we heard her on more than one occasion).

We assume she ran a tight ship and did not allow certain ‘activities’ in her immaculate house.  (Wha?  Shit inside?  In the house?  Not in my house, you don’t!)

We only spoke to Mickey twice – not because he wasn’t friendly, but because we couldn’t understand him.

We assumed he was speaking Irish.  Wrong, again!

Apparently, the local speech in County Cork (pronounced ‘cark’) is considered totally unintelligible by Dublin standards.  After learning this, we paid closer attention and realized that Mickey was, in fact speaking English.

In the end, we just avoided each other: Mickey because (I think) he felt he couldn’t properly articulate his words; us because we felt that, somehow, we should be able to understand this kind old man but were never able to.

We always smiled, waved and nodded like crazy at each other, though.  In our own ways we were good neighbors.    (partial reprint from post of March 2005)

Some of my favorite ‘Irish’ dishes

Beef Braised in Guinness

Beef in Guinness

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Ham and Cabbage (Corned Beef is not very Irish – this would more traditionaly made with a pig’s head)

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Emerald Soup  (this recipe actually came from the UK)

Emerald Soup

Ham and Cabbage Hash

Ham and Cabbage Hash

And one more: Colcannon



Mashed potatoes with cabbage, bacon and butter… In poorer times this would have been a meal, rather than a side dish.

4 medium potatoes
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 onion
2 slices bacon
2 tbs chicken stock
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup (4oz, 125ml) milk

Peel the potatoes and cut in large chunks. Cook in boiling, salted water until tender.
While potatoes cook: Shred cabbage by cutting slice off of head, lay the slice cut side down and cut into 4ths, then, cutting across, slice 1/8 inch thick. Do not use the core of the cabbage – you’ll recognize it when you see it. One ‘side’ of the cabbage will probably be enough for the 2 cups. Save the rest for later. Chop the onion.
Sauté the bacon. When the bacon is crisp, remove and crumble. Add the onions to the pan and sauté briefly, scraping up in brown bits from the bacon. Add the cabbage and stir well. Add the chicken stock, cover, reduce heat and cook until cabbage is tender, 10 – 15 minutes.

When the potatoes are done drain and mash. Add the butter and milk. Mash together. Consistency should be of soft mashed potatoes. Add more milk if needed. Stir in the bacon and cabbage. Mix well and serve.

And for the leftovers….

Fried Colcannon

Fried Colcannon 

leftover colcannon
3 tsp butter

In a medium nonstick skillet melt 1 tsp butter over medium-high heat. Add half of the colcannon and pat it down evenly. Let sauté for 6 – 7 minutes until crisp and brown on the bottom. Using a spatula, turn the colcannon over carefully so the crispy side is up. It’s not necessary to keep it together; do it in sections. As you are turning it put 1 tsp butter underneath the sections. Once it’s all turned pat it back together. Put the remaining half of the colcannon on top of the browned side in the pan, spreading it out and patting it down. Let sauté for 6 – 7 minutes until bottom is crispy and brown. Now turn this over, adding the remaining tsp of butter and doing it in sections. Pat it together and let sauté 6 – 7 minutes. When done on the bottom again, slide it onto a plate and serve.

And there you have it….

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

7 thoughts on “Colcannon plus: To Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day: a story and some food”

  1. Mickey sounds like quite the character, that’s for sure! Love this recipe for colcannon…especially the variations that you give with it!

  2. Astrid – and to you!
    Joanne, he was really a character…. and his wife LOL
    Val, absolutely!
    Kirsten, we’ve been around – big world, lots to see…
    Zoomie, that was as Irish as we were, as well. Not a big day here – or in Ireland when we lived there.

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