Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Kale, Leeks and Ham)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Matt and I don’t have a specific Irish meal planned for this year but I’ve been saving a yummy Irish side dish from last year’s feast to share on the blog today.

Irish Colcannon

That’s Colcannon, or, as I like to think of it, Irish mashed potatoes with kale, leeks and ham.  Oh, and butter… lots of butter!  Last year this heaping plate of colcannon made the perfect side dish to the Beef and Guinness Pie that Matt and I ambitiously tried to make after work on a Monday (it took much longer to braise the beef than I anticipated!).  Luckily the colcannon came together very quickly so we were able to sneak bites of it while the pie baked.  Here’s a photo of my dinner plate from last year when we finally sat down to eat at 9PM:

Calcannon with Beef & Guinness Pie

YUM.  If you need a side dish for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner I would absolutely recommend colcannon.  And don’t be intimidated by the kale…  once it is steamed, chopped, and stirred into this creamy mixture of leeks, ham and potatoes you won’t even realize you’re eating super healthy leafy greens!

Irish Colcannon (Recipe from Nigel Slater at TheGuardian.com)

You will need…
2 lbs. Baking Potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 1/3 cup warm Milk (use whole milk for a creamer consistency)
4-5 tablespoons Butter
3/4 to 1 lb. Leeks, washed and chopped
4-5 handfuls of Kale leaves, washed, steamed, drained and chopped
3/4 to 1 lb. Cooked Thick-Cut Ham, chopped (we used a ham steak)
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
Place the potatoes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil.  Cover and boil for 20 minutes or until easily pierced by a fork.  Drain potatoes and return to pot.  Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until creamy, then add in the warm milk and butter and continue to mash until thoroughly mixed.  Fold in the chopped leeks, kale and ham and gently stir until combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve as part of a St. Patrick’s Day feast!

Colcannon

Are you making an Irish-themed dish for St. Patrick’s Day?  Maybe Bangers and Mash or Shepherd’s Pie?  Tell me about it in the comments! 🙂

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Inspirations for St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

St. Patrick’s Day is just 5 days away! This year the holiday conveniently falls on a Sunday which means that we’ll have all weekend to plan a fun Irish meal. (Hopefully it won’t take all weekend to do that, though!)

Over the past year I have featured two Irish dishes on my blog that would both make delicious St. Patrick’s Day dinners so I thought I would share them! Click on the photos to visit the appropriate recipe/blog entry.

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

This layered dish of vegetables, meat and creamy mashed potatoes is really easy to make. Use ground lamb for a true shepherd’s pie, but also feel free to substitute in ground beef to make the very similar cottage pie variation. View the recipe here.

Bangers and Mash

Bangers and Mash

This dish is one of my all-time favorites. It features sausages (bangers) that have been cooked in a flavorful gravy/onion sauce and smothered with buttery potatoes (mash). The dish is then broiled until the potatoes are golden brown. Yum! This was our St. Patrick’s Day dinner last year and it might be dinner again this year if we don’t find something similarly delicious to make. You can view the recipe here.

St. Patrick’s Day Dinner: Bangers and Mash

Last night for our St. Patty’s Day dinner we tried out a traditional Irish dish, Bangers and Mash.  Although I usually stereotype Irish food as being bland and low on flavor, this combination of pork sausage, gravy and mashed potatoes was incredible!  We’ll definitely be making this dish again!!  We adapted the recipe slightly from one that I found on AllRecipes.com.

Bangers and Mash  (serves 2-3)

You will need…
2 Large Baking Potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4-1/2 stick Butter, divided
2 tablespoons Heavy Cream
Salt and Pepper, to taste
3 “Banger” Pork Sausages (some stores like The Fresh Market and Whole Foods actually sell bangers; if your store doesn’t have bangers specifically then normal pork sausage will be fine)
1/2 Small Yellow Onion, roughly diced
1/2 Packet of Dry Brown Gravy Mix

Directions:

Place the quartered potatoes in a pot and fill with water until they are just covered.  Boil for approx. 20 minutes, then strain the potatoes and return to the pot.  Mash the potatoes, add 2-3 tablespoons of the butter along with the heavy cream, salt, and pepper, and then continue to mash until creamy and smooth.

In a large pan (we used our wok), sauté the bangers in the remaining butter until they are cooked through. When cooked, remove the bangers from the pan and allow to cool. In the same pan, add the diced onions and fry until tender. Add the 1/2 packet of gravy mix and water as per the gravy mix instructions to the onion mixture and allow the mixture to thicken.

Meanwhile, slice the bangers into small, bite-sized pieces. Add the bangers to the thickened onion/gravy mixture and mix thoroughly.

Assemble your bangers and mash in a small casserole dish.  We used three individual-sized dishes but you could probably use one large, shallow dish as well.  Fill the bottom half of the dish with the sausage/onion mixture.  Spoon the mashed potatoes over top of the sausage until the casserole dish is full.  Bake the casseroles in a preheated 350° oven for 20 minutes, then move the oven rack to the top position and broil for approx. 5 minutes until top of potatoes is browned.

Enjoy your bangers and mash with a side vegetable and a tall glass of your favorite beer!

Bangers and Mash with Sautéd Pancetta and Asparagus

Gardening… on Saint Patrick’s Day!

Last year I planted a little vegetable garden in a square-ish plot next to our back patio. I didn’t really know what I was doing at that time (not that I know that much more now, but I’d like to think that I have learned a little bit from last year’s garden..) but I still managed to harvest a healthy crop of basil, jalapeño peppers, mint, rosemary, and heirloom tomatoes. This year I am expanding the garden slightly and I hope to add thyme, parsley, bell peppers, and maybe even container strawberries to the mix.

A blurry photo of last year's garden

As I’ve mentioned before, we have had gorgeous weather in PA the last few weeks. Yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day and it was 70 degrees outside!! This is unheard of and the mild temperatures are really making me want to get moving on my garden. I know that it’s too early to plan my “warm weather” veggies like tomato and basil, so I checked online to see what kind of plants could withstand a potential early-Spring frost. It turns out there are all sorts of veggies that love to be planted at this time of year including lettuce, spinach, arugula, peas, and beans. (There’s even a tradition of planting peas on St. Patty’s Day, perfect!)

We headed over to our local Home Depot and I found packets of beans and spinach seeds that boasted a mere 41-50 days to maturity. I figure that this timing should work out well so that I can harvest the spinach and pull out the bean plants just in time to plant my normal veggies at the end of April.


Back at our house, I removed the layer of shredded leaves that has been covering my garden since last fall and I turned/loosened up the soil with a shovel and a hoe. I mixed in about half a 40 lb. bag of “garden vegetable soil” and leveled the bed with my hands. I carefully planted my bean seeds (it is “bean seeds” or just ‘”beans” ? The “seeds” are just beans, after all) in the back half of the garden and then I planted my spinach seeds in four little row in the front half. I left the section of the garden next to our new trellises empty because I hope to plant moonflower and morning glory (two sun-loving, flowering vines) there very soon.

After my seeds were safely in the ground, I inserted my newly painted bright green fencing around the garden. This fence should hopefully keep Bailey out of my garden — she usually assumes that any freshly loosened soil has been created just for her digging pleasure. I learned this the hard way last year when she completely dug up my newly planted tomato and basil plants about an hour after I finished planting them! Although Bailey can easily step over my little green picket fence, it will hopefully make it less convenient for her to dig there. (After nearly 24 hours the fence is still standing and Bailey hasn’t touched the dirt yet!!)


I’m very excited to officially start gardening this year. I really had fun with my garden last summer (the constant supply of fresh basil was awesome!) and Matt and I worked hard in the Fall planting bulbs and composting fruits and veggies in a “spin bin.” (The compost isn’t really yet but it should be fully “cooked” in time for my late April veggie planting!) Below are a few photos of our plants as of today — can’t wait to see what they look like in the coming weeks!!

Garlic "Ramps" enjoying the afternoon sun

A pair of pale yellow Crocuses blooming in the back yard

We planted 150+ daffodil bulbs last Fall. The first one is blooming today!

Our beautiful pink weeping cherry tree is budding!

Crocus in the front yard