how to make A genius Irish staple for using up leftover mashed potatoes and greens—or better yet, make them both fresh. Perfect comfort food, just in time for St. Patrick's.

Colcannon: Comfy Irish Leftovers

Whether under a filter of soft gray light provided by the clouds, in the frequent rain, or the rare and cherished sunshine, Ireland is stunningly, unforgettably green. So it’s only right that the color, in some form or other, should sparkle up that most Irish mainstay, the potato. Hello, colcannon.colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine Continue reading for the step by step without a recipe. For exact amounts, jump to recipe.

Colcannon is a homey dish, made to use up leftovers and make plain old mashed potatoes a little more interesting. Green cabbage is the classic addition, but I like it mixed with kale; more colorful, more nutritious, and just plain delish. Purists might balk at the addition, but hell with ’em.

The dish is super easy. All you need is mashed potatoes, preferably freshly made, but leftovers will do in a pinch. To make mashed potatoes, cube them, with or without the skin, while you bring water to a boil. Drop them into the boiling water with some salt, about a tablespoon is good. (Don’t use your good expensive salt for this; keep some pourable salt on hand just to add to boiling water.) Boil about 10 minutes, testing with a fork. You should be able to stab the cube without much resistance, but it should still stay on the fork. Unless, of course, you like your mashed potatoes on the mushy side.

potatoes boiled for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

Meanwhile, saute up an onion with some greens; honestly, whatever you have in the fridge is fine.

greens for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

When the potatoes are done, drain them, then put back in the pot on the warm (but turned off) stove with the lid on. This dries them out nicely. Smash them, or, my preference, run them through a ricer; it produces a great mealy texture that’s not too fine. It also removes some, but not all of the skins.

potatoes riced for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

Add in butter, sour cream, yogurt, even cream cheese. If you don’t do dairy, you’ll want a plant-based yogurt and you can do oil if you don’t want to do that fake butter for vegans.

Stir in the greens and a mess of chopped herbs—dill and parsley are favorites, chives and tarragon are also wonderful—and you’re good to go.

potatoes and greens together for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

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Colcannon: The Recipe

This recipe says that it makes enough for 2, because the widget requires that I include that info. Let me amend that to “2 really gigantic portions” because I like to just eat these on their own. But if you’re doing sides, you’ll have a fair amount.

colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

Vegan Mole Bowl

Vegan Mole Bowl

Mole—rhymes with “guacamole”—wears its Aztec roots with pride. This vegan mole bowl revels in a deep, thick,  mysterious sauce, which livens up what’s otherwise a simple of rice, beans, and vegetables.

There is, however, not a simple way to make mole. This recipe, adapted from a recipe by Margaret Shakespeare*, is close. If you get all the ingredients out ahead of time…

mole-ingr

….you can pretty easily get your mole on while everything else cooks.

mole-cooking

That, by the way, shows the chocolate before it melts. The chocolate is what gives mole its color and hard to pin down flavor.

(Click this link for the mole sauce on its own.)

As stated, this is a vegan mole bowl, relying on my old favorite cauliflower. (I’m not sure where I’d be without that vegetable.) If you don’t have a cauliflower, zucchini will roast up nicely, though in about half the time. If you have fresh corn, spectacular. And the mole will complement chicken, steak, or a robust seafood like scallops, shrimp, or cod—in other words, a fairly sturdy fish, though more bland is better. Salmon is out. Fresh tuna…you’re on your own.

Meanwhile, I turn once again to the awesome rice/quinoa mix put together by Seeds of Change, which we buy in 6-packs at Costco and that I go through about as often as I do cauliflower. You could also, of course, use your own cooked brown rice, quinoa, or your own blend of pretty much any grain you like.

mole-rice-pkg

Have fun with your toppings. I had a mango on hand and opted for sliced avocado so the mole could star. But if you don’t mind a crowded flavor party, throw a little guacamole on there and the two great Mexican creations can duke it out. Just be sure to have some fresh crunchy Romaine—possibly mixed up with a little green cabbage. Enjoy.

mole2

The Maharajah Bowl

Indian cooking—the northwestern branch of it specifically, as “Indian” is as sweeping a description as American, Italian, or Spanish—is the first exotic cuisine I can remember getting a proper introduction to as a kid. My parents hosted some Pakistani missionaries at our home; and while, of course, Pakistan is not India, the cuisine across the subcontinent has some shared characteristics: rice, spices, vegetables, amazing and mysterious smells, singing sweet music to my suburban California child’s soul.

maha-component3

When I met my daughter’s father Joel, he gave me what has become a cherished lexicon of food from across the vast country: Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, a massive and lovingly assembled compendium from Yamuna Devi, whom Joel had known when he lived in India.

lord-krishna

The sheer luxuriance of color that occurs when I muster up the ingredients for an Indian dish gives me a little shiver. For this one, I knew I wanted to use up some apricot-hued lentils, as well as (of course) a cauliflower and an eggplant that had been waiting patiently. A mix of whole and ground spices provided the depth and complexity that makes good Indian food so special; no curry powder circa 1970, please, which has  unfairly convinced more people they don’t like Indian food than any other single factor. Plenty of mint and parsley on hand, because I had them and didn’t have cilantro, which also would have worked.

maha-ingr

I’ll be the first to admit that the dish, when you first glance at the recipe, is going to seem overly complicated. It DOES have quite a few components. Feel free to skip any of them, and to assemble the dish any which way that suits you. For instance, leave out either the carrots or the roasted veggies, or both, simply serving the lentils with the various toppings and the rice if you like. Or leave out the lentils, which take the longest. Even better, make the lentils and the carrots the day before; the flavor gets better as they sit.

maha-lentils

Another way to simplify is to simply pick up a bottle of garam masala already mixed, and replace the spices with that. One of the great joys of Indian cooking is its improvisation, which rivals Coltrane, Bird, and Monk in their finest hours.

The point, of course and as ever, is to make it yours. And most importantly, as Joel told me, to make it and offer it with love. Namaste.

maha-bowl1

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