Colconnan is a popular version of Irish mashed potatoes. I make mine with leeks and cabbage which results in a delicious side dish – no gravy needed with these mashed potatoes!
My mom used to make a similar version of this back in the day. I’m positive we didn’t know that her dish had a fancy name like colconnan, but it certainly was a popular dish anyway. In fact, I’m pretty sure most Newfoundlanders have eaten a version of this at least once in their lifetime, because it’s basically the leftovers which are fried up the next day from a typical Jiggs Dinner.
I’m pretty sure that leeks were not an ingredient my mom ever used in my childhood, in fact, I hadn’t heard of them at all until I was in my teen years. My Aunt Helen used to make a Leek and Potato Soup quite often. Mom would have used all onion rather than onion and leek. And, instead of savoy cabbage, she would have opted for the regular green cabbage.
Leeks have a mild, onion-like taste. In its raw state, the vegetable is crunchy and firm. The edible portion of the leek is the white base. I trim off the root and most of the green leaves at the top. I like to leave some of the darker green leaves on. My rule of thumb is this, if the leaves are flat at the top, and not circular, then they are discarded. The dark green portion has a tough texture, although, I have known it to be sauteed in butter on a low heat for a longer period of time. It’s quite tasty that way too!
I think leeks are best when they are sauteed. Boiled leeks just end up tasting like the salted water that it’s boiled in, and the texture becomes similar to wallpaper paste, because in more cases than not, the leeks are severely over boiled. Stick to a saute in a bit of non-flavoured oil, a bit of butter, and a good dash of salt and pepper. It’s a great side dish in its own right.
When choosing a cabbage for this dish, I find that savoy cabbage works best. Savoy cabbage is shaped just like a green cabbage, but the leaves are deep green and crinkled. I tend to find the flavour of savoy cabbage to be milder than green cabbage. The leaves of a savoy cabbage are more delicate and cook faster, which makes it idea for sauteing and is most perfect for this colconnan recipe.
Let me just jump back to my mention of jiggs dinner. The entire dinner consists of a variety of root vegetables which are boiled together in a large pot with salt beef; it’s a Newfoundland delicacy. Jiggs dinner, also called boiled dinner or cooked dinner, is a traditional meal commonly prepared and eaten on Sundays in many regions around the province. The meal most typically consists of salt beef, (or salt riblets), boiled together with potatoes, carrots, cabbage, turnips, and sometimes, cabbage or turnip greens.
Peas pudding and/or figgy duff (bread pudding) are cooked in twine-bound, cotton pudding bags which have been immersed in the rich broth that the meat and vegetables create. Condiments are likely to include mustard pickles or pickled beets. Sometimes, a gravy is served which has been made from the drippings from the accompanying roasted beef, chicken, or turkey.
In my house, we always knew which version mom was cooking by what she called it; for example, if she said we were having Jiggs Dinner, I knew there was going to be no roasted meat of any kind and no gravy. But, if she said cooked dinner, then we most certainly knew that beef or chicken and a very thick, brown, salty gravy was going to be served up as well.
The next day, the leftover vegetables were often mixed together in a large sauté pan and fried to form what is very similar to a traditional Irish colconnan. Newfoundlanders usually refer to this concoction as ‘hash’ or ‘couldn’ts.’ (The stuff you couldn’t eat yesterday!)
This dish is more true to the traditional Irish dish. I have taken a few liberties, but for the most part, this recipe is very close to what you would be served in Ireland. This dish has the slightly mashed potatoes, (Nnever completely mash the potatoes, just press a fork gently into each chunk of boiled potato to break it up a bit. You want this dish to be chunky.) onions, leeks, and cabbage, which has been cooked in oil, butter, and salt.
Then, there’s the addition of the heavy cream and the fresh parsley. This dish is not for the faint of heart! And, it shouldn’t be lightened up! If you use low fat milk, or non-fat butter, you will not get the full experience. Enjoy!
Colconnan - Irish Mashed Potatoes with Leeks and Cabbage
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 leek stalks, trimmed, washed, and thinly sliced
- 1/2 medium-sized savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
- 6 large white-flesh potatoes peeled, boiled, and slightly mashed
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Boil the potatoes until just cooked. Drain and allow to cool.
On medium heat, begin by sautéing the chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the leeks and continue to sauté for 15 minutes.
Add the cabbage and continue to sauté for 15 minutes. You will want the cabbage, leeks, and onions to really cook down and wilt.
While the leeks, onions, and cabbage mixture is cooking, prepare the boiled potatoes by cutting them into large chunks and just lightly pressing down onto each chunk with a fork. Do not over mash them, just break up the chunks a little. Place the potatoes back into the pot.
Add the leek and cabbage mixture to the of potatoes and fold in. Turn the heat to medium, add the butter, heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine.
When the potatoes are heated through, toss in the freshly chopped parsley. Fold into the mixture and serve immediately.
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