Champ vs. Colcannon
I grew up in a family that was very Irish-proud but somewhat generationally removed from the Old Country. We always had corned beef and what my mom called Colcannon for St. Pat's--her Colcannon being basically cabbage, onions and potatoes cooked in the corned beef broth, sometimes carrots too. When I lived in Ireland, I often had champ that friends' mothers and trad restaurants served--mashed potatoes with kale and sometimes onions mixed in. And then today I saw a recipe for Colcannon that basically was mashed potatoes with cabbage. So, um, what's what? What's the difference between champ and colcannon, and was my mom's thing just lazy veggies or does it have a place in "Irish" cuisine?
"The Art of Irish Cooking" by Monica Sheridan provides a recipe for Champ and a recipe for Colcannon. Champ is chopped scallions that have been scalded by pouring boililng water over them, drained and then combined with milk and brought to a boil, then beat into mashed potatoes. Ms. Sheridan says Champ is a traditional Irish dish, and the title of the recipe is followed by "(for children)", so perhaps it is traditionally served to kids.
Colcannon is Champ with the addition of boiled green cabbage or kale and some chopped parsley . Ms. Sheridan says that Colcannon is "very Irish and far nicer than it sounds. In some districts the cabbage is omitted", (if no cabbage I see no difference between champ and colcannon) and that it is traditionally served at Hallow's Eve.
I grew up on both and no, champ isn't just for children. Think more along the lines of "a variation of a theme". The theme being what to do with potatos with what you have at hand, when all you have is what you grow. Remember that cabbage was just as much a part of the diet of an irish farmer in the old days as potatos.
From the family cookbook (handwritten and passed down from my Granny):
• 4 lb Potatoes
• 1/2 lb Chopped scallions (green onion)
• 10 fl Milk
• 4 oz Butter
Champ is served piled high on the dish, with a well of melted butter in the center. It is eaten with a spoon from the outside, each spoonful being dipped in the well of melted butter.
Peel potatoes and cook in boiling water. Simmer milk and scallions together for five minutes. Strain potatoes and mash thoroughly. Add hot milk, and the scallions, salt and pepper, and half the butter.
• 1 lb potatoes
• 1 lb Cabbage (Kale may be substituted)
• Onion, or leek or scallion (green onion)
• 1/4 cup milk
• Butter, salt and pepper
Peel and boil the potatoes. Chop the kale or cabbage fairly small, discarding the large stems. Steam until tender, about 8 minutes. Gently saute the onion (if desired) until golden but not too brown. Mash the potatoes well, and mix with the kale and onion. Add the milk (not too much, until moistened but not wet), and the butter, salt and pepper to taste.
Bake in a medium oven for about 15 minutes.
My Irish SIL makes Colcannon the morning after St Patrick's Day dinner. She takes the boiled potatoes, chops them up and cooks them in butter, add the leftover cabbage, also chopped up, and that's basically it! I like to add some of the corned beef as well, but I don't think that is traditional. No mashed potatoes for sure.
The Brits have Bubble & Squeak, the Irish make Colcannon, and the Scots eat Rumbledethumps - all of them mixtures of cabbage or kale and potatoes and/or turnips. Champ is an Irish dish of potatoes and scallions or other onions and or other veg like carrots or peas. Chees is sometimes added to any of them...
I bought an enormous head of just-picked cabbage at the winter farmers' market. It takes up a lot of refrigerator space, so yesterday I chopped some of it and sauteed it with onions, almost to the point of caramelization. I used some of it for an "afterthought" version of colcannon, mixing it with a leftover portion of garlic mashed potatoes from the day before. This was delicious and led me to the idea of making a larger amount of the cabbage-onion saute to keep in baggies in the freezer. This will decrease the cabbage volume considerably. I am already in the habit of freezing caramelized onions. The precooked cabbage-onion can be reheated (with vinegar and other seasonings) to accompany pork-based entrees, as a hot dog topping, as part of a meatloaf mixture, in soup, with beans and/or rice, in Asian dishes, in hash....endless possibilities
I am eager to try French onion soup with the addition of cabbage during the caramelizing.
I just started making the Colcanon recipe from the food network. It is as above except that it had ham added. I used a smoked pork butt piece. A new recipe to us, no Irish blood here, and we love it. Great meal for a cold or damp cold evening. Tasted much like the corned beef dinners traditional for St Patricks Day. I think it was Tyler Florence ? that went to Ireland and he and an Irish gal made it. Thanks to whomever it was. We'll enjoy it for many years now!!
In southern France and adjacent Spain, a similar cabbage and potato dish is called Trinxat. Sometimes it is prepared as fried cake. Some garlic is added, and lots of bacon or other cured pork
In a similar way, Italians added cabbage (and beans) to polenta.