Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Diana Henry's Cabbage (+ Kale) and Leek Colcannon for Food 'N Flix March: "The Quiet Man"

It's St. Patrick's Day and here at Kahakai Kitchen we are doing our wearing of the green with some Irish comfort food inspired by March's Food 'N Flix pick, The Quiet Man, hosted by Joanne of What's On the List? (You can see her announcement post here.)

The Quiet Man was made in 1952 and stars John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, and Barry Fitzgerald. It won director John Ford an Oscar, as well as took home one for the Cinematography for the vibrant scenes of Irish country life. John Wayne plays Sean Thornton, born in the quaint village of Innisfree, but raised in America. He's back to claim his family's cottage and immediately falls for Mary Katherine Danaher--and of course her fiery red hair is matched by a fiery temper. Her brother also wanted the land so he aims to keep them apart and, when they do get together, he refuses to give Mary Kate her "fortune"--the dowry she is promised. For good reasons of his own, Sean refuses to fight him for it, causing all kinds of relationship woes for the couple. For more detail than that, you need to watch it. 

This was my first viewing which surprises me a little since I am a big watcher of classic movies. It is a bit of a silly film and John Wayne spends much of it looking uncomfortable but it has its charms--particularly the meddling villagers, including Barry Fitzgerald (Going My Way, Bringing Up Baby) as Michaeleen Flynn. I am a Maureen O'Hara fan from some of my favorite classic films--The Parent Trap, Miracle on 34th Street (the originals!), Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation with Jimmy Stewart, and as John Candy's mother, in the 90's film (and I think her last film role) Only the Lonely. She's 94, if you can believe it and has had a truly amazing career. So overall a fun, although not particularly foodie film for March.  

So, food is not the star of this film by any means. I would say that top billing after John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara is given to alcohol (primarily beer and whiskey) and cigarettes. There is talk of fishing--both trout and salmon, some meal scenes at the table where it is hard to see what is being eaten beyond potatoes, bread and what looked like a stew. When Sean plants roses in the garden, Mary Kate chides him saying that he should be planting turnips, cabbage, and potatoes. Since it is March and today is St. Patrick's Day, I decided to combine the staples of potatoes and cabbage into a classic Irish dish, Colcannon. Colcannon comes from the Irish ál ceannann, meaning "white-headed cabbage" and it mainly consists of mashed potatoes combined with kale or cabbage. 

I used Diana Henry's recipe for Savoy Cabbage and Leek Colcannon from Plenty and decided to add some locally-grown kale to her recipe. Mainly because of color (and the extra nutrients of course). Both the potatoes and the cabbage (and even the leeks) are lightly colored and I thought the pop of darker green kale would look better on the plate. (Savoy cabbage isn't readily found here but I can get locally grown Napa cabbage and they are both mild in taste, so I subbed in that as well.) Not that using kale makes this a health-food dish--there is way too much butter (in this case Irish Kerrygold butter) for that, but all that fluffy, buttery mashed potato-goodness is an excellent way to get some greens in. 

Traditionally colcannon is eaten with boiled ham or Irish bacon but to be honest, I ate mine in a bowl, sitting on the couch and watching The Voice--and, I enjoyed every bite. ;-) I think some of the leftovers are destined for colcannon cakes with the extra smoked salmon I had after making this chowder
Cabbage (+ Kale) and Leek Colcannon
Adapted from Plenty by Diana Henry
(Serves 4)

1 3/4 lb baking potatoes
4 leeks
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp butter
8 oz Savoy or other cabbage (I used 6 oz Napa cabbage + 6 oz kale), shredded
2/3 cup milk (I used coconut milk)
salt and black pepper

Cube baking potatoes and cook in boiling water until soft and mashable. Meanwhile trim leeks and slice thinly. Melt 1/3 cup butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the leeks, add a splash of water, season and cover pan. Let sweat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in shredded cabbage (and kale), add another splash of water, and cover. Let sweat for 5 minutes, or until soft and buttery. 

Drain the potatoes, return them to saucepan and set a clean cloth towel on top. Cover and set over low heat for 4 minutes to "dry out" the potatoes and give a better mash. Heat 2/3 cup milk and gradually add it to the potatoes, mashing until there are no lumps. Finally add the cabbage and leeks with their juices, plus another 2 tablespoons butter. Season really well and serve immediately. 

Notes/Results: Potatoes, cabbage and kale may not sound very glamorous or appealing but this is one very yummy bowl of masked potatoes. They were super creamy, wonderfully buttery, and the leeks added a nice sweetness that blended well with the slightly bitter bites of the greens. Really yummy and perfect if you want to be a couch potato with some mashed potatoes at the end of a hard day. I will happily make this again.

Like the potato cabbage combination? Nigel Slater's Goat Cheese Bubble & Squeak is another great recipe. 

These fancy mashed potatoes are the perfect couch potato dish and I am linking them to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is Suitable for the Screen, Diana Henry dishes perfect for watching a movie or parking yourself in front of the television. 

The deadline for this month's Food 'N Flix is Saturday, March 28th. Joanne will be rounding up the entries shortly after so check out the film-inspired dishes that everyone made. If you missed out this round and like food, films, and foodie films, join us for April with the Chef, hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


  1. Really buttery colcannon is one of life's pleasures!

  2. I bet if I hid cabbage in mashed potatoes I could get the.boy to eat them! Sounds like a great side dish!

  3. Mmmm, I would park myself in front of the screen and eat a whole pot of this goodness. I like how the screen sort of played a double billing in this post...very clever. ;)

  4. I'm joining you all this month!! I should have something posted on Monday. I thought John Wayne looked pretty uncomfortable too. Not really his kind of movie.

  5. That's a lovely looking dish of comfort food! I like your idea of making cakes with the leftovers and smoked salmon - sounds delicious.

  6. I've never watched that movie and I've never tried colcannon, but it is on my to-do list! I know you love mashed potatoes and this looks like a very promising version. I love your addition of the kale for additional green color. Not to mention, your use of Kerrygold butter is genius! That stuff is way better than our butter in the states. Looks amazing, Deb!

  7. Joyce, Kitchen FlavoursMarch 22, 2015 at 5:49 PM

    Looks really good! Like Kim, I have never tried colcannon, and it is something that I am definitely going to try in the future!

  8. Goodness, how did I miss this post? Adding the kale was a flash of genius ... fits the color scheme of the holiday and adds to the flavour and nutritive value of the dish (butter be damned!) ... YUM!

  9. What a great recipe Deb and thanks for participating in this month's #foodnflix that I was proud to be a debut host! Pinned! Well done!

  10. I was almost ready to seek out a recipe for colcannon too until I found the boozy cupcakes. :) I would have eaten these on their own out of the bowl, too.

  11. Amy CookingAdventuresMarch 29, 2015 at 3:49 PM

    Yum!!! I very nearly make colcannon, but thought my family would revolt! After seeing this recipe, it's back n the menu!

  12. Great recipe Deb. I have made colcannon before and we enjoyed. Next year I can see this recipe gracing my St. Pat's Day table.


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