The Comfort of Potatoes

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By Heidi Lewis

“Whatcha cookin’, Granny?”
“Skirlie-Mirlie.”
“Ooh, sounds delicious!”

Also good are Coddles, Champ, and Bubble ”˜n’ Squeak. These aren’t names of kittens but names for comfort foods from English, Scottish, and Irish kitchens that are centered on potatoes and vegetables. The root to these hearth-warming dishes is the recipe for Colcannon, which comes from Ireland but is interpreted into family favorites in every corner of the British Isles.

In some of our TakeHome cases this week, you’ll find the makings of Colcannon, potatoes and dark leafy greens or cabbage. The combination of potatoes and veggies can be augmented with onions, shallots, or leeks, as well as milk, butter, or cream. Traditional at Samhain in the fall (often called “Celtic New Year”), it’s a nourishing meal any time of year.

Potatoes are core to British Isles’ cuisine and seemingly inseparable from Irish fare. In 1700s, Irish potatoes were used as a fast-growing crop by tenant farmers to feed a hungry nation. Since those times, potatoes or “praties” (from the Gaelic prata for potato) became the home food for anyone touched by Irish culture. Easy to cook, store, and share — especially with a knob of butter on top.

From the traditional Irish song “The Skillet Pot,” made popular by Mary Black:

Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

Chorus:

Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it, sure the nearer I’m to cry.
Oh, wasn’t it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.

 

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