Culcannon (Cabbage or Kale and Potatoes)

Curly Kale

Curly Kale

by Cat, March 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also: 1. Braised Corned Beef

An Irish Tradition

A recipe for Culcannon, a traditional potato and cabbage dish, appeared in the Interact supplement of our local paper, the Daily InterLake, in an article titled “Irish cuisine and cooking described by an Irish girl.”  The writer, Kasa Zipfel, interviewed Ellie Dooley Maier, a local woman originally from Inniskeen, Ireland.  I’d had culcannon before, at Portland’s legendary Irish restaurant, Kells.

The English version is called Bubble and Squeak because of the noise it makes as it is cooking. 

Since I’m brining my own corned beef from scratch this year for St Patrick’s Day, I decided I’d accompany it not only with boiled cabbage, but also with this recipe for culcannon.

Irish potatoes are very much like our own russets, but I have some Yukon golds that need to be used, so I’ll use those.  I couldn’t find kale at my local grocery, but I wanted that dark green color, so I’m using the green tips of bok choy.  I also have some raw cream to use up, so I’ll use half milk, half cream. (Cream is more traditional in this recipe than milk; most likely because the higher butterfat content of cream increases the bio-availability of the minerals in the veggies, and moderates blood sugar spikes from the potato starch).

Most recipes call for peeling then boiling the potatoes, but I prefer to leave the peels on during cooking in a minimum of water (basically steaming them), and then peeling  after cooking.  I save the peels, and the mineral-rich steaming water for use in a veggie broth. I also reserve the cooking water from the kale and add to the potato water.


This is my adaptation based on both the recipe in the newspaper mentioned above, and from the Irish Heritage Cookbook, by Margaret M. Johnson. I like the addition of mace; if you can’t find mace, use nutmeg (mace is the outer shell of the nutmeg seed, but has a slightly different flavor).

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 lb. potatoes (russet or yellow finn)
  • ½ – 1 lb. curly kale (or cabbage)
  • 1 large or 2 small leeks (white & light green parts) or bunch of scallions
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • Unrefined sea salt
  •  and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground mace (or nutmeg), optional
  • 2 oz (¼ cup) real butter, melted
  • chopped parsley
  • small saucepan
  • medium saucepan
  • large saucepan


  1. Scrub the potatoes and place in a medium saucepan with just barely enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, salt the water and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook potatoes until tender.  Drain, reserving the water for other use as veggie broth.  Peel potatoes and add peels to water.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the kale/cabbage in boiling salted water to cover, in the large saucepan.
  3. Chop leek or scallions and simmer in milk/cream until soft, using a small saucepan.
  4. After potatoes have cooled a bit, mash them well.  Mix in the milk/cream and leek/scallion mixture.  Season with salt, pepper, and optional mace or nutmeg.  Keep warm.
  5. Drain kale, adding the cooking water to the potato peel water.  Cut leaves from the center stem, then chop kale very finely and beat into the mashed potatoes until a pale green color.

Assembly or Serving Suggestions

  • Scoop onto a serving dish and make a well in the center.  Pour in the melted butter.  Sprinkle the butter with the chopped parsley.


  1. Interact, a Daily InterLake monthly supplement, March 2008
  2. The Irish Heritage Cookbook, by Margaret M. Johnson

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