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Brown Butter Colcannon

by . Featured in COOK EAT REPEAT
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Introduction

There’s not a form of mashed potato that doesn’t speak deeply to me, but this Colcannon with Brown Butter is just on another level. The colcannon itself doesn’t really veer from the traditional Irish dish of mash and kale or cabbage, but instead of having a melted pool of golden butter on top, along with the also traditional scallions (that’s to say, spring onions) I brown the butter first, so that it is deep, caramelly and nutty. But then, brown butter is one of life’s great joys. It’s easy enough to make: all you need to do is heat butter in a (preferably light-coloured, such as stainless steel) pan until it turns the colour of a hazelnut, which for the amount here should take around seven minutes. And yes, there is a lot of butter, and feel free to reduce it if it appals you, but do remember that colcannon is not just a dish that celebrates potatoes but also exults in, not apologises for, the butter.

I wish I could use good Irish potatoes, such as Kerr's Pinks or Golden Wonder for this, but I can’t get hold of them where I live. So I use Roosters instead, and wonderful they are, too. Ideally - and this is not always easy, I know - you need potatoes of around the same size and you boil them unpeeled and whole; this stops them from getting waterlogged. I don’t ever bother to peel the potatoes before mashing them; you’re folding cooked kale in so it’s not going to be a smooth mash anyway. Finally, you brown the butter, mix the spring onions with it, beat some into the mash, and pour the rest over, letting the butter leave scallion-flecked, brown-speckled pools of deep delight on top.

This is divine enough with just some rashers of bacon on the side, though frankly I can eat it in a bowl just by itself. But I have to commend to you now alongside your Christmas ham, or to bring bolstering warmth to a plate of cold cuts in those post-Christmas days.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

There’s not a form of mashed potato that doesn’t speak deeply to me, but this Colcannon with Brown Butter is just on another level. The colcannon itself doesn’t really veer from the traditional Irish dish of mash and kale or cabbage, but instead of having a melted pool of golden butter on top, along with the also traditional scallions (that’s to say, spring onions) I brown the butter first, so that it is deep, caramelly and nutty. But then, brown butter is one of life’s great joys. It’s easy enough to make: all you need to do is heat butter in a (preferably light-coloured, such as stainless steel) pan until it turns the colour of a hazelnut, which for the amount here should take around seven minutes. And yes, there is a lot of butter, and feel free to reduce it if it appals you, but do remember that colcannon is not just a dish that celebrates potatoes but also exults in, not apologises for, the butter.

I wish I could use good Irish potatoes, such as Kerr's Pinks or Golden Wonder for this, but I can’t get hold of them where I live. So I use Roosters instead, and wonderful they are, too. Ideally - and this is not always easy, I know - you need potatoes of around the same size and you boil them unpeeled and whole; this stops them from getting waterlogged. I don’t ever bother to peel the potatoes before mashing them; you’re folding cooked kale in so it’s not going to be a smooth mash anyway. Finally, you brown the butter, mix the spring onions with it, beat some into the mash, and pour the rest over, letting the butter leave scallion-flecked, brown-speckled pools of deep delight on top.

This is divine enough with just some rashers of bacon on the side, though frankly I can eat it in a bowl just by itself. But I have to commend to you now alongside your Christmas ham, or to bring bolstering warmth to a plate of cold cuts in those post-Christmas days.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Brown Butter Colcannon
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin

Ingredients

Serves: 4-6

Metric Cups
  • 1-1.25 kilogram Kerr's Pink, Golden Wonder or Rooster potatoes - preferably of a uniform size
  • 200 grams kale stripped from stems and torn into small pieces (approx. 300-400g / 14oz if you're buying it on stems)
  • 250 millilitres full fat milk
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • 4 spring onions
  • 150 grams unsalted butter
  • 2¼ - 2¾ pounds Kerr's Pink, Golden Wonder or Rooster potatoes - preferably of a uniform size
  • 10 cups kale stripped from stems and torn into small pieces (approx. 300-400g / 14oz if you're buying it on stems)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 scallions
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter

Method

  1. Scrub any mud off the potatoes and put them whole into a large pan – I use one of 26cm / 10 inches diameter – of salted cold water and bring to the boil.
  2. Without knowing what size potatoes you’re using, it’s hard to be precise about how long they’ll take to cook: smaller potatoes will take around 40 minutes; larger ones will take around 1 hour. At any rate, cook, at a robust simmer (checking that the pan isn’t boiling dry, or that the water isn’t bubbling so fiercely the potatoes break into pieces) with the lid partially on, until the potatoes feel good and tender when you pierce them gently with a fork.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, strip the kale from the stems, and then tear into small pieces; even if you buy kale that’s ready-chopped, you’ll still need to go through it to remove any tough bits of stem.
  4. Cook the kale in a small amount of salted boiling water until it’s soft – this should take around 5 minutes – and then drain. When you can handle it without burning yourself, squeeze out the excess water and put the kale back in the hot pan, cover the pan to keep it warm, and leave to one side for now. Finely slice the spring onions – I like to use most of the green part as well as the white – and leave to one side for now, too.
  5. Once your potatoes are tender, take them out of the pan gently (draining them in a colander may make them disintegrate, and get waterlogged) and place on a large board. Empty out the pan and, remembering it’s still hot, carefully give it a quick wipe with kitchen paper. Put it back on the still-warm, turned-off hob and return the potatoes to the pan to dry out for a couple of minutes.
  6. Mash the potatoes by whichever method you prefer. I like the texture from the skins, so I wouldn’t use a potato ricer. I mash straight in the pan, so I warm the milk in a jug in the microwave, pour it into the potatoes, add the salt, and set to with a masher. (Whatever you do, don’t use a stick blender or you’ll turn them to glue.) When you’ve finished mashing them, fold in the cooked kale, and taste for seasoning. Put the lid on so that it all stays hot while you make the brown butter and warm a serving dish.
  7. Put a small heatproof jug by the hob. Cut the butter into slabs, the better for melting, and duly melt it in a heavy-based saucepan – I use one 18cm / 7 inches in diameter and 8cm / 3¼ inches deep – over gentle heat. Once the butter’s melted, turn the heat to medium, and carry on cooking, swirling the pan regularly, until the butter starts to turn a deep golden brown, with dark speckles at the bottom of the pan. Once it’s toasty and hazelnutty, at around 7 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, and add the sliced spring onions, which will make the brown butter sizzle furiously.
  8. Pour two-thirds of this into the potato pan and the rest into your little jug. Beat the brown butter into the colcannon and scrape into your warmed bowl, making swirls in the top of the colcannon with your spatula or spoon. Pour the remaining brown butter and spring onions on top and take to the table, in blissful anticipation.
  1. Scrub any mud off the potatoes and put them whole into a large pan – I use one of 26cm / 10 inches diameter – of salted cold water and bring to the boil.
  2. Without knowing what size potatoes you’re using, it’s hard to be precise about how long they’ll take to cook: smaller potatoes will take around 40 minutes; larger ones will take around 1 hour. At any rate, cook, at a robust simmer (checking that the pan isn’t boiling dry, or that the water isn’t bubbling so fiercely the potatoes break into pieces) with the lid partially on, until the potatoes feel good and tender when you pierce them gently with a fork.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, strip the kale from the stems, and then tear into small pieces; even if you buy kale that’s ready-chopped, you’ll still need to go through it to remove any tough bits of stem.
  4. Cook the kale in a small amount of salted boiling water until it’s soft – this should take around 5 minutes – and then drain. When you can handle it without burning yourself, squeeze out the excess water and put the kale back in the hot pan, cover the pan to keep it warm, and leave to one side for now. Finely slice the scallions – I like to use most of the green part as well as the white – and leave to one side for now, too.
  5. Once your potatoes are tender, take them out of the pan gently (draining them in a colander may make them disintegrate, and get waterlogged) and place on a large board. Empty out the pan and, remembering it’s still hot, carefully give it a quick wipe with kitchen paper. Put it back on the still-warm, turned-off hob and return the potatoes to the pan to dry out for a couple of minutes.
  6. Mash the potatoes by whichever method you prefer. I like the texture from the skins, so I wouldn’t use a potato ricer. I mash straight in the pan, so I warm the milk in a jug in the microwave, pour it into the potatoes, add the salt, and set to with a masher. (Whatever you do, don’t use a stick blender or you’ll turn them to glue.) When you’ve finished mashing them, fold in the cooked kale, and taste for seasoning. Put the lid on so that it all stays hot while you make the brown butter and warm a serving dish.
  7. Put a small heatproof jug by the hob. Cut the butter into slabs, the better for melting, and duly melt it in a heavy-based saucepan – I use one 18cm / 7 inches in diameter and 8cm / 3¼ inches deep – over gentle heat. Once the butter’s melted, turn the heat to medium, and carry on cooking, swirling the pan regularly, until the butter starts to turn a deep golden brown, with dark speckles at the bottom of the pan. Once it’s toasty and hazelnutty, at around 7 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, and add the sliced scallions, which will make the brown butter sizzle furiously.
  8. Pour two-thirds of this into the potato pan and the rest into your little jug. Beat the brown butter into the colcannon and scrape into your warmed bowl, making swirls in the top of the colcannon with your spatula or spoon. Pour the remaining brown butter and scallions on top and take to the table, in blissful anticipation.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare brown butter up to 2 weeks ahead, cover and refrigerate until needed.

STORE:
Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Reheat in microwave or transfer to ovenproof dish, cover with foil and heat in 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F oven until piping hot.

FREEZE:
Freeze brown butter only in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge.

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare brown butter up to 2 weeks ahead, cover and refrigerate until needed.

STORE:
Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Reheat in microwave or transfer to ovenproof dish, cover with foil and heat in 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F oven until piping hot.

FREEZE:
Freeze brown butter only in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge.

Tell us what you think

What 3 Others have said

  • Absolutely Gorgeous! Used savoy cabbage instead but turned out really well and tasty, Thanks Nigella it was yum!!!!

    Posted by 2wilsons on 24th January 2021
  • I deeply love Colcannon and while I don't brown the butter or use kale,it's still sublime.

    Posted by Nancyeh on 17th January 2021
  • I assume that one head of cabbage will suffice, since I love cabbage and dislike kale. Here in America, I’ll have to make do with Russets, and unpeeled is the only way to go. It’s not too much butter; it’s perfect, since everything is better with butter!

    Posted by hollis517 on 17th January 2021
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