The combination of green cabbage, buttermilk or cream, potatoes and spring onions or leeks is believed to be one of the oldest dishes in northern Europe. In Ireland it is known as colcannon and is made with kale, not cabbage, because kale survived the harsh winter, especially in coastal areas. Kale has made a comeback in recent years, largely because it continues to survive the inclement and unpredictable weather. In some areas it thrives, improving its flavour.
1 kg potatoes, whole500 g kale10 scallions / spring onions, chopped150 ml cream100 g buttermilk30 g butterPepperSaltNutmeg (optional)
Soak the kale in cold then warm water to remove dirt and chase away the small spiders that love to weave their webs among its leaves. Leave to drain for half an hour. Remove stems, cut into leaves into strips. Bring to the boil in a little water, reduce heat and cook until al dente. Drain and retain water. Boil the potatoes in their skins in the kale liquid. Cook the spring onions in the cream over a low heat. In a heavy based saucepan mash potatoes with the spring onion mixture over a low heat. Add kale, seasonings and the buttermilk, blend with a wooden spoon until the mash assumes the colour of the greens. Serve heaped with a large knob of butter.
Domesticated and cultivated in the highlands of Peru thousands of years ago, the potato (papa to the Incas) made its appearance in Europe with the Spanish in the 16th century (1539), quickly spreading throughout western and northern Europe to become a field crop despite resistance from the peasantry in Germany and Russia, where potato production would eventually become the highest in Europe and the world.
The tradition of boiling potatoes whole in their skins and serving them with butter or buttermilk is gradually dying out. A dish made from mashed potatoes and buttermilk was called THE STIFFNER in the west of Ireland, but it is now a rare sight on a plate. PURÉE DE POMMES DE TERRE, baked potato mashed with butter and milk, is hardly seen anymore.
ROAST POTATOES have managed to survive, largely as an accompaniment to roast meat dinners in Britain. In eastern Europe and Russia potatoes were boiled and roasted in animal fats – goose, duck, etc – a tradition that is still holding out, despite health concerns.
MASHED or PUREED POTATOES remain popular. You can still go into a shop in south London and order a plate of JELLIED EEL or PIE, POTATO MASH and PARSLEY SAUCE. Mashed potatoes and carrots, and spiced with nutmeg, called STOEMP in the Netherlands and Belgium, is a clever interpretation of an early food tradition brought into the region by the Spanish. In Ireland kale and potatoes are mashed together to make COLCANNON. The potato and garbanzo (chickpea) pate called TOPIK made in Armenia is having a makeover.
They were added to stews and soups. IRISH STEW, initially with mutton, potatoes and onions, now with lamb, potatoes, onions and seasonings, has also survived the test of time. In the Alpine regions of Austria and Italy BOZNER HERRENGRÖSTL, a potato and veal stew, has done the same. Less so in Scotland with STOVIES, a stew made with potatoes and onions and leftover meat.
SODD is a spicy meat and potato soup in Norway. Potato is an essential ingredient in SEAFOOD CHOWDER. KÄSE UND KARTOFFEL SUPPE is always on the menu in Germany and neighbouring countries. In Scotland CULLEN SKINK is smoked haddock, potato and onion soup.
MEAT and POTATO PIES are not as popular as they once were in the north of England because the recipe is being lost with the generations. In Slovenia they make a wonderful potato pasty called IDRIJSKI ZLIKROFI. And back in England the CORNISH PASTY, made with beef, onion, potato and swede, is managing to hold its own against fast-food competition. Potato is a main ingredient in the Swiss mountain dish called CHOLERA, which also contains apples or pears, cheese and onions.
FRENCH FRIES, aka CHIPS, appeared on Paris streets in the mid-19th century and soon became synonymous with street fried fish.
In England the two were combined to become FISH AND CHIPS.
In Switzerland the tradition of grating raw potatoes and baking them on hot griddles to make RÖSTI can be traced to the Zurich region in the 17th century. MALUNS are toasted potato lumps in Switzerland, served for breakfast.
In Italy they were prepared pureed with flour and blanched in hot water to make GNOCCHI. Potato dumplings are still popular in northern and central Europe. In Austria dumplings made with apricot and potato are called MARILLENKNÖDEL.
Northern and central European countries got into the habit of making POTATO PANCAKES but it was the Spanish who made the TORTILLA, potato omelette, an essential element of the frying pan or griddle.
Slowly dying out is the tradition of making POTATO CAKES on a griddle. Once common across northern Europe, it is only in southern Europe, in Andorra, the Basque Country and Catalonia that it is still popular, albeit as the bacon, cabbage and potato cakes known as TRINXAT
Baked in the oven they became the base for POTATO GRATIN. Various ingredients, from anchovy to cheese and bacon, go into these baked dishes, such as TARTIFLETTE in France.
KÖTTBULLAR, meatballs in Sweden, are made with potato and meat – beef, pork or veal.
Then there is KARTOFFELSALAT, served hot and cold in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. A good potato salad is still a mystery to be solved, because those who know the secret are reluctant to share it.
In many countries they were the base ingredient to make raw alcohol (poteen and vodka).
High in carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins.
A coarse large-leaf cabbage with a curly crinkled appearance, kale is the cultivated variety of the wild cabbage native to the Mediterranean, and rich in minerals and vitamins.
The ancient Romans introduced it to northern Europe and today it is still popular in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, where recipes gradually found their way to the Atlantic fringe – Ireland, Portugal and Scandinavia in particular.
Curly kale is the most cultivated variety along with local varieties adapted to their environment, such as Portuguese kale (couve) used to make caldo verde.
Being the good collectors that they are, the Flemish took kale to their culinary hearts.
Kale is an essential ingredient in stoemp, a mash made with potatoes, leaf and root vegetables.
Cooked with butter and cream it forms part of the Danish grønlangkål med skinke – kale with ham and caramelised potatoes.
The combination of kale, butter, buttermilk or cream, potatoes and spring onions/scallions or leeks is believed to be one of the oldest dishes in northern Europe.
Kale has made a comeback in recent years, because the colder climates improves its flavour.
500 g kale
500 g potatoes, whole
10 leeks/spring onions/scallions, chopped
150 ml cream/milk
100 g butter/buttermilk
Soak the kale in cold then warm water to remove dirt amd chase away the small spiders that love to weave their webs among its leaves.
Leave to drain for 30 minutes.
Remove stems, cut into leaves into strips then small pieces.
Bring to the boil in a little water, reduce heat and cook until al dente. Drain surplus water.
Boil the potatoes in their skins.
Cook the spring onions in the milk/cream over a low heat.
In a heavy based saucepan mash potatoes with the milk/cream and spring onions over a low heat.
Combine kale, seasoning and the butter, blend with a wooden spoon until the mash assumes the colour of the greens. Buttermilk can replace the butter to give a tangy taste.
Grønlangkål med Skinke
1 kg kale
75 g butter
20 ml cream
30 g flour
2 tsp sugar
1 kg potatoes small
40 g sugar
50 g butter
Boil the potatoes in their skins, peel and leave to cool.
Heat sugar in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the butter. When it foams add the potatoes and coat in the sugar-butter mixture.
Keep the heat controlled until the potatoes are browned and heated through. Make sure they do not burn.
Make a roux in a heavy based saucepan, add kale and two tablespoons of water. Cook over a medium heat, adding a little more butter, finishing with sugar, salt and pepper.
Serve with cooked smoked ham, pork sausages, pork on the bone and head cheese.
1.5 kg floury potatoes, peeled, cubed
1 kg kale leaves
4 smoked sausages
100 ml milk, hot
75 g butter
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
Mustard, for dressing
Boil onions and potatoes with a pinch of salt in sufficient water to cover in a large pot, strain, retaining the cooking liquid.
Put the kale in a large bowl with the liquid, cover and leave until leaves wilt.
Transfer kale and sufficient liquid to cover it to a saucepan, cover and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes, drain, squeeze out liquid and chop small.
Put the sausages in the remaining liquid, cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes.
Mash onions and potatoes with butter and milk, fold in the kale, season. Serve with pieces of sliced sausage dressed with mustard.
Traditional Kale Recipes
Caldo Verde PORTUGAL kale sauceVrzotovka SLOVENIA kale soup