Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday. I kind-of see it as a non-holiday holiday that must be endured before the real holiday season can be ushered in (and for this I apologize to my darling Halloween-loving readers!).
But…I will admit there are some fun things about it. Costumes, for example. And jack-o-lanterns. Scary movie marathons. And if you’re still young enough to do so, trick-or-treating is always a blast (who would refuse free candy, right?). These are the traditions that I grew up associating with Halloween.
I think it’s interesting to see how people in other parts of the world celebrate the same holiday, which is why I was intrigued when I recently found a recipe for Colcannon, a traditional Irish Halloween dish, in a cookbook called Irish Pub Cooking. Colcannon is basically mashed potatoes with cabbage (or kale) and some kind of onion. (The recipe I used called for scallion, but that just wasn’t enough onion for me so I added a regular cooking onion as well; the book said you could substitute leeks if you prefer, so I’m guessing just about any kind of onion will do.) The recipe also has a somewhat obscene amount of butter and half and half (as do so many recipes for mashed potatoes), but in my humble opinion, this tastes so much better than most mashed potato dishes out there and at least it comes with added cabbage and onion.
So, a little bit about the custom. Years ago (or perhaps it’s still done to this day?), it was traditional to serve Colcannon for Halloween and hide coins or small charms in Colcannon. If it was coins that were found, the finder would have good fortune in the upcoming year; if charms were used, the particular charm would determine the finder’s future – for example, a button meant the finder would stay a bachelor for the year, and a thimble meant the finder would stay a spinster. I’ve also heard tales of Colcannon pertaining to marriage. Legend has it that an unmarried woman would put Colcannon into a stocking and hang the stocking on the door…apparently the next unwitting chap to come through the door was her future husband! You can read more about Irish Halloween traditions and recipes on IrishCentral.)
I made this lovely dish for dinner with my parents’ a couple weekends ago (I served it with a fantastic pantry-staple beef stew). I was tempted to put (thoroughly scrubbed) pennies into it, in keeping with tradition, but I feared my mom would see even scrubbed pennies as unclean (and no, I definitely do not blame her for that, lol!).
Coins present or not, this is comfort food at its finest.