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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Hallowe'en-An Irish Recipe and Some History

When most people think of Halloween the images that come to mind are from the last century when the Holiday really took off.

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However the roots of Halloween are much older.  Many folklorists believe that the origins of the Holiday lie in Celtic harvest festivals, such as Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark half of the year.  It was believed that at this time  spirits and faeries could walk freely through the world.

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 It was also believed to be the one night of the year when the spirits of the dead could return to their earthly homes.   Families would set an extra place at the table for their departed relatives. 

 As time passed the pagan origins mixed with the modern Christian culture of Ireland and prayers for the dead became a part of the Holiday.  The old belief that faeries walked the earth evolved into the custom of dressing up in costumes and going house to house.   The importance of gourds and pumpkins in the harvest festival as well as the belief in evil spirits being about lead to the custom of carving pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns.
Painting Depicting a Traditional Irish Halloween Celebration

Halloween's Irish origins make it the perfect time to make Colcannon a mashed potato and cabbage dish that is often served on Halloween.  One popular game was too hide rings and other charms in the mash so that the diner could divine their future from them.    I didn't hide any charms in mine but Colcannon is absolutely delicious and enough of a treat in its self.  Here is the recipe I used:


5 large russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 stick butter, cut in pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk
1 head of green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
1 lb thick cut bacon
1 small bunch scallions (green onions) sliced

 Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil for the potatoes and at the same time bring a second pot fitted with a steam basket to boil for the cabbage.  Boil the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes.  Steam the cabbage about 5 minutes until somewhat softened, but still crisp.  Set the cabbage aside.  Mash the potatoes and stir in the butter and milk.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside while you cook the bacon. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and fry the bacon until crisp and transfer to a plate to cool.   Pour of all but 1 tsp of the bacon fat from the skillet and fry the scallions in it briefly.  Chop the bacon once it has cooled and stir into the potatoes along with the cabbage and the scallions.  (Note: you can make this in advance just transfer it to a casserole or dutch oven and reheat in a 300 degree oven until warmed through.)

  Happy Halloween!


  1. This is one of my favourite Irish dishes ever (as is the very similar champ). I think it's one of those comfort foods I could happily eat every day and never tire of.

    Wishing you, your honey, and your darling pets all an especially fantastic Halloween!
    ♥ Jessica

  2. We hope you had a happy Halloween and that all the spooky goings on were fun and came with lots of treats. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. This looks so delicious! I bookmarked this page because I would love to try this recipe.

  4. Mmmmm, cabbage, bacon, and potatoes....Yum!!


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