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Colcannon recreates the community of food (and shares some Irish recipes for St. Patrick's Day) | The Scene

White Soda Bread - Courtesy Photo
White Soda Bread
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Two years ago Eileen Foley and Michelle Devaney tested the waters at the Issaquah Farmers Market to see if there was any demand for the Irish cuisine they’d brought with them from their homeland and improved upon since when they were children.

“I think both of us came out of there saying, ‘Yes, absolutely,’ “ said Foley, who emigrated from Ireland to Bellevue five years ago. She found the Irish population here was greater than expected. “It’s massive here. It’s actually getting really big here.”

They named their business Colcannon, after a traditional Irish dish consisting of potatoes, cabbage and kale all mashed together, offering fresh foods made by hand, the way their mothers taught them living in the country.

“The reason we gave it up was we just couldn’t keep up with the demand,” said Devaney of Issaquah. Both women have husbands who work for Microsoft and six children between them to contend with. “We baked all night, we sold all day.”

As much as food is part of the Irish culture, so too is a strong sense of community and desire to socialize, said Foley, something they experienced selling to a loyal following at Colcannon. When you’re Irish, she said, your home is always open.

While they are no longer cooking for the masses, the Irish roses behind Colcannon agreed to share their recipes and menu for a wholesome St. Patrick’s Day meal. Foley said it was difficult finding the right ingredients to authenticate the dishes after arriving in the United States, but the Irish are used to being resourceful.

When the Irish first came to the United States, they found there was no cured ham as traditionally used for a bacon and cabbage dish eaten on St. Patrick’s Day. The cut was hard to find, as was the correct brine. The solution was to start using cured beef. Corned beef and cabbage is now commonly associated with the holiday in the United States.

There isn’t going to be any corned beef and cabbage recipes to follow — it’s as American as apple pie — but plenty of bestsellers from Colcannon, including a Beef in Guinness Stew that’s sure to please, said Foley. She added it should be made the day before for a better, stronger taste.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh (Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all), and be sure to try out a sampling of Foley and Devaney's Irish recipes below:

White Soda Bread (pictured above)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sugbar
  • 2 cups of buttermilk or sour milk

Method:

Sieve dry ingredients into a large bowl. Scoop up handfuls to aerate the mixture. Add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough. Now work quickly as the buttermilk and soda are already reacting. Knead the dough lightly. Form a round loaf about as thick as your fist. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and cut a cross in the top with a floured knife. Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 30-45 minutes. When baked the loaf will sound hollow when rapped on the bottom with your knuckles. Wrap immediately in a clean tea-towel to stop the crust hardening too much.

 

Colcannon

 

For Ireland’s best known traditional potato dish, Foley recommends using Kerrygold butter.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs potatoes – Russet or Yukon gold
  • 1 small head of savoy cabbage or kale or a mix of both
  • 1 cup of boiling milk
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

Scrub the potatoes, put them in a large saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Drain and return to the pan, then cover with a tea towel for 5 minutes to dry off. Leave to cool slightly. Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage. Wash the rest and cut into quarters. Remove the core and cut each quarter finely across the grain. Blanch in a little salted water till cooked. Drain well and refresh under cold water. Season again and add a knob of butter. Pour the milk in a saucepan, add the butter and spring onions. Warm gently for a few minutes without boiling. Peel the  cooked potatoes, mash well. Gradually add the milk mixture beating continuously with a wooden spoon to combine. Fold in the blanched cabbage and then gently reheat, stirring continuously. Season to taste. To serve, place the colcannon in a warmed bowl and enjoy.

It can be made ahead of time and reheated in a moderate oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.


Beef in Guinness Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs lean stewing beef
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree dissolved in
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 1 1/4 cups of Guinness
  • 2 cups carrots
  • Sprig of thyme

Method:

Trim the meat of any fat or gristle. Cut into cubes of 2 inches and toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season the flour with salt, pepper and cayenne. Toss the meat in this. Heat the remaining oil in a large pan over a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Add the onions, garlic and tomato puree to the pan. Cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a casserole. Pour some of the Guinness into the pan to deglaze by bringing to a boil. Pour onto the meat with the remaining Guinness. Add the carrots and the thyme. Cover with a lid and simmer very gently 2-3 hours. The stew may be cooked on the stove or in an oven at 300 degrees. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley and serve with colcannon. This dish can be accompanied with some freshly boiled potatoes or with the colcannon dish provided.

 

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