As much as I used to steer clear of British food when we moved over here (not out of fear to see that the prejudices we hold about the islands' culinary traditions on the continent smashed, but more because there is such an abundance and variety of cuisines available in London) I notice myself wanting to find out more about it these days.
This is not to say that I my appetite for exploring exotic restaurants has been forever satisfied, but I do seek out traditional British food and try to re-create it at home every once in a while. So while I keep checking out Vietnamese, Korean and Ethiopian eateries in the capital, I have also picked up a fair amount of recipes for things like Christmas pudding, eccles cakes, spotted dick, toad-in-the-hole and other traditional British fare.
One thing that caught my eye a while ago is colcannon and the perfect occasion to make it came with a delivery of my organic fruit and veg box recently, which contained some kale. I had never seen or heard of this vegetable before (although my Mum insists it goes by the name of "Grünkohl" in German-speaking countries), but knew what I had to do. I picked up a recipe on the net (as you do these days), but then couldn't be bothered to boot my laptop when it came to cooking. I had also been slightly worried about the amount of fat going into the dish - it suggests preparing the potato mash, mixing the kale in, then frying various layers of it in a pan, turning as you add each layer. And while under any other circumstances nothing could appeal to me more than a crisp outer shell and a layer of crisp potato in the middle, I guess I had over-indulged at Christmas and decided to take my complete and utter ignorance with regards to Irish cooking as an excuse for a low-fat alternative. Alternating layers of a simple potato mash and the kale which I first blanched, then sautéed with some garlic, I cheated by making a somewhat healthier, oven-baked version of Colcannon... and let me tell you, I really liked it, authentic or not!
Healthier Irish Colcannon
(serves 6 as an accompaniment or 4 as a light meal)
750 g white potato
50 g butter
125 ml milk
200 g curly kale
1 clove garlic (crushed)
Peel the potatoes and cut into bite-size chunks. Cook in salt water until very tender. Drain and add half of the butter to the pot. Leave to melt, then stir in. Mash the potatoes very finely, then stir in the milk.
Season to taste and set aside.
Cut the kale into strips, then blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
Heat the butter in a frying pan, add the garlic and fry until starting to brown. Add the kale and toss carefully.
Pre-heat oven to 175C. Butter an oven-proof dish. Alternate layers of mash and kale, starting with kale and finishing with potato.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Serve as an accompaniment to a meat course or on its own, with a salad on the side.