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For St. Patty's, Put a Little Green on Your Plate

By John DiGilio in Food on Mar 16, 2011 7:20PM

2011_3_DiGIlio_Colcannon.jpgWith St. Patrick’s Day so close at hand, thoughts immediately turn to all things Irish. From potatoes to beer and, of course, that propensity to party into the wee hours o’ the morning, St. Patty’s is a day of overindulgence. If you are looking to avoid that green feeling of a morning-after hangover, your best bet is to steer clear of the beer and indulge in a little solid Irish fare. In fact, for those of the veggie persuasion, what better a holiday to enjoy than this - the greenest of days.

In many ways, Ireland and green are synonymous. With the verdant hills and lush fields of the Irish countryside, it is little wonder that it is called the Emerald Isle. One of the last ways in which people seem to associate Ireland and green, however, is when it comes to cuisine. Anyone who has ever visited will tell you that Irish cooking is very meat-heavy. Dishes of beef, mutton, and fish are popular. Luckily for those of us who prefer to avoid animal flesh, there is more to Irish cooking than sausages and meat pies. True to the green theme, they have a culinary history that is rich in vegetables.

From the ubiquitous potato, for which the Irish are often now stereotyped, to cabbage, kale, and a whole host of real greens, traditional Irish cooking has long incorporated fresh, healthy vegetables. In fact, with a little vegetarian creativity and some luck of the Irish, anyone can enjoy a meat-free St. Patrick’s Day meal worthy of a leprechaun. Seitan, for example, makes a fine replacement for the beef in the famous corned beef and cabbage. it can also be used in Guinness Stew. Store-bought vegetarian sausages and bacon from companies like LightLife and Morningstar Farms make for a fine, meatless Coddle.

For us, the real pot of gold at the rainbow’s end is a traditional Irish dish that requires no meat at all. It’s called Colcannon and it is delicious. A colorful blend of mashed potatoes and greens (we prefer kale, but spinach works too), it is the perfect accompaniment to a mug of good Irish stout. For our meat-eating friends, may we recommend Anthony's article from yesterday. Meat or meatless, it is always about the food. So let's raise a glass to good, old St. Patrick and give this modern variation on an old world dish a try. Éirinn go brách!

Vegan St. Patty’s Day Colcannon


  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped

  • 1 cup spinach or kale, chopped

  • 4 green onions or scallions, sliced thin

  • 2/3 cup soy milk

  • 1 tbsp vegan margarine

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • pinch of mace or allspice (optional)

  • pinch of nutmeg (optional)


Place potatoes in a pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until potatoes are soft (20 - 25 minutes).

Steam the spinach or kale for about three to four minutes and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the soy milk, vegan margarine and scallions over medium heat until scallions are cooked.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked potatoes, steamed greens and soy milk - scallion mixture. Mash with a potato masher (hand masher, not electric mixer!). Season with salt and pepper, a pinch of mace and a pinch of nutmeg.

Photo by Chef Stuart O'Keefe.