Irish Cuisine::A Twist on Tradition

As most cooks, I like to change things up a bit. When I look at a recipe, I might note that perhaps a few ingredients are missing from my pantry or refrigerator this week which means I need to make some substitutions. Alternatively, I might have another technique in mind of how I'd like to put together the list of ingredients. However, sometimes it becomes a matter of simply wanting to deviate from the tradition of a particular cuisine. The latter is exactly what led me to my twist on the traditional Irish potatoes and cabbage.

Potatoes, cabbage, and carrots are staples of Irish cuisine. This recipe, although incorporating the main ingredients of mashed potatoes and cabbage, employs a different technique from a dish known as Colcannon. Traditionally, it is made from potatoes that have been mashed and combined with milk or cream along with butter. To that is added either cabbage or kale and some member of the onion family such as scallions or yellow onions. Other than salt and pepper, herbs and spices are typically not used in Irish cuisine. In addition, some type of meat, either bacon or ham, is oftentimes served alongside this dish. As I was seeking to make a vegetarian version that would also be full of flavor, I decided to put my own unique spin on it.

In my version, lemon zest, lemon juice, freshly chopped diil, and the small leaves of fresh thyme sprigs join the cabbage and mashed potatoes that are then layered in a gratin dish and baked for less than an hour in the oven. Adorning the top layer of potatoes, you find freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme leaves. In the second version (main photo above), I also added lemon zest to the grated Parmesan and thyme leaves.

While writing this recipe, I tested it a total of three times during the past two weeks, the last time being yesterday...

...all three times, not one single bite was left over. Ok, well, the kids didn't eat it. Then again, that's another story.


Potato and Cabbage Gratin

serves 2 as a main meal, 4 as a side dish 



Mashed Potatoes

1½ pounds (680g) Yukon gold potatoes (about 3 medium), peeled and diced

2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter

2 oz (60 ml) whole milk

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt


Cabbage Mixture

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

5 garlic cloves, chopped

½ head green cabbage, thinly sliced

2 small carrots, coarsely grated

½ teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

grated zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

7 sprigs thyme (reserve 2 sprigs for topping), leaves removed

freshly grated Parmesan cheese



Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C), placing the rack in the lower third position. Butter the bottom and sides of a 1-quart gratin dish. Set aside.

In a 3-quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, place potatoes in enough cold water to cover an inch above the potatoes and boil until soft, 25-30 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, prepare the cabbage mixture. In a 3-quart sauté pan over medium heat, warm olive oil for one minute. Add onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add cabbage and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, and thyme leaves.

Drain potatoes, return to saucepan, add butter. Mash with potato masher until no large pieces remain and butter has melted. Add milk, cream, and salt. Stir to combine.

Assemble the gratin. Spread half of the cabbage mixture in the prepared gratin dish making sure to cover bottom of dish completely. Layer half of the mashed potatoes over the cabbage mixture, carefully covering the bottom layer. Evenly spread the remaining cabbage mixture over the potatoes and then top with the remaining mashed potatoes. Sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese over top along with the reserved leaves of the two sprigs of fresh thyme.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.


Inspired by a recipe in Easy Vegetarian, a bargain book I purchased at Barnes & Noble. My thinking was that there seemed to be too few seasonings for my taste, seeing that the recipe called for simply salt and pepper. Therefore, I added  fresh herbs, lemon zest, and lemon juice. The recipe called for boiling the cabbage with carrot slices and then mixing that all together with the mashed potatoes. I wasn’t too fond of that technique, so I changed that as well.