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Nigella Lawson’s Brown Butter Colcannon Mash

As seen on her BBC2 series, Cook, Eat, Repeat, Nigella's take on colcannon uses brown butter to bring sweetness and nuttiness to this comfort food classic.

From the book

Nigella Lawson


I have a particular passion for this recipe. Mash in any form has a special place in my heart, but this is simply sublime. I go dreamy-eyed every time I eat it, which is often. If you haven’t come across brown butter before, then you have profound pleasure in store. It is very straightforward to make: quite simply, you heat butter until it is brown. What happens as you heat it is that the water evaporates, and the milk proteins caramelise: the result is sweet, nutty and intense. In France, it’s known as beurre noisette: the colour is indeed hazelnut brown; and it hints at the flavour you get from it too.

If the idea of using 150g of butter to make this appals you, then by all means reduce the amount – though not by too much. This is a recipe that exults in butter, not apologises for it. While the quantities below yield enough colcannon to feed four to six, I just halve them even if I’m making it only for me, although I tend to stagger it over two nights. On the first evening, I have one of my favourite solo suppers, which is just this, in a large bowl, by itself. And for its next outing, I turn what’s left over into patties.

As for what to eat the colcannon with and when, I’m finding it hard to think of any occasion it would be out of place. Perhaps in high summer it might strike the wrong note but, actually, in a British summer, there are still plenty of opportunities for it. Ham is the first accompaniment that comes to mind or, rather, boiled bacon as it’s known in Ireland, where colcannon emanates, and where I first memorably ate it over 30 years ago. But on many evenings, I’m very happy to put all the cooking effort into the colcannon, and simply fry up some streaky bacon to go with it. As a family supper, it’s hard to beat, but the Black Pudding Meatballs (p.122 of Cook, Eat, Repeat) might just be my favourite accompaniment.

The potatoes are key here. In Ireland, Kerr’s Pink would be the first choice, or Golden Wonder, neither of which I can get near me in London, but I use Roosters, and suggest you do too. I’m afraid I’m also going to ask you to try and find potatoes of more or less equal size, as they need to be cooked whole. I’m not expecting you to be able to get your hands on a kilo’s worth of Roosters of exactly the same size every time you make this, but it would be lovely if you could. I leave the skins on the potatoes: since you’re adding kale and spring onions, you’re not aiming for a smooth mash anyway. Finally, I must tell you that I recently made the brown butter colcannon with wild garlic in place of the kale, and I look forward to doing the same next year, when it’s the season.

Extracted from the essay in Cook, Eat, Repeat, where you will find the full version.

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1–1.25 kg Kerr’s Pink, Golden Wonder or Rooster potatoes, preferably of a uniform size
200g kale (weight once stripped from stems – approx. 300–400g if you’re buying it on stems)
250ml full-fat milk
4 spring onions
150g unsalted butter


1. Scrub any mud off the potatoes and put them whole into a large pan – I use one of 26cm diameter – of salted cold water and bring to the boil.

2. Without knowing what size potatoes you’re using, it’s hard to be precise about how long they’ll take to cook: smaller potatoes will take around 40 minutes; larger ones will take around 1 hour. At any rate, cook, at a robust simmer (checking that the pan isn’t boiling dry, or that the water isn’t bubbling so fiercely the potatoes break into pieces) with the lid partially on, until the potatoes feel good and tender when you pierce them gently with a fork.

3. While the potatoes are cooking, strip the kale from the stems, and then tear into small pieces; even if you buy kale that’s ready chopped, you’ll still need to go through it to remove any tough bits of stem.

4. Cook the kale in a small amount of salted boiling water until it’s soft – this should take around 5 minutes – and then drain. When you can handle it without burning yourself, squeeze out the excess water and put the kale back in the hot pan, cover the pan to keep it warm, and leave to one side for now. Finely slice the spring onions – I like to use most of the green part as well as the white – and leave to one side for now, too.

5. Once your potatoes are tender, take them out of the pan gently (draining them in a colander may make them disintegrate, and get waterlogged) and place on a large board. Empty out the pan and, remembering it’s still hot, carefully give it a quick wipe with kitchen paper. Put it back on the still-warm, turned-off hob and return the potatoes to the pan to dry out for a couple of minutes.

6. Mash the potatoes by whichever method you prefer. I like the texture from the skins, so I wouldn’t use a potato ricer. I mash straight in the pan, so I warm the milk in a jug in the microwave, pour it into the potatoes, and set to with a masher. (Whatever you do, don’t use a stick blender or you’ll turn them to glue.) When you’ve finished mashing them, fold in the cooked kale, and taste for seasoning. Put the lid on so that it all stays hot while you make the brown butter and warm a serving dish.

7. Put a small heatproof jug by the hob. Cut the butter into slabs, the better for melting, and duly melt it in a heavy-based saucepan – I use one 18cm in diameter and 8cm deep – over gentle heat. Once the butter’s melted, turn the heat to medium, and carry on cooking, swirling the pan regularly, until the butter starts to turn a deep golden brown, with dark speckles at the bottom of the pan. Once it’s toasty and hazelnutty, at around 7 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, and add the sliced spring onions, which will make the brown butter sizzle furiously.

8. Pour two-thirds of this into the potato pan and the rest into your little jug. Beat the brown butter into the colcannon and scrape into your warmed bowl, making swirls in the top of the colcannon with your spatula or spoon. Pour the remaining brown butter and spring onions on top and take to the table, in blissful anticipation.

Make Ahead – Prepare brown butter up to 2 weeks ahead, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Store – Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Reheat in microwave or transfer to ovenproof dish, cover with foil and heat in 180°C/160°C Fan oven until piping hot. Or use to make patties.

Freeze – Freeze brown butter only in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge.

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From the book: Cook, Eat, Repeat

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