St Patrick was born in England. He became a priest and went to Ireland sometime in the 5th century – that’s 1600 years ago. He is very important to Irish history. There are many stories about him. There are no snakes in Ireland and people often say that St Patrick forced all the snakes in Ireland to leave. Of course, the truth is that there were never snakes in Ireland but it is a good story!
Every year on March 17, the people of Ireland celebrate St Patrick’s Day. This is said to be the date of his death. Of course it was all so long ago that no one is very sure. St Patrick’s Day is a great festival in Ireland, and in many other countries too. Everyone enjoys listening to Irish music, and singing and dancing. In many cities there are parades on St Patrick’s Day.
Why do so many other countries celebrate St Patrick’s Day? The answer is very interesting but it is also sad.
The popular story is that sometime late in the 16th century, a famous explorer, called Sir Walter Raleigh, bought potato plants from South America. He planted them in the garden of his home in Ireland. Potatoes became very popular in Ireland and by the 19th century they were the main food for poor people. Then something terrible happened. The potatoes in Ireland caught a disease and would not grow well. By 1850, the poor people in Ireland had nothing to eat. Many people died and many others left Ireland and travelled to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. Even more than 150 years later, the Irish traditions are strong in these countries. This is why St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in so many different countries.
Cooking something Irish
The days when many people only had potatoes to eat were long ago. There is wonderful food in Ireland. Some favourites are beef cooked with Guinness beer, bacon and cabbage, and Irish stew. But if you want to try something that is cheap, easy and tasty, why don’t you try colcannon? There are many recipes for colcannon but this is my favourite.
This is how I make colcannon.
I peel and chop some potatoes (maybe about 750g), and I put them in a pot with two teaspoons of salt, cover them and boil them until they are soft. Usually potatoes are cooked in about 20 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, I slice some cabbage thinly. I want about 200g of sliced cabbage.
I melt about 25g butter in a frypan and fry the cabbage until it is just soft. This takes about 3 minutes.
When the potatoes are soft, I drain the potatoes and put them back in the pot. I mash them. Do you know the word mash? It means to break the potatoes up with a potato masher. If you don’t have one – a fork will work.
Then I add about 75mls of cream, 75 g of butter and black pepper. If you have nutmeg in your kitchen it will make the colcannon taste very special – add just a little.
Then I stir the potatoes very well until they are like thick cream.
Mix in the cabbage and your colcannon is ready!