Low Carb Colcannon


A few decades ago when I owned a sheep farm, I grew a lot of potatoes and made a lot of colcannon in the winter. This old Irish dish combines smashed boiled potatoes with milk and cream, and incorporates other vegetables according to your fancy. Onion and cabbage are traditional favorites, herbs and greens are common, and others are possible.

These days I want low-carb vegetable dishes, but I still want my easy accommodating colcannon and I have a ton of green garlic and green onions around, so I started there. I write a lot about green garlic and green onions because they are so easy to grow and have available for earliest spring, so chock-full of allacin and various antioxidants, and so very tasty. If you grow no other vegetable, put some small organic onions and at least a few dozen garlic cloves in among your ornamentals in fall (as long as you don’t use pesticides,) and next spring you will have these sweet and delicious vegetables to work with.


I started with six big green onions, a dozen stalks of green garlic, a head of cauliflower, half a head of cabbage, and butter and cream.

First, cut the florets off the cauliflower and put them in the steamer for half an hour. They need that much steaming time to be soft and smashable. I use my old couscousierre to steam veggies because I like to look at it, and incidental pleasures are half the fun of cooking.


Wash the green alliums and trim off any yellowing or dry-looking leaf tips. On a large cutting board, slice the washed and trimmed green onions and green garlic into quarter inch cross-section slices.

imageHeat a large skillet over medium heat, put in about 3 tablespoons of good butter, and sauté the greens over medium heat, adding some salt and stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked, soft, and sweet. Meanwhile, slice the cabbage into very fine slices, discarding any thick ribby pieces. When the green alliums are cooked, scrape them into a bowl, return the skillet to the heat, add another good-sized knob of butter, and put in the cabbage shreds. Cook them over medium heat with some salt, stirring frequently, until very thoroughly cooked and sweet. This takes a while, and you need to keep an eye on the time and open your steamer when the cauliflower has cooked for 30 minutes.


When the cabbage is cooked, put in the steamed florets and start smashing them with the back of a big wooden spoon. When thoroughly smashed, add half a cup of heavy cream and the cooked green garlic and taste the mixture for salt, correcting to taste. Cook over low heat for another half hour, stirring occasionally, to let the flavors amalgamate. Stir in a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and serve.


This is the fun part. Serving possibilities are endless. I pan fried some lardons of mild bacon to top it off and put a small steak on the side. It’s so filling that I didn’t eat more than a bite or two of the steak, so now I have leftover steak to plan another meal around.

Unlike potato colcannon, which can get gummy if reheated, the cauliflower version is even better when left over. You can top it with sautéed greens, or a fried or poached egg, or both. A bit of mild cheese could be grated in or gratineed on top, or this could accompany a roasted chicken. It is a wonderful basis for meals in mixed omnivorous-vegetarian crowds, because the vegetarians will find it satisfying on its own or with an egg and the omnivores can have meat on top or alongside and will probably not eat much meat because it isn’t needed.

I do think it’s wise to respect the essentially sweet and delicate nature of this dish, and keep seasoning simple. If you take your time with the sautéing, and use butter, the cabbage and green alliums develop wonderful depth of flavor. Heavy cream is essential in my opinion, and it has a lovely sweet flavor of its own. I also think a key step is to add some salt during the sautéing process so that it cooks into the vegetables well. Just not too much. This all takes some time, about an hour from bringing the green alliums in from the garden to finished colcannon, so there is no point in making smaller quantities. It will get eaten.




7 responses to this post.

  1. Nice steamer! It really is gorgeous.
    I’m especially enticed by the colcannon. I don’t often have cauliflower around, but I’ll try some adaptation of it. I eat most of my food swimming in cream anyway.


  2. Posted by wooddogs3 on March 14, 2016 at 7:36 am

    You might want to try the original potato-based version, which is delicious, especially with Yukon Gold potatoes. And nearly anything tastes good swimming in cream. Does your family produce dairy? You certainly seem to produce everything else.


    • We do. We have about 8 cows in lactation now.


      • Posted by wooddogs3 on April 2, 2016 at 7:30 am

        I am so jealous! I have very fond memories of the years when I kept a Jersey cow. All that lovely fresh milk, cream, butter, and cheese…yum. Goat milk isn’t nearly as versatile. No room for a cow in my current urban set-up, unfortunately, although every now and then I daydream about getting one of the fearfully expensive mini-Jerseys, but then I don’t know how I would ever get the AI done. No urban service for that, I’m afraid.

      • You could try a herdshare situation. That’s what we have. We got our contract from the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and made a few changes to suite our situation.

        Technically we’re cow boarders; but we make all the decisions on feed, breeding, so forth. Although we do have ‘stakeholders meeting’ for the sharers once a year to let them watch us milk and mention any suggestions they have. We listen to suggestions anytime though.

        In your case, the paperwork could easily be changed to single cow ownership or partial herdshare where you could get the milk however you wanted it as long as you found a farmer interested.

        One of our neighbors who was in the the herdshare got themselves two Dexters they handmilk. Pretty small animals. I take care of them whenever they go on vacation, and my Sister is a certified AI and so keeps their straws in her tank.

        Sound like a possibility?

      • Posted by wooddogs3 on April 2, 2016 at 8:24 pm

        That’s a very interesting possibility. I want to find someone who’s doing grassfed milk, and so far there is nobody in my area doing that, but there is a large grassfed Jersey herd doing well in southern Colorado, so I can work on spreading the idea.
        What kind of cows do you have?

      • My Dad prefers Brown Swiss, which we have the most of. My Sister’s only Cow is also a Brown Swiss. I purchased a papered Jersey years ago and her genetics were the only pure bred Jersey we’ve ever had. I sold off what I owned due to lack of hay and my Dad sent away the last of her calves he bought from me last year. Our oldest cow, Ruth, who is 11, is half Brown Swiss half Holstein, and entirely black. She just had a 125lb calf last month -the largest we’ve ever had.
        We have one cow that is all red from Shorthorn gentics, but she’s mostly Jersey. She had a calf in December that I found about lifeless because she had it outdoors during a rainy night so I carried it the nearly quarter of a mile up to the house without much trouble, so I don’t think it was over 50lb, just to give an idea of the difference in size.
        We were low on cows last winter, so bought a New Zealand genetics “Holstein” that’s mostly red and black with white spots. They’re bred for grassfed production specifically. She’s a Jersey if I ever saw one though -small, very yellow milk, and excruciatingly conniving, even for a Jersey.
        I would like to get back to Jerseys though, because they simply give more milk for the food they eat, besides that our Brown Swiss often give zilch milk for the first lactation. Ruth is exceptional in that she makes gobs of milk. Over ten years old and she can still fill a five gallon milk bucket herself in all of ten minutes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: