Your father’s recently-confirmed Irish heritage justifies the special place this dish touches in our collective stomachs. We’ve been eating it, typically with sausages and a tomato salad, since 1995, when Delia Smith published her Winter Cookbook, and it has reappeared regularly since we signed up for Oddbox deliveries and found ourselves obliged to experiment with cabbage. Delia records that the original Irish recipe calls for a well of melted butter in the middle of a fluffy pile of potatoes and cabbage, the idea being to dip each forkful into the butter before eating it. Fearing for your arteries, you might understandably baulk at that, but don’t stint on the butter and cream in the adapted version below.
Serves 4 generously
700g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
Half a large, firm green cabbage, very finely sliced
A bunch of spring onions (6-8), trimmed and finely sliced, including the green parts
75ml single cream or full fat milk
Nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper
First prepare and cook the potatoes. Cover the chunks with cold water and add a generous teaspoon of salt. Put a lid on the pan, bring to the boil and simmer until they are absolutely tender (about 20 minutes from the point it boils).
Meanwhile melt 25g butter in a large frying pan or wok. Soften the spring onions in the butter, then add the cabbage and sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring until tender and slightly golden at the edges.
Drain the potatoes and cover with a tea towel to absorb some of the steam for 2 minutes, then return to the pan and add the cream, 50g butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper. To mash them, Delia recommends using an electric hand whisk, which is certainly quick, and fine if you’ve used floury potatoes and don’t apply too vigorous a speed. Otherwise there’s a risk they’ll turn gluey, so a traditional potato masher (or ricer) is perhaps a safer alternative. Taste and season your fluffy mash. Finally, stir in the contents of the frying pan and serve with or without extra melted butter.