Monday, March 17, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Colcannon

For St. Patrick's Day, let's visit the site of Saskatchewan's one and only stage coach robbery. Early morning July 18, 1886, the coach was travelling from Fort Qu'Appelle to Edmonton when it was stopped by a bandit with a double barrelled shotgun. He made off with the mail bag and cash worth $30,000 in today's dollars.

The site of the stick up has been pinpointed just northeast of Lanigan, near the future site of Saskatchewan's Irish Colony. In 1905, a group of settlers arrived from Quebec and took homesteads there. They were recruited by Father John Sinnett, a Roman Catholic priest and immigration agent based in Prince Albert.

They called their town Sinnett and, since the settlers were of Irish decent, the area became known as the Irish Colony. More Irish settlers arrived from Canada, United States and Ireland, among them my great grandfather Jack McNulty from Ontario.

His daughter Josephine, my Grandma Jo, was so proud of her Irish heritage she cooked a feast on St. Patrick's Day to rival Christmas dinner. Of course, meals were more modest in the early days of the Irish Colony, and one can imagine the table set with a big pot of economical colcannon.

There are many variations on Irish colcannon. Use kale in place of cabbage and ham in place of bacon, or no meat at all. As for Saskatchewan's only stage coach robbery, the bandit got fourteen years but the money was never recovered. Perhaps it's buried in a pot at the end of the rainbow.

(Make some Irish Soda Bread with that!) 

2 lbs potatoes (3 large)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup warm milk
4 cups shredded cabbage
3-4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1/2 cup chopped onion or leek
3/4 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper
Chopped parsley or green onion to garnish

Peel, quarter and cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. Mash with butter and milk, adding more milk if needed to make a smooth puree. Keep warm. Cook cabbage in boiling water for 10 minutes and drain. Cook bacon in a large skillet until soft. Stir in onion and cook until bacon is done. Add cabbage, stirring in salt and pepper, and cook a few minutes longer. Blend cabbage into the warm mashed potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley or green onion.

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(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

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