The diet of northern European peasantry relied heavily upon the potato ever since it was imported from Peru in the sixteenth century. In Celtic Britain it was taboo to harvest any potatoes before the festival of Lugnasa, and so the event was met with great anticipation. Colcannon, a potato and cabbage dish-variations of which are legion-is traditionally served on Lugnasa. All members of the family must share the dish or risk offending the agricultural spirit that protects the crop. After the first bite everyone shouts, "Death to the Red Hag!" thus driving away the specter of starvation.
Rumpledethumps is a colcannon that includes broccoli and cheddar cheese; it serves equally well as a luncheon or side dish. There are over one zillion know varieties of colcannon, and we have tried them all. This one is best.
1 lb. potatoes
1 c. chopped cabbage
1 leek, washed and chopped
1¼ c. coarsely chopped broccoli
3 tbs. butter
a pinch of mace
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbs. milk
¾ c. grated cheddar cheese
Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks, and boil them in salted water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, steam the cabbage, leeks, and broccoli. Melt one tablespoon of the butter and stir in the mace. Mix this seasoned butter and salt and pepper to taste into the steamed vegetables.
Drain the potatoes and mash with one more tablespoon butter, the milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the seasoned vegetables and mix evenly. Spread in an oiled 13x9-inch baking pan. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and drizzle it over the potato mixture. Sprinkle the top with the grated cheese. Place under the broiler for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbly.
If you'd like to prepare Rumpledethumps ahead of time, omit the cheese topping, cover the baking pan tightly, and refrigerate. Later, bake, covered with foil, for 30 minutes at 350º. Uncover, sprinkle with the cheese, and place Rumpledethumps under the broiler for a few minutes to brown.
Adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant.