Seasonal pantry: Colcannon and Scotch Broth warm the soul as St. Patrick's Day comes up

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It’s certainly been a soup year, so far, hasn’t it? Soup, especially homemade soup, warms us from the inside out when nature is doing all it can to keep us shivering, cold and wet.

Even the process of making soup is a comfort, as good a distraction as, say, making risotto. It is mesmerizing and envelops us in warmth and delicious aromas.

And now it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, a time for many of us to go to our favorite bar or restaurant for corned beef and cabbage and to turn our mouths green by drinking beer with food coloring. For me, it is a favorite time to cook.

This year, because I’m still in a soup mood, that’s my focus for the holiday. If it is still cold when the holiday comes around, I might enjoy a glass of Irish whiskey with both of these soups.

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Colcannon is a classic Irish side dish, often served as a casserole. But many Irish cooks and chefs also make soup based on it, as I have done here. To make the soup the centerpiece of a meal, add a big green salad and some Irish soda bread alongside.

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Colcannon Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings

3 ounces bacon, cut into small dice

4 tablespoons butter

3-4 leeks, white and pale green parts only, split, thoroughly washed and sliced very thinly

½ green cabbage or 2 small bunches Lacinato kale

— Kosher salt

2 pounds potatoes, such as Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold, scrubbed and thinly sliced

6 cups homemade chicken stock, plus 2 cups more, if needed

½ cup creme fraiche

— Whole nutmeg

— Black pepper in a mill

1 cup heavy cream, optional

1 cup half-and-half, plus more as needed, optional

1/2 cup snipped fresh chives

Put the bacon into a large heavy pot set over medium heat and fry until it is crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer it to absorbent paper.

Add 3 tablespoons of the butter and when it is melted, add the leeks and sauté, stirring now and then, until they are very limp; adjust the heat as necessary and do not let them brown.

While the leeks cook, remove the core of the cabbage or the big stems of the kale. Cut the cabbage into very thin slices. If using kale, stalk the leaves and cut them into very thin crosswise slices.

Add the cabbage or kale to the pot and cook, stirring now and then, until it wilts, about 7 to 8 minutes. Season with salt, add the potatoes and cook for 2 minutes.

Pour in the stock, increase the heat to high and, as soon as the stock boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Use a thin spoon to remove and discard any foam or other impurities that rise to the surface.

Meanwhile, put the creme fraiche into a small bowl, add several gratings of nutmeg, several turns of black pepper and a few pinches of salt. Stir until smooth, taste and correct the seasoning. Cover and set aside.

When the potatoes are tender, add the cream and half-and-half, if using. If not using these ingredients, add the additional 2 cups of chicken broth. Simmer very gently for 10 minutes more.

Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Taste the soup, correct for salt and add several turns of black pepper. If you prefer a chunky soup, leave it as it is. If you prefer a smooth soup, use an immersion blender to purée the soup — all or part of it — until it is the consistency you like. Stir in the chives.

Ladle into soup bowls or soup plates, drizzle each portion with a generous swirl of the seasoned creme fraiche and sprinkle with some of the bacon. Enjoy right away.

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Scotch Broth is neither. It is a traditional Irish soup, and it is not a broth at all, but a hearty soup that makes as good a main course as it does a first course. I love my pressure cooker but if you have an Instant Pot or similar device, you can use it. Just follow the manufacturer’s instruction. You can also make this without either; just cook everything long enough that all ingredients are tender.

Scotch Broth

Makes 4 to 8 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 pounds lamb necks or bone-in lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch pieces

— Kosher salt

1 large onion, peeled and quartered

1 celery rib, cut in half crosswise

2 large carrots, peeled and cut in half crosswise

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup pearled barley, preferably soaked in water for several hours, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons butter

3-4 small leeks, white and pale green part only, split, washed and sliced into very thin rounds

2 pounds young turnips, peeled and cut into quarters

2 parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks

1/2 cup golden lentils, picked over and rin sed

— Black pepper in a mill

4 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

Put the olive oil into a pressure cooker set over medium heat, add the lamb, season generously with salt and brown, stirring frequently. Add 8 cups of water, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam that rises to the surface. Add the onion, celery ribs, carrot, bay leaves and barley.

Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Quick-release the pressure according to manufacturer’s instructions. When the pressure has dropped completely, remove the lid, tilting it away from you so that the steam does not burn you.

Set a large strainer over a bowl or pot and strain the soup. Discard the vegetables (if you have a dog, save the carrots for him or her) and bay leaf; pull the meat off the bones and discard the bones. Degrease the liquid (a gravy separator will do this nicely). Set the meat and barley aside.

Rinse the pressure cooker, set over medium heat and add the butter. Sauté the leeks until wilted, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt, add the broth, turnips, parsnips and golden lentils and add several turns of black pepper.

Increase the heat to high, lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure. Reduce the heat but maintain high pressure and cook for 4 minutes. Quick-release the pressure and unlock the lid. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes, stir in the meat and barley and ladle into soup bowls. Top each portion with some of the parsley and serve immediately.

Michele Anna Jordan is Irish by ancestry; her Irish last name is Duffy. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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