Champ is a dish closely associated with Ireland, where it has been made for centuries. It consists of mashed potatoes, traditionally mixed with scallions, and sometimes with peas added. During Ireland's historical periods of financial struggle, numerous families ate champ frequently, since it was cheap and relatively nutritious. The dish is related to colcannon, another Irish potato dish. Most countries have some variation on champ, such as the Dutch stamppot boerenkool.
In addition to being eaten year round, champ is also traditionally served at Halloween. The cook includes a coin, and good luck is said to strike whoever eats the portion with the coin included. Some Irish families continue the tradition of eating champ at Halloween, in a nod to their heritage. People outside of Ireland frequently come across recipes for champ when looking for things to cook with potatoes.
To make champ, potatoes suitable for mashing are boiled in a large pot. While the potatoes boil, milk or cream and butter are gently heated in a saucepan. Scallions, also called spring onions, are thinly sliced and added to the milk mixture, so that the milk will be infused with the flavor. The potatoes are drained and mashed or run through a food mill, and the milk is mixed with the potatoes. The resulting dish is mashed potatoes with an oniony twist. Some cooks add peas or other vegetables to their champ, making the dish more interesting in flavor as well as more nutritious.
Colcannon, a related dish, is made with cabbage or kale instead of scallions. Usually the added ingredient is cooked separately, rather than being mixed with the milk and cream. Plentiful amounts of salt and black pepper are added to both dishes, which can also easily be made vegan with the use of ingredients such as margarine and soy milk. Other ingredients and spices such as nutmeg, garlic, or paprika can be added to champ for more variation.
Numerous variations on champ and colcannon are served around the world. They are often served at dinners which are intended to celebrate Irish heritage, since the potato is so closely linked with Irish history. Ingredients like scallions, kale, and cabbage were also common in Ireland, since they grow in poor soil and in cold weather conditions. The nutritional value of ingredients like kale mixed with potatoes helped to stave off starvation for the Irish during lean periods. Although these ingredients no longer need to be eaten out of necessity, many people have developed a taste for them.