Ingredient | Eel

EelWorkers
Eel workers in Toomebridge at Lough Neagh in the north of Ireland

 

 

Ireland is home to some of the tastiest eels in Europe.

Every year between May and October, Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society ship boxes of live eels packed in ice from Belfast International Airport to Heathrow and Schipol.

In England they are jellied, in Holland they are smoked, but in Ireland they are shunned.

An oily fish rich with omega 3, the Dutch eat more smoked eel than fresh eel.

Dutch eel-smokers only smoke the fatter fish, because it tastes better, and that is why they covet Irish eels.

When the Dutch do cook fresh eel they follow a centuries old tradition that can be traced from the Flanders shore northwards into the Fresian sands and around into the Baltic. This is eel soup.

Another tradition has eels lightly dusted with flour and fried in hot oil. This dish is still popular on both shores of the Adriatic.

In Italy it is served in a tangy sauce.

On the Balkan shore, in Montenegro, the eels of Lake Skada are a treasured delicacy. Here fried eels are served with rice.

 

Hamburger Aalsuppe

 

Hanseatic Hamburg shared a culinary tradition with the coastal and river towns from the Thames of London across to Flanders, Holland up to the Wadden islands around into the Baltic.

This was characterised by the varying methods of cooking popular fishes, which for many seafarers was the enigmatic eel. More often than not it was a choice between soup and sauce.

Jan Morris, that intrepid travel writer of the post-WWII era, described the soup as ‘one of the great seamen’s dishes of Europe’. In Hamburg’s wharf restaurants it was served with prunes and onions, garnished with herbs and ‘washed down with beer-and-schnapps’.

It still is, but it is a little bit more expensive than it used to be.

 

1.5 litres fish stock
1 kg eels, cut into 5 cm pieces
500 g prunes/pears, sliced
250 ml white wine
100 g peas
1 carrot, cubed
1 celery stalk, sliced, cubed
1 white leek stalk, chopped
4 parsley sprigs, chopped
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
Salt, pinch
Wine vinegar, splash

 

Simmer eel pieces in stock, vinegar and seasonings for 15 minutes, strain stock into separate pot, set eels aside.

Put the vegetables into the stock, pour in the wine, cook over a medium heat until carrots are soft, add eel pieces and prunes/pears, simmer for five minutes.

Garnish with parsley.

 

Aalsoep

 

This is the Dutch version.

 

1.5 litres salted water
1 kg eels, cut into 5 cm pieces
50 g capers, chopped
45 g butter
45 g flour
12 parsley sprigs, chopped
Salt, pinch

 

Simmer eel pieces in salted water for 15 minutes, remove eels.

Combine flour and butter with three tablespoons of eel stock.

Put the capers, parsley and roux into the stock, bring heat up, boil for five minutes.

Reduce heat, simmer for ten minutes.

Arrange eel pieces in soup bowls, cover with stock, garnish with parsley.

 

Paling in’t Groen

 

Further south in Flanders eel was served with a green sauce made with fresh river herbs and wild leaf vegetables, one or more of a choice from chervil, sorrel, spinach, watercress and wild garlic leaves.

The sauce should be aromatic and not too thick.

 

1 kg eel, cut into 5 cm pieces
1 litre fish stock
300g green herbs/vegetables, chopped small
25g butter
25g flour
1 lemon, juice
1 mint sprig
1 parsley sprig
Black pepper, freshly ground, pinch
Salt, pinch

Poach eel in stock over a low heat for 15 minutes. Make a light roux, add 350ml of stock, bring to the boil, add greens, lemon juice and seasonings, reduce heat and cook for five minutes. For a thinner sauce use a little more stock. Coat the eel pieces with the sauce, garnish with mint and parsley. Serve with fries.

Anguille Incarpinate

 

500 g eels, cut into small pieces
120 ml vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 sprig rosemary
Flour, for dusting
Oil, for frying
Salt, large pinch

Combine flour with salt, and dust the eel pieces lightly.

Heat oil to almost smoking point, fry eel pieces quickly on all sides, remove and keep warm.

Boil vinegar with garlic and rosemary for five minutes.

Arrange eel pieces in a large bowl. Drizzle vinegar sauce over eels, serve.

 

 

Jegulju na Orizu

 

JeguljunaOrizu-low-res
Eels on Rice

 

 

Lake fish – carp, eels, perch, pike, trout – are one of the great delicacies of Europe.

The Swiss will argue that their lake cuisine is unquestionably the most diverse.

The Hungarians will question that haughty assumption.

The Montenegrins will shake their heads at these notions and suggest a visit to Lake Skadar.

Shared with Albania, this basin of water sits inside the mountains that separate the Adriatic coastline from the Podgorica plain.

Carp dishes predominate and grilled eel is popular, but it is eel on rice that attracts diners to lake shore restaurants.

 

1 kg eel, cut into 4 cm chunks
300 g rice, parboiled
200 g carrots, chopped
200 g onions, chopped
1 lemon, juice
4 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
10 g Vegeta
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp salt
Olive oil, for frying and cooking
Water, for cooking

 

Dust eel pieces with salt, dry in oil in a frying pan over a high heat, two minutes each side, remove, set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan, and sauté carrots, garlic and onion, about ten minutes.

Add rice, seasonings and spices, stir, reduce heat to low, adding three tablespoons of water, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, leave to rest for ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Spoon rice mixture into oiled baking tray, arrange eel chunks on top, splash each with a little oil.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice.

 


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