Smoked eel with pota­toes and but­ter­milk

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD -

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have found ev­i­dence of eel fishing dat­ing back to the Bronze Age. In an­cient times, the most ef­fi­cient way of fishing for eel would have been trap­ping, us­ing sta­tion­ary wooden fish traps, at the mouth of fresh­wa­ter streams, dur­ing their mi­gra­tion into the sea.

Eel could also be caught us­ing a three- pronged spear. In the mid­dle ages, eel was a source of pro­tein for the poor. Eel weirs were estab­lished and though eel con­sump­tion has de­clined, Lough Neagh, in Northern Ire­land, is the home of the largest wild caught eel fish­ery in Europe. Eel fishing has been a ma­jor in­dus­try on the lough for cen­turies.

Since the 1960, Lough Neagh Fish­er­men’s Co- op­er­a­tive have the rights to man­age the fish­ery. It now man­ages the pro­duc­tion of around 400 tonnes of eels an­nu­ally and ex­ports in­ter­na­tion­ally. The eel is brined and then smoked tra­di­tion­ally. I find it un­for­tu­nate that most peo­ple do not want to en­gage with eel nowa­days.

No doubt this is due to it re­ceiv­ing poor treat­ment in their child­hood: over­cooked and taste­less. Boiled eel in a heavy white sauce does not sound very ap­petis­ing in the least. Eel was also as­so­ci­ated with poverty ( as was most fish). It is time we re- eval­u­ate our at­ti­tude to eel. Though eel stocks are low and most com­mer­cial fishing in not al­lowed, this is no rea­son not to try it. Smoked eel is a re­ally del­i­cacy and a proper prod­uct and taste tied to Ir­ish his­tory.


800g baby pota­toes

75g but­ter

Sea salt

For the eel and but­ter­milk foam 250ml cream

250ml but­ter­milk

60g smoked eel

3 gela­tine leaves, bloomed Sea salt

To gar­nish: 100g pars­ley


1. Boil the pota­toes in salted wa­ter un­til ten­der and then strain. Melt the but­ter in the pot. When it starts to foam, toss the pota­toes through it. Sea­son with sea salt.

2. Com­bine the cream and the eel and warm. Add the bloomed gela­tine. Re­move from the heat and al­low to in­fuse for 15 min­utes. Blend with a hand blender and strain through a fine sieve. Add the but­ter­milk. Sea­son to taste. Pour into a siphon gun and charge twice. Keep warm.

3. Dry the pars­ley in a 50 oven for 4- 6 hours. Blend and sieve and place in a su­gar sifter.

4. To serve: di­vide the pota­toes onto four warm plates. Cover with the eel foam and gar­nish with some pars­ley pow­der.

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