Smoked eel with potatoes and buttermilk
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
For the eel and buttermilk foam 250ml cream
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.