Jellied eel, photo by PH Morton
Jellied eel – a traditional East-end Recipe
Peter had been wanting jellied eel – made to a traditional East-end recipe, for ages.
On his birthday, just before Christmas last year, he had his wish granted at Manze’s pie and mash & eel shop (known as shops as opposed to being called a restaurant or cafe). The shop is adjacent to the Chapel Market in Islington North London.
We visit Chapel Market around Christmas time every year for our fresh vegetables, meat etc., for the festive family meals.
Anyway, it was rather lucky that Manze had not run out of the eel delicacy yet when Peter enquired as usually eels are off the menu by lunchtime!
Jellied eels are served as a side dish to pie & mash.
The traditional pie is normally made of suet based pastry pie containing minced beef. The mash is mashed potato.
The delicious green tinged liquor served as a gravy with pie & mash was traditionally made using the water kept from the preparation of the stewed eels, but nowadays mainly from the parsley used with cooking of the jellied eels.
Peter said he enjoyed the jellied eel but I am not too sure as I think I saw his face turned rather green at some point. 🙂
When I was still a little girl, eels were quite a delicacy in our province in the Philippines. It was fun trying to catch them because they were so slippery; it was almost impossible to catch them without a net. The eels used to live in dykes around our ricefield.
photo from www.rainwaterharvesting.org
The dykes were so clean, that you can drink from them if you are desperately thirsty but we used to go up further afield to the waterfall, which sourced our farm.
With a feat of engineering, my father was able to harness the water directly from the waterfall using a course of bamboos which carried the water not only into the field but to my mother’s huge water clay jars as well, giving us fresh, cool drinking water. The taste was definitely better than any bottled mineral water that are on sale nowadays.
Anyway, I digress! When we caught enough eels after much screaming and hilarity, my mother would salt them liberally to remove the slime and then she would cook it with sprouts from vines (not sure of the name of the plant, will find out) growing near our farmhouse which give a very sour taste; perfectly delicious.
Eel is delicious eaten hot but I am not too sure about cold jellied eel. I couldn’t really comment too much because I turned down Peter’s generosity to taste his eel meal. 🙂
Anyway, he said it was good and that is good enough for me.
If you happen to come across some eel to cook here is the recipe for the jellied eel.
1/2tsp Grated nutmeg
Juice and zest from a lemon
handful of fresh herbs such as parley, thyme an coriander, chopped finely
Fish stock – 600 ml (1 pint)
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 small carrot, chopped finely
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
Method of Preparation:
1. Skin and bone the eels but do not cut them up. Lay them on the table, skin side down and sprinkle with grated nutmeg, a little grated lemon zest and the chopped herbs.
2. Cut the fish into pieces about 4 inches long. Roll up each piece and tie with strong cotton or fine string. Put the stock, vegetables and bouquet garni into a saucepan and bring to he boil. Add the eels and simmer very gently until tender, for about an hour.
3. Lift out the fish take off the cotton or string and place the eels in a basin. Measure the stock and make up to 450 ml (* pint) with water.
4. Add the gelatine to the lemon juice to dissolve the gelatine, then add this to the hot stock. Stir until completely dissolved. Strain this over the fish and leave to set.
5. Turn out when cold and serve with a green salad and sliced gherkins.