A classic British smoked fish
Long, slimy-looking and snake-like: to the uninitiated, eels probably aren’t the most appealing of the offerings found at Borough’s fishmongers. But if you’re up for discovering their charms, the smoked variety is a very good place to start: skinned, de-boned and packaged at Furness Fish & Game or simply chopped into manageable chunks, skin intact, at Shellseekers Fish & Game.
“We get it in fresh each day from Billingsgate, from fishmongers who catch it off the coast of Ireland and smoke it themselves,” explains Andy at Shellseekers. “We go through it quickly—about 10 to 12 eels a week. It’s very popular, particularly with our eastern European customers. It’s an everyday ingredient in that part of the world.”
Strong, smoky flavour
Due to the smoking process, eel is safe to eat straight off the stall—which is what we do, albeit with mild trepidation. But we needn’t have faltered: it’s firm without being rubbery, with a strong, smoky flavour, not dissimilar to smoked mackerel. “You can just pull it apart, but I would suggest peeling the skin off and chopping it up. Watch out for the bone, too.”
Stirred into a creamy, lemon-spiked sauce with tagliatelle a la Padella, perched atop potato pancakes with fiery horseradish, or even simply sandwiched between thick cut bread and dressed with a few fresh leaves, smoked eel has many more strings to its bow than being an addition to cold salad—though it’s great for that, too.
Great with soft herbs
“Smoked eel has a strong flavour which goes really nicely with soft herbs such as mint,” enthuses Luke Hawkins, head chef at The Globe. “Pair it with raw apple in a nice autumnal salad, perhaps with some yoghurt dressing, or it’s great with the earthy flavour of beetroot, dolloped with some goat’s curd. It’s absolutely delicious.”
Keeping it as is, adds Luke, is the best way to treat smoked eel. “You don’t want to mess with it too much,” he advises. “I’ve seen chefs play around with it in the past—making parfaits and mousses, for example—but it can go quite gelatinous and in my opinion, not very nice. Keep it cold and pair it with some great tasting, simple ingredients and you won’t go wrong.”