Smoked eel, hispi cabbage & dulse

by James Lowe

A clean yet woody dish from James Lowe, head chef at Lyle’s

We make this using the charcoal grill at Lyle’s. It’s a clean dish but the flavours of wood and coal are very much present. If you want to go the whole hog, I would suggest you build a barbecue, but a regular grill is still excellent!


200g dulse
160g best quality cider vinegar
40g sugar
1 whole smoked eel
200g apple juice (acidic, not from concentrate)
50g konbu
10g white soy sauce
20g honey
1 hispi cabbage


For the dulse, rinse away the salt (if bought salted). Bring the vinegar and sugar to a simmer to dissolve the sugar, allow to cool, then pour over the dulse. Ideally leave for 3 days. This will keep for a month easily and you can use in other fish dishes. The vinegar is also very useful with any number of things because of the high umami flavour it develops. We use it with lamb and beef at Lyle’s.

Fillet the eel. Remove the head, skin, rib bones and back bone. Cut the eel into appropriate sized pieces, trimming the thin tail piece away.

Take all of the trim and place above a charcoal grill to dry and brown slightly. I tend to put the bones around 50cm above the coals so that they don’t char but instead slowly brown. This should take 30 mins. Alternatively, you can roast in the oven for around 15 mins at 170C, until brown.

Combine the apple juice and grilled eel trim in a heavy based pan. Add 2 litres water and place on the heat. Bring to simmer and cook for 10 mins, then turn the heat down to 65C and add the konbu. Continue to cook out for 20-30 mins. Pass off the liquid and reduce by a third. Season with white soy sauce, honey and salt.

To prepare the cabbage, take the darkest outer leaves and discard, but keep 2 leaves per person from the next set of leaves. You want the green leaves so the dish tastes fresh; when the leaves are yellow, they tend to taste of stewed cabbage when cooked, which is not what we’re after here.

Remove the central rib, brush the leaves with oil, then grill them. You want to burn them slightly. Take off the heat, season them while warm with salt and dulse vinegar. Leave covered in a bowl so they continue to wilt a little.

To serve, grill or fry the eel pieces to gain colour and soften the tissue and fats. Place the eel on the plate with 2 strands of pickled dulse on top of each piece. Pour on a couple of spoons of the hot reduced broth and cover with the charred, wilted cabbage leaves to kind of resemble an old-school ‘chou-farcie’ (stuffed cabbage).

Recipe: James Lowe
Images: John Holdship