#197 Sedgemoor Eel Stew

The first of four eel-based recipes from the book (five if you include the elvers recipe) and hopefully the star turn for my dinner party. I chose this one first because I knew them some people would be squeamish about them and this one seemed the least scary. It’s called a stew, but really it’s poached fish in a parsley sauce; a dish that everyone’s had in some way or form before. It’s a classic Somerset recipe this, where there are eels in abundance (according to Griggers); this is not the case so much these days, certainly for Manchester. However, I did get them. Try your fishmonger and you never know; I got mine from Out of the Blue in Chorlton. Be warned – you do get them live, so be prepared to kill them and prepare them yourself. Read how I went about it here.

This serves six easily.

You need three to four pounds of clean and skinned freshwater eel for this recipe. Begin by cutting the eel(s) into even-sized portions of around two inches in length. Season them lightly. Make a stock from the eel heads and skin as well as the flat part of the tails: Place the trimmings in a pan and cover them with half-water, half-cider (use good dry cider). Bring to a boil and then cover and summer for twenty minutes.

Arrange the eel pieces in a shallow pan and pour over enough hot stock to barely cover the eels. Poach the eels for around fifteen minutes, until the eel meat starts to come away from the bones. Don’t let the stock come to a proper boil though – steady poaching is the key, and it may take longer with thicker eels. When cooked, remove the eel pieces and arrange them on a serving dish, cover them with cling film and keep them warm.

Now make the sauce by boiling down the cooking liquor until it tastes strongly and then add ¼ pint (i.e. a 150 ml pot) of clotted, Jersey or double cream and four tablespoons of chopped parsley. Season again if required. Pour the sauce over the eel and serve. She suggests serving this stew with toast or fried bread. As fried bread had already featured in the last two courses, I went for toast. I also served some broccoli too.

#197 Sedgemoor Eel Stew. This was really good; the sauce was both sharp and creamy due to the cider and fresh with grassy parsley. The flavours were robust, but not too strong to mask the eel itself. It was very delicate in flavour; you could tell that they had come from a very good river as it tasted of fresh springwater. It stayed beautifully moist due to the gelatinous nature of it too. Much superior to salmon or trout, I think. Now that people don’t eat eel, I feel I have found a real hidden gem. I just have to go through the rigmarole of killing and cleaning them! At least I can say that this was the freshest fish I’ve ever had! 8.5/10

FYI: delicious as eel maybe, beware if someone offers you raw eel, say as sashimi. Eel blood is toxic before it is cooked, so if you get given a bloody bit, it could be a bad man trying to do away with you.

6 thoughts on “#197 Sedgemoor Eel Stew

  1. This was a delicious sauce, but I'm not so sure about the eel itself… Not so fond of the gelatinous texture & the bones made it quite a lot of work for not a huge reward! But the flavours were lovely – perfect for this West Country girl!XX


  2. Pfft! I didn't think the bones were much work at all myself – certainly nowhere near as fiddly as an unshelled prawn say – and the meat was reward enough. Like normal white fish but a bit tougher (in a nice way) and I agree the gelatinous layer kept it nice and moist. I wouldn't replace my salmon with it, but definitely very nice.The sauce was also lovely – like a standard parsley sauce, but with a nice cider spike. On the whole, I reckon 7.5/10


  3. After all the killing malarkey (which I may have relished a little too much!) I was pleased to discover Eel also tastes good. I'm not for replacing my Salmon with it, but it was a really lovely clean tasting fish, and as noted the freshest I've ever eaten. It was a bit of a faff to eat though – I'm not picky with bones it's just I like a good bit of something to chew on and the eels, though feisty, were pretty skinny and so you didn't get much meat for your effort. Sauce was quite rich, but nice. Overall 6/10 (but 10/10 in the bonkers new experience stakes)Char x


  4. Nothing brings people together quite like bashing a few river snakes against the side of a house. Sadly, i didn't partake in the mauling so I can only judge this meal on its taste – which was damn brilliant! The sauce probably made it, rich and creamy with loads of fresh parsley. The meat itself was also delicious and I scoffed probably half an eel all told. 8/10!


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