I take so much pleasure in trying new dishes. It’s like a miniature adventure, a microcosmic window into history and culture, feeling and smelling a cool breeze of fresh air after being numb in a stale and stagnant room. Even after spending most of my summers in England, I had yet sample the slippery pleasures of the traditional dish of jellied eels. The eels popped up during a conversation with my brother-in-law at my sister’s house and I was fortunate enough to receive a (rather large) portion for my birthday.
The chopped eels are stewed with vinegar and spices until a stock forms. The natural proteins and gelatine from the fish are released into the cooking liquid and cause it to set when cool, thus forming the wonderful wobbles of the illustrious English dish. I am quite fond of savoury jellies and if you like terrines or soft cold meat dishes, then jellied eels should be right up your alley. The jelly itself is very flavourful. Imagine a set seafood stock that has been lightly spiced. It had a very clean and refreshing seafood fragrance. The eels themselves were much like any other poached fish with flaky white meat. As this was my first experience with jellied eels, I wasn’t entire sure where this particular recipe sat on the scale of jellied joy. My sister said they were slightly overcooked, which I could understand. I really enjoy eel in other dishes so I could see how the meat in this particular batch had probably been taken a bit too far. But even so, the method of cooking the eel in the rich jiggly stock still produces a very tender fish meat with a texture similar to that of canned tuna or salmon. It went great on crisp buttered toast or just on its own to get the full jellied eel experience.