Eel and Elver

A Complete Guide

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Beginning and ending their lives in the sea they spend the rest of it as a freshwater fish. Hatched from the female’s eggs, the sea’s currents take up the growing larva and it is during this period of ‘swimming’ that the larva metamorphoses into a tiny glass eel. As it grows it becomes an elver, or baby eel before metamorphosing itself once again into an adult eel. Their journey is long, arduous and quite incredible, making their way across the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea to the rivers of Europe where they have long been considered a delicacy.

Conger Eel

The Conger Eel is found in the Mediterranean and off the British coasts whilst a similar variety can be found off Cape Cod in the US. A meaty fish it can be braised or roasted and is known for its long shelf life once killed and refrigerated. Elvers are notoriously difficult to find and when you do prepare to pay heavily for them. They are delicious and should be cooked quite simply to highlight the natural taste. There are many recipes for eel, I particularly like smoked eel, which is wonderful in a salad or served hot with bacon and mashed potatoes.

One of the most famous of all eel dishes must be jellied eel from London, the bones of eels are loaded with natural gelatine which floods into the cooking liquor of water and wine and, when cold results in a flavoursome jelly flavoured with nutmeg, fresh herbs and sprinkled with chilli hot vinegar.

Content and picture © Miles Collins