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Parrett Eels

Elvers are cooked for a special tasting

News 1981 4 mins

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Reporter Mike Whitmarsh talks to fishermen catching eels on the River Parrett in Somerset. The eels are caught for export to continental Europe. TV chef Frances Kitchin is on hand to test their popularity with members of the public. Elvers, juvenile eels are the UK’s most expensive menu item and arrive in spring after migrating from the Sargasso Sea. River eels grown to full size are a delicacy many cultures whether smoked, fried or jellied. Stocks are in decline.

The British public have fallen out of love with the eel. Eel, pie and mash houses use to be a common phenomenon. Jellied eels are a traditional English dish synonymous with the cockneys of London’s East End. Eels are boiled in a spiced stock, then cool and set forming a jelly that is eaten cold with pie and mash. In the 18th century eels were considered poor man’s food but they remain popular in the rest of Europe, the dish eels in green herb sauce replicates eels in mud and the firm white flesh and texture sits in a thick dense earthy green sauce. Eel farming is an important fishery and eels have not quite been expunged into culinary oblivion. I'll give you a great jelly on it means a good deal in cockney rhyming slang.