Rowley Leigh’s Smoked Eel and Bacon Salad.

Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Week In Week Out‘ is a strong contender for the title of ‘my favourite cookbook ever’. He makes use of so many beloved ingredients, with recipes that make my heart skip a beat and my thighs quiver in fear every time I look at them. A book for the calorie counter it ain’t. Nor the vegetarian. The squeamish can also forget it, as Simon is a huge advocate of nose to tail eating. All these qualities combine to form a sumptuously photographed, mouth-wateringly carnivorous (there’s also a lot of fish) and very British cook book.

The book begins with this salad, showcasing one of my favourite smoked beasties – the eel. I love that rich, oily texture, which works well with crisp, streaky bacon and a sinful beurre blanc. This is the first time I’ve attempted this sauce at home and I was surprised at how easy it was although again, not for the faint hearted.

As I’ve been growing in confidence with wine tasting recently, I wanted to have a go at matching some wine with the eel. I chose a wine (an Austrian Grüner Veltliner), based on a vague memory of a Twitter conversation with Dan from Bibendum. I also asked the man in the shop, just to keep all bases covered and he agreed enthusiastically so I went ahead and bought it.

It turned out that Grüner was an excellent match for the eel – quite a bit of acidity to cut through the richness of the salad, notes of peach and grapefruit with a peppery finish. I also thought I detected a bit of floweryness (that’s an acceptable wine description, surely?) on the nose. There, I said it. My first blogged attempt at wine tasting. Now I nervously anticipate your comments.

I may lack confidence with the wine, but I will boldly say that you should make this salad. It is smoky, soft, crispy and buttery and immensely good for you (mostly psychologically). And, dare I say it, your experience may be further enhanced should you pair it with a glass of Grüner Veltliner.

Rowley Leigh’s Smoked Eel and Bacon Salad (serves 4)
(from ‘Week in Week Out’ by Simon Hopkinson)

1 small salad frisee (the inside, yellow bits). I used curly endive
A squeeze of lemon juice and a tiny splash of light olive oil to dress the above
Salt and pepper
200g smoked eel fillets, sliced very lengthways as thinly as possible
8 rashers of smoked, streaky bacon, grilled until crisp
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped chives

For the beurre blanc
2 shallots, very finely chopped
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons white wine
4 tablespoons water
250g very cold, fine quality unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

– Make the beurre blanc: using a small stainless steel or enamelled pan, combine shallots, vinegar, wine and water. Reduce over a very moderate heat until almost no liquid is left. Then, reduce the heat to as low as possible and add the butter one chunk at a time (using a small whisk), until it is all incorporated. It should look like light, slightly jellied custard. Season and keep somewhere warm (but not actually on the heat).
– Separate frisee into thin leaves and dress with the lemon juice, oil and seasoning. Arrange evenly on the plate as a base for the salad.
– Arrange the eel strips on top, the bacon bits around the edge and then spoon the beurre blanc ‘in and around’. Garnish with the chopped chives.

Category: Fish, Lunchbox, Salads, Starters 13 comments »

13 Responses to “Rowley Leigh’s Smoked Eel and Bacon Salad.”

  1. Fiona Beckett

    Sounds a great recipe. Smoked eel and beetroot are sooo good together and I can imagine them going really well with Gruner Veltliner (Riesling too).

    Very good tasting note btw. Yes, flowery is a perfectly acceptable wine tasting term though Gruner is often likened to green pepper and grapefruit. You’ll be doing us wine hacks out of a job in no time ;-)

  2. Fearless Kitchen

    This looks delicious. Smoked eel isn’t readily available near me, or at least I haven’t seen it very often, but if I do I’ll know what to make with it!

    Fearless Kitchens last blog post..Recipe: Chinese-style Roast Pork

  3. nina

    Oh wow, perfection on a plate!!!Lovely!

    ninas last blog post..Five Spice Chicken with Soba Noodles

  4. Keri

    I haven’t had smoked eel for ages, I’m not sure if I’ve ever had it at home actually. I really do like it though and this looks great.

    We had a Gruner Veltliner with our Thai dish on Sunday and it stood up very well to that, I can imagine it with smoky fish too.

    Keris last blog post..Rabbit and Leek Pie

  5. Y

    A thigh quivering inducing cookbook? :)

    I love smoked eel.. too bad it’s not terribly common here. That wine sounds lovely!

    Ys last blog post..Daring Bakers Challenge : Chocolate Valentino Cake

  6. The Graphic Foodie

    Years ago my uncle used to come down from London (on the train!) with a huge bucket of live eels that he then transfered into our bath until we were ready to cook them for a huge christmas eve family meal. Peering over the side of the bath as a four year old has created an lasting image that has seriously put me off eels for life!

    The Graphic Foodies last blog post..REVIEW: The Chilli Pickle, Brighton

  7. Lizzie

    I love smoked eel, we usually have it at Christmas as it’s rather indulgent. This sounds like a nice simple recipe to really let the eel shine through; the lasagne I made recently was derived from a Rowley Leigh recipe and it really impressed me.

    Lizzies last blog post..Intermission

  8. Peter

    It’s a pity people are put off on eel because it looks snake-like when it’s a fish.

    Smoked anything is high on my list, this salad is divine!

  9. Ros

    I need to try eel again. I had a bad experience with jellied eels in a dodgy pie and mash shop on the Goldhawk Road a few years ago and thought that eels made me wretch.

    From your photo I can see these eels are quite different from the ones I bought so I will keep an eye out for them.

    Ross last blog post..I Can’t Believe It

  10. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen

    This looks really really delicious! I am a huge fan of smoked eel as sushi, but I have never had it any other way – I have never really seen it any other way…man am I missing out!

    JennDZ_The LeftoverQueens last blog post..Sweet and Tangy Stewed Pork Country Ribs… in a Tagine

  11. Chuck

    I had eel for the first time myself while on vacation in New Orleans and I loved it. Now I have a recipe to make it myself. Thank you!

    Chucks last blog post..Caramelized Black Walnut Bread Recipe

  12. aforkfulofspaghetti

    Oh yum. I love somked eel. First tried it years ago in Alastair Little’s restaurant, and have been hooked ever since! This salad sounds very tasty – if only we could have some rather more summery weather to go with it!

    aforkfulofspaghettis last blog post..a poorly computer… and – coming very soon…

  13. Gourmet Chick

    I love the look of this – it looks so fresh and light but also comforting at the same time.

    Gourmet Chicks last blog post..Tsuru

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