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Jellied Conger Eel Recipes

Gordon has been sea fishing and cooking since childhood. He loves coming up with tasty ways of cooking his fresh catch when he gets home.

Jellied conger eels serving platter

Jellied conger eels serving platter

What Are Jellied Eels?

Jellied eels is a concept which was developed and rapidly grew in the East End of London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The eels used were silver, freshwater eels, taken largely from the River Thames. They were boiled in water and spices before being chopped up and potted. The natural collagen in the eels emulated gelatin, causing the poaching liquor subsequently poured over them to set like jelly.

The freshwater eel population in Britain as a whole has diminished drastically in recent years, so this recipe sees the silver eels replaced with the saltwater eel that is conger eel. The recipe has also been amended particularly to separate all bones and skin from the eel flesh before the meat only is subsequently jellied.

What is Your Experience of Jellied Eels?

Portion of conger eel

Portion of conger eel

Conger eels can grow up to 12 feet in length and weigh upwards of 300 pounds. Big eels like this, however, would not be suitable for eating as the flesh would be far too tough. If taking a conger eel for the pot when fishing, you would only want to consider a smaller eel (sometimes called strap conger eel), ensuring they are more than 36 inches (91cm) in length to comply with current minimum catch size regulations. The eel portion used in the recipes on this page was around nine inches in length.

How to Prepare Conger Eel for Poaching

Conger eels do not have scales which would require removal prior to cooking as do many types of fish. This eel portion had also already been gutted. All that remained to be removed therefore were the dorsal (top) and anal (bottom) fins. This is best done with a pair of heavy duty kitchen scissors.

Wash the eel and chop it in to steaks around an inch and a half thick. This makes for even cooking. You will find there is still some blood in the flesh so the easiest way to get rid of this is to blanche the conger portions in heavily salted water. Bring a pot of water (containing a couple of tablespoons of salt and deep enough to contain the eel portions) up to a boil. Carefully add the eel portions and simmer as gently as possible for a couple of minutes only.

Lift the eels from the water to a plate with a large slotted spoon. The water at this stage of the procedure should be discarded.

How to Poach Conger Eel

The poaching water for traditional jellied eels will include flavourants such as nutmeg, bay leaf and lemon juice. The reality is that you can add pretty much anything that takes your fancy. In this instance, the eel was accompanied in the water by a stick of celery (washed, trimmed and chopped), half a carrot (washed, trimmed and chopped) and half a white onion (peeled and chopped). Half a lime, four tablespoons of malt vinegar, four fresh basil leaves and plenty of salt and black pepper were also added.

You will later need at least a pint and a half of the poaching liquor to prepare the recipes on this page. For this reason, you should add at least two pints of cold water to the pot, as some of the liquid will be lost to evaporation.

Put the pot containing the eel and all the additions on to a high heat, just until the water starts to simmer. Reduce the heat and maintain the simmer for twenty minutes. Lift the eel portions from the water with a slotted spoon. Lay on a plate, cover and leave to cool. Put the lid on the pot and also leave to cool.

How to Separate Conger Eel Meat From Bones

Jellied eels of the traditional type will frequently be prepared with the skin and even the bone in place. They are sucked off the bone (where applicable) as they are eaten. In these recipes, the skin and bone are going to be removed in advance.

When the conger eel steaks have cooled, sit a bowl beside the plate to hold the removed flesh. Using your hands, pull the skin off the steaks. You will see the flesh is arranged in cross-section in what are four quarters. Carefully pick the flesh from the bones, adding it to the bowl as you do so. This can be just a little bit tricky and moderately time consuming but the end results more than justify the means.

Discard the skin and bones and cover the bowl of eel flesh.

How to Make the Jelly for Jellied Conger Eels

The jelly for jellied eels would traditionally be made by boiling the poaching liquor to further reduce after the eel has been removed. Egg white and crushed shells (yes, shells!) will also frequently be added. Experience has suggested, however, that conger eels do not contain the same levels of collagen (natural setting agent) as their freshwater cousins so modern ingredients were used to serve the required purpose and cut down a little bit on the overall cooking time.

The initial recipes on this page (for the small ramekins of jellied conger eel) required around three-quarters a pint of setting liquid. It is important not to find yourself short, however, so use a pint of the reserved poaching liquor to be on the safe side. Measure it out and pour it in to a saucepan.

The setting agent used is leaf gelatine. This is fairly inexpensive and can usually be found in the baking aisle/section of supermarkets. As you want the eel jelly to have a bit of a wobble but not be set too firmly, use only half the prescribed amount of gelatine for setting a pint of liquid, otherwise following carefully the instructions on the pack. In this instance, two leafs of gelatine were required to be soaked in cold water for five minutes before being squeezed out and added to the warmed liquid to dissolve. Be sure that you never allow the stock to boil after the gelatine has been added or you risk destroying some or all of its setting qualities.

Allow the gelatine infused liquid to cool significantly but not to the stage where it starts to set before pouring it in to a jug for assembling your jellied eels.

Basic Jellied Conger Eel Recipe

This first recipe could be described as basic jellied conger eel. A teaspoon was used to spoon enough eel flesh in to the ramekin to just over three-quarters fill it. Liquid was added to both cover the eel flesh and come almost but not quite up to the rim of the ramekin. The ramekin is then left until completely cool before being placed in the fridge for a couple of hours (or even overnight) for the gelatine to do its work and set.

Jellied Conger Eel and Cockles Recipe

Two ramekins were filled with this particular combination. First of all, three teaspoons each of eel and drained pickled cockles were stirred together in a bowl and seasoned with some white pepper. It was then divided evenly between the two ramekins to three-quarter fill before the setting liquid was added.

Jellied Conger Eel With Green Chilli and Onion Recipe

In this recipe, half a large green chilli was seeded and finely diced along with around a quarter of a small, peeled white onion. They were combined with four teaspoons of eel meat and seasoned with black pepper. The mix was split between two ramekins and the liquor carefully added.

Jellied Conger Eel With Onion and Parsley Recipe

This final recipe idea is similar to the one above but the green chilli is replaced by chopped parsley. The mix is again seasoned with black pepper before being added to the ramekins.

Jellied conger eel platter

Jellied conger eel platter

Serving Suggestions for Jellied Conger Eel

The platter which formed a part of this ramekin set was of practical use at this stage as well as ultimately providing attractive presentation. The ramekins were simply sat in place as they were filled before the dish was covered with a plastic food cover to let the setting liquid completely cool.

Conger eel platter is covered and the jelly is left to start setting

Conger eel platter is covered and the jelly is left to start setting

When the jellying eels were cool (an hour maximum) the serving platter was simply and carefully lifted to the fridge and sat on a shelf overnight. If desired, you could then simply take it to the lunch table the next day, provide a choice of accompaniments and let your family or guests help themselves. Alternatively, you may wish to try one or more of the serving suggestions included below.

Jellied Conger Eel and Cockles With Vinegar and White Pepper

This serving suggestion mirrors the way traditional jellied eels would be eaten either on a market street in East London or perhaps at a British seaside resort. One of the ramekins of jellied conger eel and cockles was additionally seasoned with white pepper and malt vinegar before the seasonings were folded rather than stirred through with a teaspoon and the dish eaten with the same spoon.

Jellied Conger Eel and Cockles With Pan Fried Herring Fillets

This jellied conger eel serving suggestion provides a real treat for all seafood lovers. A ramekin of jellied eel and cockles was served with two fried herring fillets, as well as simple bread and butter. The eel and cockles were again seasoned with white pepper and malt vinegar.

The fillets were firstly patted on their skin sides only in a little seasoned flour while a non-stick frying pan containing a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil was brought up to a fairly high heat. The herring were then laid in the pan skin sides down and fried until it could be seen from above that they were almost cooked. The skin protects the flesh during this time and will become crisp.

Turn the heat off and the fillets on to their flesh sides for about a minute. The residual heat will finish them off, at which stage they are ready for plating and eating.

Jellied Conger Eel and Green Chilli With Smoked Paprika

This is an equally simple serving suggestion but adds a beautiful splash of summer colour to the plate, as well as a slightly Mediterranean slant to the dish. The Med is a part of the world where seafood of all types is of course hugely popular.

A mixed salad consisting of green salad leaves of choice, sliced bell peppers (capsicums) and cherry tomatoes was washed, shaken dry, seasoned with a little salt and laid on one side of a plate. A pinch of smoked paprika was folded through a ramekin of jellied conger eel and green chilli and the whole was served with a glass of chilled Spanish white wine.

Spicy Jellied Congor Eel With Green Chilli and Naan Bread

In this serving option, a pinch of hot chilli powder is stirred gently through a ramekin of jellied eel and green chilli. It is served with some reheated, packet mini naan breads.

Jellied Conger Eel, Onion and Parsley With Poached Herring

Herring again represents one of the random elements of this serving suggestion but here it has been prepared in a very different way from before, when it was fried. In this recipe, it has been poached/pickled in a way perhaps reminiscent of rollmops but ready in a couple of hours rather than a week or more. The flavour is of course consequently milder.

The herring fillet was added to a pot along with a 75/25 mix of cold water and malt vinegar to ensure it was fully covered. Seasoning was sea salt and black pepper. The pot was then put on a high heat just until the liquid reached a simmer, at which point the heat was turned off. The pot was covered and left for a couple of hours to cool. The herring fillet was then ready to be carefully lifted from the liquor and served.

The jellied conger eel pot is one of the parsley and onion ones and it was seasoned with white pepper and malt vinegar. Scottish oatcakes from the Orkney Isles were served on the side.

Jellied Conger Eel, Onion and Parsley With Tabasco Sauce

For an ultra spicy serving of anything, you can't go far wrong with Tabasco sauce. It is vitally important, however, to be very careful as this stuff is hot! Add a couple or three drops, carefully fold through and taste. You may well not need any more.

Serve with some hot buttered toast.

Mini steak pies and mash, served with jellied conger eel and liqueur made from conger poaching juices

Mini steak pies and mash, served with jellied conger eel and liqueur made from conger poaching juices

Pie, Mash, Liquor and Jellied Conger Eel

One of the most popular places jellied eels could be found (and still can be, though to a far lesser extent) were the pie and mash houses of London's East End. These simple "fast food" outlets of yesteryear served pies originally made from eel alongside mashed potato and a liquor made from the eel poaching juices and parsley. The pie base would be of suet pastry and the top of shortcrust pastry. Jellied eels were/are also available. In later years, minced (ground) beef more commonly began filling the pies—along with perhaps whichever vegetables happened to be available—while chicken or other stock was more frequently used in preparing the liquor/gravy.

This final jellied conger eel serving suggestion is very much based on the food of the pie and mash houses - though it has been given its own little twist or two.

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour 30 min

Cook time: 2 hours 30 min

Ready in: 4 hours

Yields: One serving

Note: The above times do not include the time required to firstly prepare the jellied conger eel

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces shin of beef (or other stewing beef)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ small white onion, peeled and sliced
  • ½ small carrot, scraped and finely diced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 pint fresh beef stock
  • 4 ounces puff pastry
  • 1 teaspoon plain/all purpose flour (plus extra for dusting rolling surface and pin)
  • Butter (1 ounce/¼ stick for liquor plus extra for greasing ramekins and mashing potatoes)
  • Beaten egg for glazing
  • 2 large baking potatoes
  • ½ pint eel poaching liquor
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • White pepper
  • 1 ramekin plain jellied conger eel to serve
  • Malt vinegar

How to Make the Beef Pie Filling

  1. Chop the beef in to fairly small pieces but do not cut away the fat. The flavour comes from the fat and it also serves to keep the meat moist and tender. Any excess which does not render down during cooking can be discarded later.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the beef. Brown and seal, stirring with a wooden spoon.
  3. Season the beef with salt and pepper and add the onion, carrot and beef stock. Bring to a very gentle simmer, cover and cook for two hours or until tender.
  4. Switch the heat off under the beef stew and leave to cool (at least an hour).

How to Cook and Assemble Mini Steak Pies

  1. Put your oven on to preheat to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Measure the diameter and depth of your ramekins. The pie casings need to be cut to slightly more than one times the diameter plus two times the depth.
  3. A small bowl was found to serve as a cutting template for the pie cases while a drinking glass (same diameter as ramekins) was subsequently used for the lids.
  4. Roll the pastry out large enough to cut two larger circles and two smaller ones.
  5. Grease the full insides of the ramekins with butter and carefully fit the casings inside, ensuring they overhang slightly and evenly all the way around.
  6. Spoon the cooled beef in to the ramekins. Do not completely fill. Any excess beef can be classed as cook/chef's perks.
  7. Cut the lids with the glass and carefully fit in place. Glaze the pastry lids with beaten egg.
  8. Crimp the edges of the pie casings over the edges of the lids and glaze the crimps.
  9. Use the point of a sharp knife to cut a steam vent in the top of each pie. Sit the ramekins on a baking tray and put them in to the oven for about half an hour until the pastry is risen and golden.
  10. Take the pies from the oven and use a blunt edged knife to carefully free the pastry all around the edges of each ramekin. It shouldn't be badly stuck, thanks to the butter.
  11. Wearing oven gloves, carefully tip the pies out of the ramekins and sit on a wire rack to rest for about ten minutes.

Bringing the Pie, Mash, Liquor and Jellied Conger Eel Together

  1. When the pies have been in the oven for about ten minutes, peel and roughly chop the potatoes. Add them to a pot with plenty of cold water and some salt. Bring to a simmer for around fifteen to twenty minutes until just softened.
  2. Drain the potatoes through a colander at your sink, tip them back in to the empty pot and let them steam off for five minutes. If you don't do this to get rid of the excess moisture in the form of steam, you will have soggy mash.
  3. Measure out the half pint of eel poaching liqueur and gently heat in a saucepan until just simmering and no more. Pour in to a jug.
  4. Melt the ounce/¼ stick of butter in the same saucepan and add the teaspoon of flour. Stir to form a roux and cook for two or three minutes before pouring in the warm stock, stirring well.
  5. Add the parsley and bring to a simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently, to thicken.
  6. While the liquor is simmering, add a little butter to the potatoes, season with white pepper and mash.
  7. Spoon the mash on to a serving plate and lay the ramekin of jellied conger eel alongside, having seasoned it with a little extra white pepper and malt vinegar.
  8. Sit the pies on top of the mash, pour or spoon on the liquor and enjoy this slight variation of a genuine English classic dish.
Tucking in to pie and mash, jellied eel liquor and jellied conger eel

Tucking in to pie and mash, jellied eel liquor and jellied conger eel

Preparing Freshwater Jellied Eels

There is no reason why this method of preparing jellied conger eels could not be applied to freshwater silver eels. The only amendment you would need to make would be to poach the eels for a slightly shorter period of time, around twelve to fifteen minutes.

If you liked the recipes on this page (or perhaps you didn't) please give them your star rating below. Thanks for visiting and reading.

© 2014 Gordon Hamilton

Comments

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on June 14, 2020:

Thank you very much, Gerhard, for your wonderful comment and instructions re the cooking of these larger eels. I have always believed the larger eels effectively inedible but I definitely can see how the procedure you describe would tenderise them for consumption. I will definitely bear these tips in mind should the relevant opportunity present itself.

Gerhard R Reuter on June 13, 2020:

I live in the tropics and often receive large conger eels from our coastal fishermen.

I cook these beasts twice, cut into 25 cm long pieces I blanch them in very hot slightly salted water for about 5 minutes. I then take them out and lay the pieces down in a marinade consisting of lime juice, tamarind, light soy, some splashes of fish sauce, smashed garlic and water or Chinese cooking wine, diluted with water.

I turn the pieces regularly and keep the eel marinating for up to 48 hours. Following, I add enough water to the marinade to cover the whole fish and slow cook it at 67C for at least eight hours or when it is tender to fall off the bone. Served in small portions with freshly steamed vegetables, or stirr fried vegetables makes for a delicious meal.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 05, 2015:

I wasn't aware of that stat re Japan and eel consumption, mySuccess8. I'm glad you like these ideas. Thanks for visiting and for the information.

mySuccess8 on February 04, 2015:

Japan consumes the most of the global eel catch, as eels are commonly used in Japanese cuisine, which is one of my favorites. Now you have provided a different eel cuisine in various serving suggestions, with very clear and detailed cooking instructions and photographs. They look delicious and I would love to try them. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 03, 2015:

I hope you do get the opportunity to try this or something similar MJ Martin. You may find it tastes very different from what you expect. You could also of course try these ideas simply with a firm fleshed white fish. Thanks for visiting and for your comment :)

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 03, 2015:

I can fully understand, motivationsblog, why seeing eels would put people off eating them. Fortunately, this wouldn't always be necessary and they can sometimes be bought already cleaned. Glad you're adventurous with food thougha dn otherwise like the idea. Thanks! :)

Anika Diaries on February 02, 2015:

Not sure if I will be able to try this someday but this one's definitely well presented. Good job done!

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 02, 2015:

Thanks, rebecca. I know this is not something that would automatically appeal to everyone but I hope it encourages some people to give eel a try :)

MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose from Washington State on February 01, 2015:

I might be willing to try it with the help of all these appealing recipes. It is not a way I am used to eating fish that is for sure. Great presentation and congratulations on HOTD!

Miss Monae from North Carolina on February 01, 2015:

I would try this just because I'm adventurous and some of it looks delicious. I can't even look at an eel because they make me think of snakes. However I loved reading this article, awesome.

Ben Zoltak from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA on February 01, 2015:

I'm down with jellied eel! Yum!!!

Ben

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on February 01, 2015:

Eww. Well, I don't know, but you did a great job, so congrats are in order!

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 01, 2015:

Thanks very much, Thelma. I'm aware this will be a new idea for most people and know that many will not have access to fresh conger eel. It's definitely worth trying though if you can get a hold of it.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 01, 2015:

Thanks 2besure and I'm glad you can compare the dish to something with which you're familiar. The salad option you refer to was one of my favourite to eat as well, I must admit.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 01, 2015:

Hi, gmwilliams and thanks. To be honest, I had never heard of conger eel being jellied before either until I decided to give it a go! Obviously, I was delighted with the results but you're certainly right about eel versatility.

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on February 01, 2015:

Congratulations on the HOTD award. Well done! You definitely deserve it. I have not eaten this jellied fish food. This sounds yummy and I feel hungry looking at those photos. Thanks.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 01, 2015:

Provided it's fresh - like all fish and seafood - the smell from the eel itself is minimal, peachpurple :)

Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on February 01, 2015:

This dish is similar to the conch salad my my father who is from the Bahamas makes. Well actually the great spices that are used. I have never tried eel, but the picture where it is plated with a tossed salad looks very tasty. You did an extensive and great job of this topic.

Grace Marguerite Williams from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on February 01, 2015:

Excellent hub. I have never heard of conger jellied eel before I read this hub. The recipes are quite interesting. There are so many ways to prepare eel. Eel is one of the most interesting foods there is. Congratulations on a great hub, VOTED UP!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 01, 2015:

doesn't the eels have strong fishy smell?

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 08, 2014:

Elsie, thank you very much for your comment and my apologies for the late reply. Yes, I can confirm there is truth in the eel taking longer to die but I'm not sure I should post here my surefire method for avoiding that... I hope you will try eel again - it really is beautiful eating! :)

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on August 29, 2014:

Well you have done a great job with interesting photos.

Not sure about eating eel again I ate it many years ago, it's a very rich meat. I think I could eat it with mini naan bread.

The reason I'm not keen on cooking it as when I first meet my husband we cooked the eel and it was still alive (takes some 24 hours to die after catching it I think), anyhow a piece jump out the pan as he was cooking it, I have never forgotten it.

Thanks for the recipes, we do catch eels in the river around here were I live in NZ but they are not nice, muddy, papa rock country.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on June 07, 2014:

Yes, I'm aware that jellied eels in a conventional sense can be a bit of an "acquired taste," Nell :) On the other hand, these ideas are pretty different (no skin or bones) so hopefully they may know greater and wider appeal. Thanks for visiting and commenting and I hope there is some remote possibility you may think about trying this sometime... ;)

Nell Rose from England on June 06, 2014:

Hi Gordon, I always love your recipes, but I have got to say, er, yuck double yuck and triple yuck to Jellied eels! LOL! I tried them once down by the coast, and was sick for three days! its now just the thought of them, but you make it sound appealing, just! but that's just my opinion, I am sure others would love to try it, nell