Aaron Patterson’s beautiful smoked eel starter is bursting with wonderful seasonal ingredients. The chef serves the eel in a vibrant watercress velouté topped with pink fir potatoes, tender baby leeks and Avruga caviar. Ask your fishmonger to skin and fillet the eel if you are unsure, just make sure you ask them to reserve the skin.
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Begin by skinning the eel. Lay the eel on a clean work surface with its backbone facing upwards. Using a sharp knife, pierce the skin about halfway down the eel beside the backbone and guide the knife along the backbone towards the tail
1 smoked eel
Run the knife back to the centre of the eel and along the gut cavity to the head. Cut away the fillet from the head, then cut below the backbone, lifting it away from the bottom fillet
Lay the fillets skin side down. Starting from the tail, scrape the meat away from the skin using a large spoon and set to one side, reserving the skin for the velouté
To make the watercress velouté, place the olive oil, Maris Piper potatoes and leeks in a large casserole pot and sweat over a low heat for 5 minutes, taking care to ensure the vegetables cook but don't colour. Add the eel skin and white wine to the pan and boil for 2 minutes, then add the stock, cream and butter
2 Maris Piper potatoes, peeled
2 leeks, roughly chopped
2 tbsp of olive oil
Cook for 10 minutes until the potatoes are soft, then remove the eel skin and add the watercress to the pan. Transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth, passing through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Set aside, keeping warm until ready to serve
300ml of chicken stock
300ml of dry white wine
80g of unsalted butter
150ml of double cream
200g of watercress
To prepare the pink firs, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes until tender. Drain and leave to cool a little, then cut the potatoes into 4mm discs
6 pink fir potatoes, peeled
Bring a medium pan of salted water to the boil and add the baby leeks. Cook until tender, then drain and refresh in iced water. Cut the leeks into 1 inch pieces and set aside until ready to serve
8 baby leeks
Cut the eel into small, even pieces and place in a medium saucepan with the lemon juice and 100ml of water. Add the pink fir potato discs to the pan and poach for 3 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve
1/2 lemon, juice only
When ready to serve, reheat the watercress velouté if required and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Using a stick blender, blitz the velouté a little to create a foamy consistency. In a separate pan, blanch the baby leeks in hot water to reheat
1/2 lemon, juice only
To serve, divide the potato slices between serving bowls and top each with a piece of eel and warm baby leek. Pour over the foamy watercress velouté and garnish with caviar, chives and a small handful of watercress
100g of watercress
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