I fear I have made a terrible faux-pas - when I went to the fishmonger I made a mental note not to buy the cod or the mackerel (lovely though they looked) in the interests of fisheries conservation and all that. I was very pleased to see eel, on the other hand, and bought a big chunk, along with some little squid. Only when I got home did Him Indoors, filled with Fisheries Committee fervour, tell me that I'd bought the marine equivalent of a baby panda. Anyway, hope it tastes good, at least. To help it along the way, I picked up some silver onions, globe courgettes, peas, spinach, flat-leaf parsley, mango and kiwi fruit. Happy cooking, Henrik!
I did get the fear when I saw that Hazel had bought eel. It is on the brink of collapseand a sin, especially if your day job is to work with fisheries policies, to eat it. But I am an unrepented sinner and I guess that one more eel will not make much difference before St Peter. But how should the sin be committed?
It was actually my choice of main course that lead me to what to cook for starter. Eel is no cheap love. It’s a fat fish with a taste that can become almost insipid. A typical cure is to barbecue it. And there are beautiful grilled eel in the Japanese kitchen. While filleting the eel and dressing it up on wooden sticks, I decided to make tempura for starter.
I went for four different fritters, the squash I cut in large discs, the silver onion, the same. The squid was half size, not really fully grown, not really mini squid. The rings it made were too small on their own, so I decided to make bigger fritters with a handful of rings. The last tempura was also a mixed fritter with peas, spring onion and spinach (if I do it again, which would be worth it, I would peel the peas).
The best tempura batter is the lightest, made with ice-cold sparkling water and plain flour. Whisk a cup of each until there are still lumps of flour—if you whisk it too long it will be stodgy. Heat the oil until 140 degrees (my best friend Per-Anders inspired me to get an infrared thermometer, I thought it was just a gadget, but to measure the temperature of the oil for instance, it’s brilliant). Fry until golden and serve with a bowl of dashi with some soy and some mirin.
On to the eel, and I must admit that I made things easy for myself. I had put them in a marinade of soy, sake and some sugar. Then I just stuck them under the grill in the oven and served them with rice and the rest of the spinach woked with some garlic and chilli. And after that, in even worse laziness, I just cut up the mango and we ate it as it was. So even if St Peter has never heard that the eels are almost extinct, he will get me on sloth.