Conger Eel with Potatoes and Bay
Conger eel, whilst quite different from Anguilla anguilla, the now quite uncommon freshwater eel, is a firm fleshed white fish of reasonable flavour. It was once commonly eaten in Cornwall, usually salted, and with potatoes. A similar fish casserole is made in Spain using Hake. The addition of Bay was inspired by the more usual pairing of this herb with Anguilla anguilla.
4 conger eel steaks, about ¾” thick
6 fresh bay leaves
½ pint fish stock
Lightly salt the conger eel steaks on both sides and return them to the fridge for half an hour or so. The salt will draw moisture from the flesh, making it even firmer. The fish need only be wiped with damp kitchen roll before cooking to remove excess salt.
Cut the onion in half, through the core, and then slice into half rings. Heat some olive oil in an ovenproof casserole dish and turn the onion slices in the oil so that they are all coated. Add 2 fresh bay leaves, cover the casserole and cook gently in a low oven (120˚C) for an hour or so to soften.
Remove the dish from the oven and turn the heat up to 180˚C.
Cook the onions over a medium heat until they begin to caramelise. Lightly brown the conger eel steaks on each side, adding pepper to each side as you do so.
Peel the potatoes and slice quite thinly (about the thickness of a £1 coin). Layer up the fish steaks, onion, potato slices and the four remaining bay leaves. Pour over the hot fish stock seasoned with salt and pepper.
FRESH BAY CUSTARD
This is especially good with apple dishes.
Makes ½ pint
3 fresh bay leaves
½ pint of double cream
2 egg yolks
1 oz caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour (optional)
Custard made with fresh eggs is much thinner than that made with dried eggs in the form of custard powder. If you prefer thicker custard add the cornflour to the eggs and sugar or use an additional egg yolk. If you prefer you can use single cream or a mixture of double cream and milk.
Heat the cream with the bay leaves to simmering point. Draw off the heat and leave, covered, to infuse for half an hour. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and, if using, the cornflour. Strain the cream onto the eggs and return to a clean pan. Heat gently, stirring all the time until the custard thickens slightly, you can take it just to simmering point without the eggs curdling, which the addition of cornflour will also help to avoid.