SMOKED EEL WITH BRAISED LEEKS
The Real Greek at Home
by Theodore Kyriakou & Charles Campion
Early spring is the best time to go eel fishing in the delta of the Evros river, which is in north-eastern Greece up towards the Turkish border. As always with a seasonal glut, any way of preserving the surplus is welcome, and smoked eels become a valued addition to the storecupboard because they are so rich.
• 2kg (4½ lb) leeks, trimmed, washed well, and left whole
• 1 bunch spring onions, trimmed, washed well, and left whole
• 500g (18 oz) small leafy carrots, trimmed, washed, and left whole
• juice of 2 lemons
• 250ml (9 fl oz) olive oil, plus extra for brushing
• salt and pepper to taste
• 35g (1¼ oz) bulgur
• 200g (7 oz) prunes, stoned
• 1 bunch chives, finely chopped
• 500g (18 oz) smoked eel in fillets (or smoked mackerel, which is a lot cheaper!)
• lemon wedges
• medium-hard feta cheese, crumbled
1. Place the leeks, spring onions, carrots, lemon juice, olive oil, and seasoning in a large saucepan. Put the lid on and turn the heat up to maximum for a couple of minutes, until the vegetables start boiling. Turn the temperature down to the lowest heat and cook until almost all the juices have gone and the leeks are tender - about an hour.
2. Add the bulgur, prunes, and 100ml (3½ fl oz) water. Keep the pan not only over the low heat, but also in your mind, as the mixture will burn if you don't shake it every couple of minutes. Keep some more water handy in case you need to add it. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and the oil remains. The vegetables will turn meltingly soft.
3. When the vegetables are ready, add the chives, remove the pan from the heat, and set aside with the lid on to cool.
4. Brush the eel fillets with a little olive oil and sear them in a ridged pan for 3 minutes on each side.
5. Serve the eel with the braised leeks, plenty of lemon wedges, and some feta cheese.