As promised on the last post on eel conservation, a recipe for a dish that on no accounts must you make unless the elver (glass eel) population has reached at least somewhere close to their population size in days of yore.
An elverer on the River Severn
This is a recipe that I think I remember Keith Floyd cooking elvers still wriggling as he scooped them straight out of the River Severn in a pillowcase and tipping them straight into a hot frying pan. I’ve tried to find the clip on the web, but alas it is nowhere to be found. I did find, however a clip of Gordon Ramsay cooking freshly-caught elvers on the banks of the river. I should warn you that elvers are cooked live, so if you are at all squeamish you might not want to see the video:
Elvers in the Gloucester style is essentially scrambled eggs with elvers and it comes from Jane Grigson’s English Food and it is one recipe that I will probably never cook for my other blog Neil Cooks Grigson where I’m trying to cook every single recipe from the book. She points that back in the years of elver plenty, ‘several tons of elvers are caught between Sharpness and Tewkesbury on the Severn’. Also, interestingly, ‘elvers are the only fish fry which may be legally caught as food.’
Well that probably won’t be true for very long.
Jane’s recipe asks for 500g of elvers so if you are a little evil and know where to get them prepare to pay – they’ll cost you at least £100!
It must have been very exciting going down the banks of the river at night to see a huge dark swathe of elvers migrating upstream safe in the knowledge that there’ll be a delicious dinner in store.
500g (1 lb) elvers
8 rashers fat streaky bacon
A little bacon fat or lard
2 eggs, beaten
‘When you go to buy elvers, take along an old pillowcase so that the fishmonger can tip them straight into it.
‘At home, add a handful of kitchen salt to the elvers and swish them about, still in the pillowcase, in plenty of water. Squeeze them firmly to extract as much water as possible, then repeat the washing process again with some more salt. This gets rid of the sliminess. You may need to rinse them again and pick out any tiny twigs, leaves and pieces of grass.
‘To cook the dish, fry the bacon until crisp in a little bacon fat or lard. Remove it to a serving dish, and turn the levers into the bacon fat which remains in the pan. Stir them about for a few seconds until they become opaque, then mix in the beaten egg and cook for a few seconds longer. The important thing is not to cook for too long. Taste and add seasoning. Put the elvers on top of the bacon, and sprinkle with a little vinegar. Serve very hot.’
We we’ll just have to take her word for it, I suppose.