Eel in bay leaves

Eel in bay leaves

Bisato in ara

By
From
Venice
Serves
4
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

This dish is made with eel, which is called ara in Venetian dialect, and has been a tradition in Venice for centuries. It is full of spices but retains a delicate flavour that doesn’t overwhelm the eel and it has a real wow factor in the presentation. When I ate this at Bistrot di Venise I began to understand how really exciting it must have been to have lived in Venice during the 15th and 16th centuries. Surely for many visitors such a variety of exotic flavours, not to mention the sights of Venice, must have been overwhelming for the senses.

The eel is covered with pepper and cooked in bay leaves. It was always cooked slowly at the front of the old ovens. If you can’t get hold of sustainably caught eel, we have used mackerel and salmon trout for this and both work equally well.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon 3 types of peppercorns, such as black, pink, Szechuan, cubeb or long pepper
1kg eel
30 bay leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling the eel
1 1/2 tablespoons fruit vinegar, such as raspberry
fine salt
few tablespoons Fish stock
or few tablespoons water, hot
30g lard
or 30g butter

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 70°C. Crush the peppercorns roughly in a pestle and mortar. Lay out 2 sheets of baking paper one on top of the other, 1 vertical and 1 horizontal, large enough to wrap the eel. Use your fingers to smear the top sheet with lard in a rectangle in the centre the same width and length of the eel. Lay over the bay leaves slightly overlapping so they cover the lard. Add a few drops of oil over the eel and 1 teaspoon of the vinegar. Season the eel inside and out with salt and half of the peppercorns. Roll the eel up in the baking parchment. Twist the ends to secure the eel tightly in the parcel and put on to a baking tray. Bake for 1 hour.
  2. Carefully unroll the eel parcel and pour the juices into a saucepan. Pour in the rest of the vinegar and olive oil and heat through. Add the rest of the peppercorns and season with salt as necessary. Transfer the eel and bay leaves to a warm flat plate to serve, discarding the baking paper. Pour over the juices and serve.
Tags:
Venice
Giancarlo
Katie
Caldesi
Venetian
Italian
European
Mediterranean
Italy
Europe
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