Eel in the green
“Eel in the green” is a traditional Flemmish (Belgian) recipe that goes back as far as the early middle ages. A similar sauce can be found in “de re coquinaria”, a Roman cookbook from the 4th century. They use it for all kinds of fish in that book, added some garum and ate it without potatoes offcourse.
This healthy green sauce can also be used with every fish. They often did use other fish instead of the freshwater eel in Belgium and the Netherlands if they lived farther away from the large river “Scheldt”, where the eel was caught and the recipe originated. You can replace the fish with cooked fennel bulbs, celeriac, rutabaga, black salsify, daikon or parsnips and it will make a great vegetarian meal.
For the green sauce a lot of seasonal herbs were used. The sauce tasted different in every family and in every season. This time I used the herbs written down in the recipe, but I prepare it different every time and you can make your own mix of herbs that are available to you. Fresh only! (freeze-dried or canned in the winter allowed)
Fresh herbs and plants commonly used:
- Mint (ginger and spear)
- Lemon balm/Citronella
- Stinging Nettle
- Salad Burnet
It is often eaten with cooked or mashed potatoes, fries or (toasted) bread. A lemon is squeezed on top of it at the table if desired.
Eel in the greenCourse: DinnerCuisine: Belgian, Dutch
500 gr/17 oz gutted fresh water eel
1 shallot or other small onion
2 garlic cloves
300 ml/10 fl oz fish stock (or vegetable)
150 ml/5 fl oz dry white wine
100 gr/3,5 oz chervil
100 gr/3,5 oz spinach
3 full tablespoons chopped dill
3 full tablespoons chopped parsley
3 full tablespoons chopped chives
2 full tablespoons chopped basil
1 full tablespoon ginger mint
1 full tablespoon oregano
2 egg yolks
Pepper and salt to taste
- Chop the garlic and onion finely. Chop the eels in parts of a half finger length. Chop all the greens finely or put them in a blender with 2 spoons of stock or water.
- Melt butter in a pan on middle heat. Add the garlic and onions and bake them for 2 minutes. Add the eel and bake for another 2 minutes.
- Add the stock and the white wine. let it simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove the eel and set it aside keeping it warm. Add the greens to the pan.
- Mix the egg yolks with a spoon of cold water. Bring the pan to it’s boiling point. Turn out the heat. Stir in the egg yolks.
- Taste the sauce, add lemonjuice, pepper and salt to taste.
- Put the eel back in the sauce. You can heat it up a bit if you like; but never let it cook.
- Serve with slices of lemon, bread, fries or potatoes and enjoy!
- I used aragula to garnish the dish.
- Reminder: All herbs can be replaced by herbs on the list in the text above. You can also add more or less herbs, or change the amount of tablespoons.
Interested in more Belgian recipes?
This book from 2019 has a lot of wonderfull recipes that describe the Belgian kitchen very well. The Belgian kitchen with it’s robust influences from the Dutch and German kitchen, it’s haute cuisine influences from France, but still it’s down-to-earth, honest and pure-food mentality from the middle ages, makes a great kitchen for preparing comfort food at home.
Where did you get that from?
The plate this “Eel in the green” is served on is South-Dutch/Flemmish with a typical folklore design from that region. It’s very popular in the Netherlands and Belgium. Every piece of porcelain you can think of can be found with this design, towels, curtains, aprons, etc. and I even encountered a thong with the desing once. The specific design is called “Boerenbont”. You can sometimes find it 2nd hand on amazon.com and etsy.com.