Ever since I went on a deep sea conger fishing trip from Brighton about a year ago, I got my mind set to cooking some of those lovely eels. Back then, none of our group were able to catch a single conger eel, but luckily enough there is Borough Market.
You don’t find conger on offer very often, but during my last visit they had a whole big conger resting there on the ice in the display tray, untouched yet by anyone. I ordered three 1.5-inch thick steaks, and the guy behind the counter started chopping away like a young Bruce Lee.
I also purchased some prawns, herbs, spices, sweet potatoes and normal potatoes The rest of the ingredients I already had at home.
Conger has a proud history as a food fish in Europe. The 12th Century Norman Taxation Pipe Roll mentions two establishments for the drying of conger eel. In East Asia the snake-like, up to three-metre long creature is still very popular, for example as sushi. There are several national cuisines in South America that value the fish. The Portuguese love to use it for their fish stew, Caldeirada.
In the rest of Europe, the conger’s popularity has been going downhill for a long time, unfortunately, partially because its populations have decreased, partially because of its reputation of being a sea monster that bites limbs off unlucky fishermen, and, admittedly perhaps also, because it is of a somewhat acquired, unusual taste and texture.
There are concerns around the sustainability of conger. I do take sustainability very seriously. On the other hand it would seem likely that ‘my’ fish ended up on Borough Market because it was an unintended by-catch that had been damaged by the hook, so could not be thrown back into the water to live on.
The tail end of the animal should be avoided at all costs, as it is extremely bony. Rumour has it that the middle-section just before the vent is the tastiest one. Conger has a meat-like, firm texture and taste, almost like pork. Of course, someone like me, who grew up in Bavaria on a pork-based diet, likes the ring of this, and I would not be disappointed, as it turned out.
INGREDIENTS FOR THREE PEOPLE
3x conger steaks (at least 1in thick, ideally 1.5in)
250g king prawns
500g sweet potatoes
500g regular potatoes
1x red chili pepper
1x red bell pepper
0.5 x bunch of garlic
250g baby spinach leaves
1x bunch of thyme
Few sprigs of parsley
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C
- Clean the sweet potatoes, the regular potatoes, the chili pepper, the red bell pepper, the spinach leaves, the thyme, the parsley under water
- No need to peel the sweet potatoes or the regular potatoes, just slice them into bits one inch thick
- Place the sweet potato and potato chunks onto a aluminium foil in a baking tray. Season with pepper and salt. Add olive oil and thyme. Put in the oven. Set alarm clock to 35mins, then check the texture, most likely they will need another five minutes
- Chop the onion, garlic, red chili pepper and red bell pepper into little cubes (check pictures in this post to get idea for best size)
- Cut the parsley into little bits
- Heat oil in a heavy pan up to medium temperature and start pan-frying the conger steaks, add a small amount of pepper and salt
- Heat oil in a small pan to upper medium heat and start pan-frying the onions, garlic, and chili flakes for 5mins
- Add the king prawns with a dash of lime juice
- Add the red chili pepper and the red bell pepper once the king prawns have turned pink, season to taste with pepper and salt
- Put a stilted sieve on the bottom of a relatively sizeable pot, fill hot water into the pot up to the level of the sieve. Then bring to boiling point. Then add spinach and close lid. This should be done close to the end, because the spinach will only need approximately two minutes
- Add a few chunks of butter when serving the spinach
- Serve the food hot
- Sprinkle some of the parsley, pepper and salt on top of the food
Let me know how this recipe worked for you. I hope you will like it as much as I did.