Eels, eh? How about sticking them in jelly? Well, that’s exactly what makes up this classic British dish.
It’s been a thing since the 18th century and is as popular as beans on toast! Well, that’s a total lie. But the eels are still there if you want them.
What are Jellied Eels?
Jellied eels are chopped and boiled eels in a spiced stock. Once the stock cools, it sets and forms a jelly. Hence, jellied eels.
Do not, the jelly with the eels isn’t anything like strawberry jelly etc. However, you do eat the dish cold. Good news, eh?
The eels typically come from London and are yanked out of the Thames, which is probably not a good idea these days. Pollution and all that.
But whatever, their readily available status has turned them into something of a fish and chips style icon of rationing, budgets, and cheap eating.
What’s the History of Jellied Eels?
So, eels are abundant in London’s big old River Thames. The snake-like fish was readily available and cheap back in the olden days.
With fishing nets lining the river, the fish soon became a popular staple for the poverty-stricken, lazy, gross working class people of the 18th century.
The dish became such a hit that eel, pie, and mash houses began popping up across London.
In fact, M Manze has such a shop on Tower Bridge that opened in 1902. Another opened on Peckham High Street in 1927. These are the oldest surviving such eel shops.
Pies! Mash! Eels! Yes, places like this were such a hit there were over 100 of them in London after WWII.
Presumably there would have been more if the Nazis hadn’t been bombing the city to crap, but 100 is still a decent innings.
By 1995 there were still 87, but many such small shops in London now find it
Business rates are often to blame for this (although we think it’s down to people being LAZY!), as tax rates have hiked by 45% in some areas. Chalking up another glorious victory for the Tory badness machine there.
This means many of the eel, pie, and mash shops aren’t around as much. Especially with the arrival of more trendy mass chain stores such as Starbucks. Times change!
The shops were always more of a Londoner thing as we don’t have them much up north Manchester way.
Our chippies up north are home to fish and chips and what have you. But no eels! My cripes, no, that’d cause many a northerner to faint!
The pollution of the Thames also made eels die/leave the area during the 20th century. But in recent decades the Environmental Agency’s marked efforts to improve that has led to eel recolonisation.
But, really, you don’t hear much about going for some jellied eels these days.
Although we do always see at least one jar of it on sale at the local fish market in Arndale of the Manchester city centre. Reet proper!
How Do You Make Jellied Eels?
Here’s swearing maniac Gordon Ramsay to wax something lyrical about jellied eels and why you need them in your life.
Anyway, you need ingredients for all of this. But eels aren’t just things that grow on trees!
But to make jellied eels, you will indeed need some eels. About 100 grams of them to be precise. And also:
Fish spiced stock
A chopped onion
The dish is low in salt and has a lot of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and other stuffs. So, reasonably healthy. Bon apetit!