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"Definitely a bit of a showpiece for such a common ingredient, the smoked-eel butter takes the old potato to another place," says Garratt. "The reveal of the potatoes from their hay 'jackets' will create plenty of interest. It's worth sourcing some really good cream and making the butter yourself, as is changing or mixing up the potato varieties."

You'll need

150 gm hay, moistened with water (see note) 4 Dutch cream potatoes (200gm each), scrubbed 200 gm rock salt   Smoked-eel butter 350 gm smoked eel (about ½ eel) 70 gm butter, coarsely chopped ½ garlic clove, crushed 3 thyme sprigs 1 fresh bay leaf 125 gm cultured butter, softened (see note) Juice and zested rind of 1 lemon 1 tbsp each chives and French tarragon, finely chopped 1½ tbsp finely chopped chervil ¾ cup sorrel leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to serve

Method

  • 01
  • For smoked-eel butter, fillet eel, reserving trimmings, and dice into pea-sized pieces. Coarsely chop trimmings (head, fins and any stray meat). Heat 50gm butter in a saucepan over low-medium heat and gently cook trimmings with garlic, thyme and bay leaf until butter is fragrant (10-12 minutes). Strain into a jug through a fine sieve and reserve warm butter for brushing potatoes just before serving. Heat remaining butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, add diced eel and cook until crisp (8-10 minutes; as the eel fries it will release more of its own fat), drain in a sieve (discard oil), then tip out onto absorbent paper to soak up any extra oil. Place cultured butter in a bowl, add juice and rind, herbs, fried eel and season with sea salt flakes to taste. Combine well with a wooden spoon and set aside.
  • 02
  • Preheat oven to 200C. Spread half the hay in a deep roasting dish, scatter half the rock salt over, top with potatoes, then remaining salt and layer the remaining hay on top. Cover with baking paper, then cover and seal tray with foil, and bake until potatoes can be easily pierced with a skewer (1¼-1½ hours).
  • 03
  • Clean hay from hot potatoes and brush all over with reserved warm butter. Cut deeply into potatoes in a cross pattern and open slightly, then dollop on smoked-eel butter. Season to taste and serve piping hot on a bed of hay with whole sorrel leaves, salt and white pepper to the side.
Note Hay is available from most pet-supply stores. Look for dry, straw-like hay. Garratt and Hird use a house-made cream for churning into butter.

At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

Drink Suggestion

2010 Jean Foillard Morgon ‘Côte du Py’ Gamay.

Featured in

Oct 2013

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