Smoked eel, cockles, bacon, cider and parsley with creamy mash
- First tackle the mash. Peel and dice the potatoes into nice big chunks and boil in salted water until tender. Drain in a colander and leave in to steam for a few minutes while you warm the cream. In the pan you just cooked the tatties in, heat the cream until hot but not boiling - remove from the heat, add the potatoes and then give them the thrashing of their life with a potato masher. Then once you think you have them smooth enough, give them a thorough beating with a wooden spoon. Just to make sure. Taste and season as you like them with pepper and possibly a dash more salt. Cover the pan and keep the potatoes warm while you do the next bit.
- Slice your pancetta into six or eight 2-3 inch long slices, approx the thickness of a pound coin. No thinner.
- Heat a non stick frying pan to medium heat, not too hot. Lay the bacon slices in the pan and allow to brown gently. You want the process to take 2-3 minutes on the first side so that the natural fat renders from the bacon into the pan.
- Turn over your toasty brown piggy and while the other side is browning, nestle the pieces of smoked eel in the pan too. Allow that to get toasty on one side, then turn it over too.
- Now add in the cider, turn the pan up high to get the liquor bubbling away.
- Add in the cockles and shake the pan to distribute; stirring will break up your eel.
- Add in the parsley. Shake, shake, shake some more.
- Add the butter. Kill the heat. Tilt the pan to one side. Using a wooden spoon, stir the liquor in that tilted pool of delicious fun at the side of the pan until all the butter is emulsified and glossy.
- Pile some of your creamy mash in the centre of two plates. Delicately place slices of bacon on the top of each tatty mountain. Then crown each with the two or three slices of eel and spoon over the cockles and their rich unctuous liquor. Let it pool around the plate like a golden moat.
- Just a note. The ingredients in this dish are naturally salty. It won't need any more.
- This would work with any other really good meaty fish too if you cannot find eel.
- You could substute mussels out of the shell for the cockles.