Ummera Smoked Eel - From Ballymore Eustace to Bandon

I have promised to blog the Ummera Smoked Eeel since the day I got it and I actually ate it about a week after receiving it in December. Before eating, I scanned all my cook books and the general consesus was that brown-bread, lemon and maybe horseradish were the things to eat it with. But Anthony of Ummera warned me not to over-do it with extra flavours so I took it easy.

I was actually quite tentative about eating it which is ridiculous considering I’ll wolf down wasabi dunked sashimi in the blink of an eye. But I think I had always heard phrases like “an acquired taste” over the years and then Ruth in Urru said it was a niche product (but quickly qualified that it was lovely). And blow me, it is bloody lovely! Nothing like what I was expecting. Think very subtle smoked mackerel but with a much smoother and nicer texture. I was going to just have a taste but then said shag it and gobbled the lot of it down. I did put it on dark Ryvita - I’m not sure if this is the food equivalent of eating it with Monster Munch but I thought they worked really well together. I then tried a tiny squirt of lemon juice and it worked brilliantly. But I realised that Anthony was definitely right - horseradish would have overwhelmed it.

So why the hell is this a niche product? It is as tasty as Smoked Salmon and I assume it is all wild. What are the stock levels like? Is it over-fished or is there plenty of room for expansion? I’m really surprised this is not on more restaurant menus. I’d eat it any day in preference to other smoked fish. Surely D4 foodies would love to be the innovators with this on their canapes?

Ballymore Eustace you ask? Is it like the opposite end of the Sargasso Sea? Nothing so exotic. Just another reminder that there is nothing new under the sun. My mother heard about my eel blogging and told me that her grandfather used to cook up fresh eel in the frying pan when she was a child. Quick mental arithmetic puts this around mid-1950’s and he lived in Ballymore Eustace in Kildare. She remembers it leaping around the pan! Does this happen due to nerves firing post-mortem or was it just her grandad trying to freak her out? In any case, if my great-grandfather liked eel, then it’s good enough for me too.

So lobby your TD, have a march around Stephen’s Green, do a fun run and let’s get eel up where it belongs on the Irish diet and maybe we can reduce the sales of fish fingers. Or maybe just ask for it in your deli.

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Conor O'Neill

Tech guy who likes running slowly

Bandon, Cork, Ireland http://conoroneill.com