Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/370

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minute detached scales which are frequently concealed by the skin, the absence of scales being compensated for by a mucous secretion, which renders the eel proverbially slippery. The lower jaw projects beyond the upper, the teeth are sharp, and a swim-bladder is present. Some species of eel are marine, others fresh-water, while some, as the Anguilla, live in both elements. The conger-eel is exclusively marine, and is the largest of the eels. The eel lives in the mud. among weeds, roots or stumps of trees, or holes in the banks, or the bottoms of rivers, where they often grow to an enormous size, weighing as much as 15 lb. or 16 lb. It seldom emerges from its hiding-place except in the night; and in winter, on account of its great susceptibility to cold, it buries itself in the mud. The eel is noted for its voracity and tenacity of life, and also for its remarkable fecundity, the young of the eels which spawn in the estuaries of rivers passing up the streams in vast numbers; such a passage is called the "eel-fare." The eel frequently migrates from one habitat to another, crossing over the intervening marshy land. Various methods are employed for capturing the eel, river eels being usually caught in wicker baskets with funnel-shaped mouths, into which they enter, but cannot get out. Eels are also taken by means of a kind of trident, called an eel-spear, and by hooks and lines. Large quantities of eels are caught in Holland, from whence they are brought alive to the London market by boats fitted with wells. As an article of food, they are largely eaten in England, but seldom in Scotland; the flesh is somewhat fatty and insipid. The eel-like fish, Gymnotus electricus of South America, has the property of communicating an electric shock when touched.

Holland is very famous for its eels, and sends large quantities to London; but those caught in the Thames are more silvery in appearance, and are considered by epicures to be of a better flavour.

460.—EEL, CONGER. (Fr.Congre. Anguille de Mer.)

This is much esteemed by many persons. It forms the basis of the well-known soup of the Channel Islands, and is made into pies in the West of England. Like a tough steak, it always needs long stewing or cooking, as the flesh is remarkably firm and hard. It can be cooked like a fresh-water eel.

The Conger Eel (Fr. anguille de mer), a genus of marine eels, having a long dorsal fin beginning near the nape of the neck, a long eel-like body destitute of scales, and the upper jaw extending over the lower, both furnished with sharp rows of teeth. The conger eel is a muscular and voracious fish. The most familiar species is the Conger vulgaris, abundant on the English coasts, especially off Cornwall, which sometimes attains to a length of 10 feet, and over 100 lb. in weight. Its colour, which varies with its habitat, is a pale brown above and greyish-white underneath. The flesh of the conger eel is coarse, but its gelatinous qualities are medicinally valuable.

461.—EEL, CONGER, BAKED. (Fr.Congre rôti.)

Ingredients.—2 lb. of conger eel, suet-force: see Sauces, No. 407, butter or fat, flour.

Method.—Wash and dry the fish thoroughly, stuff it with the prepared forcemeat, and bind it with tape. Melt the butter or fat in a baking-dish or tin, put in the fish, and baste it well. Bake gently for 1 hour, meanwhile basting occasionally with fat, and dredging the surface with flour. Serve with the gravy poured round, or, if preferred, with tomato, brown caper, or a suitable fish sauce.

Time.—To bake, 1 hour. Average Cost, 4d. to 6d. per lb. Sufficient for 4 or 5 persons. Seasonable September and November.

462.—EEL, CONGER, BOILED. (Fr.Congre Bouilli.)

Ingredients.—Conger eel, vinegar, salt.

Method.—Put the fish into a fish-kettle containing just enough hot salted water to barely cover it, and add a little vinegar. Let it boil, then simmer gently for about ½ an hour, or until the fish separates