Episode 3: Eels Stew

The Eels

About 150 years ago, the fishermen of Vieira de Leiria, and later from further North, began to migrate south, fleeing the wild seas of winters in search of sustenance in the calm waters of the Tagus, which abounded in species such as shad, eel and lamprey. Many began to live on the riverbanks, often sleeping on the boats, and gradually began building small houses. These “river nomads”, as Alves Redol called them, thus created villages, with houses built on pillars and painted in bright colours. In the 1980s there were over 80 of these “Avieiras” villages on the River Tagus. Today, only a few remain.

In one of these villages, the village of Palhota, we recorded this recipe for Eel Stew. The fado singer Zé Miguel Amador, known in this part of the country as the “Little man of fado”, says that there were a lot of eels in the Tagus at that time and the eel was worth next to nothing at the fish market, obliging the fishermen to make use of the eel as food, thus creating a dish made from leftovers, also using stale bread and moira (cooked grease crushed with vinegar, salt and a little broth).

The eel begins its migratory cycle in the Sargasso Sea, off the cost of Bermuda, where the adult females lay their eggs. The larvae then go on a journey of growth as far as the coasts of Europe and North Africa, where they swim up river estuaries, invading everything that can be considered streams, rivers and lakes, and only then becoming eels. That’s why eel recipes can be found in Portugal from north to south.

Tiago Pereira

1 / 10
2 / 10
3 / 10
4 / 10
5 / 10
6 / 10
7 / 10
8 / 10
9 / 10
10 / 10

Ingredients (4 people)

  • 1 kg clean, boneless eels, sliced into even pieces
  • 200 g onions
  • 20 g garlic
  • 5 g paprika
  • 300 ml fresh tomato pulp
  • 5 cubed, seeded tomatoes
  • 2 ltr fish stock
  • 200 g bell pepper
  • Black peppercorns
  • Sea salt
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 500 g sliced bread, toasted on olive oil and rubbed with garlic
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 100 ml Cordovil Olive Oil
  • 200 ml Sparkling Wine
  • 30 g Red Wine Vinegar

Preparation

Begin by caramelizing the onions in a little olive oil (add the remaining olive oil in the end).

Add the thinly sliced garlic, the paprika and the bell pepper, sliced into thin strups. Cook briefly and chill with the sparkling wine. Use high heat so that the alcohol evaporates quickly. Add the tomato pulp and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.

Add the salt, black peppercorns, fresh thyme and bay leaves and cook for another minute. Add the stock and cook for another 20 minutes. Correct the seasoning and add the eels.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cook for another 5 minutes, with the lid off.

Add plenty of fresh cilantro and serve immediately on sliced toasted bread. Enjoy.

CHEF PEDRO PENA BASTOS
LOCAL ALDEIDA DA PALHOTA / AZAMBUJA
REGION RIBATEJO
Recipe inspired on the teachings of JOSÉ MIGUEL AMADOR in partnership with TERRA VELHINHA

Olive Oil: Cordovil

Wine: Sparkling Wine

Download the recipe here.