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Paling in ‘t Groen


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paling in t'groen Paling in't groen (eel in green sauce)
© Toerisme Provincie Antwerpen

Although some of us get a bit squeamish at the idea of eating eel, this fish isn't only adored by the Japanese. Eel used to be a main staple food in Belgium, and certainly in Flanders.

For sustainability, most eels are now raised using aquaculture in (Dutch) fish farms as they are becoming rarer in the wild.

Nevertheless many Flemish restaurants serve them as a true delicacy prepared in various ways. The most typical of preparations is still "in 't ’groen" (green sauce).


Ingredients

  • 20g butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 500g fresh eel, chopped pieces (+/- 10cm)
  • 200ml dry white wine (no beer in this one)
  • 2 bunches of flat-leaf parsley
  • 500g fresh spinach
  • Three sprigs of mint
  • Three sprigs of sage
  • Half a bunch tarragon
  • Half a bunch dill
  • A sprig of lemon balm
  • Three lovage leaves

Preparation

Soften and sweat the onion in butter with the eel, herbs and salt to taste. Sprinkle with flour and add the white wine. Stir and leave to simmer for 15 minutes at a low temperature. Remove the eel from the cooking juices and drain briefly.

Use a blender to chop up the juices with the herbs and then push them through a small-holed sieve.

Return the eel to pan and add the sauce you have just sieved. Heat through, season to taste with a pinch more salt and a drop of lemon juice.

Serve and enjoy this Flemish speciality!


Beer

Story has it that this dish originated on the banks of the river Scheldt. As it is typical for the province of Antwerp, what can one better pair with this than a “Bolleke” or “De Koninck”.

This high fermentation, amber beer (5% ABV) is brewed with Saaz hops an several pure malts. No maize or sugars are added during the brewing process. It has a very distinctive zesty and a light bitter taste with a soft aroma that perfectly matches the character of this dish.


Tips & Tricks

  • Get fresh quality eels.
  • Let your fish monger clean the fish so it’s ready to use.
  • Don’t brown the onions!
  • Don’t be intimidated by other recipes using even more herbs, there is no definitive version of this recipe.

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