Why shouldn’t eel be on the menus of our Michelin chefs?

Chefs take tour of Lough Neagh to see how fishermen catch the eels in the run up to Eel-Eat week
Chefs take tour of Lough Neagh to see how fishermen catch the eels in the run up to Eel-Eat week

Chefs from a number of prestigious Northern Ireland eateries joined Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative to see how one of the region’s premier delicacies is produced.

From a tour of the Lough with a fisherman, to a lunch of barbecued eels on its shore, the NI Chef Forum visitors were treated to what could feature on their menus for Eel-Eat week.

Dedicated to encouraging restaurants and eateries across Northern Ireland to put Lough Neagh Eel on the menu from June 25–July 2, the eel-drive was designed to coincide with the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink.

Described as ‘Lough Neagh caviar’ by some fishermen, their passion for the fish shone through when a number of chefs joined them on the lough to see them hauling their nets and dropping lines using traditional methods handed down through generations.

Organised by Cathy Chauhan from Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative and involving Eimear Kearney from Lough Neagh Partnership, the visit also gave the delegation a chance to try Lough Neagh Eel for lunch.

Local eel enthusiast, Pauline McGurk, who owns mobile BBQ and catering business Dot’s Kart, cooked up a storm according to Eimear in a blog about the visit.

She said: “The group feasted on Lough Neagh Eel freshly cooked on the BBQ in a very traditional way, as well as the very popular smoked Lough Neagh Eel, which recently featured on the shelves of the royal grocers; Fortnum & Mason in London.”

The group then made their way to Toome Eel Fishery, where they were given a tour of the factory and saw how the eels were sorted and weighed before being packaged up for their journey to stores in the Netherlands and London.

Derek Evans, from Agri Food and Bioscience Institute, spoke about the sustainable fishing practices in place around Lough Neagh eel, which are managed with a permit system.

For details on Eel-Eat week, please email Eimear@discoverloughneagh.com or visit www.eel-eat.co.uk #EelsAreTasty