Jellied eels is a traditional English dish that originated in the 18th century, primarily in London's East End. The dish consists of chopped eels boiled in a spiced stock that is allowed to cool and set, forming a jelly. It can be eaten hot or cold.
The eel was a cheap, nutritious and readily available food source for the people of London; European eels were once so common in the Thames that nets were set as far upriver as London itself, and eels became a staple for London's poor.
Although jellied eels are nowhere near as popular today as they were - at the end of the Second World War there were as many as a hundred Eel Pie & Mash Houses in London - they can still be found in the Eel Pie & Mash Houses that remain, and in some supermarkets.
The dish is traditionally prepared using the freshwater eels native to Britain. Typically, the eels are chopped into rounds and boiled in water and vinegar, to make a fish stock, with nutmeg and lemon juice before being allowed to cool. The eel is a naturally gelatinous fish so the cooking process releases proteins, like collagen, into the liquid which solidify on cooling to form a jelly, though gelatin may be added in order to aid this process. Recipes for jellied eels are individual to particular London pie and mash shops, and also street sellers; however, traditional recipes for authentic Victorian jellied eels all have common ingredients and cooking methods, what alters is the choice of herbs and spices used to flavour the dish. Jellied eels are often sold with pie and mash - another traditional East End food - and eaten with chilli vinegar.
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Jellied eels, en.wikipedia.org
Jellied Eels, www.bbc.co.uk
Jellied Eels, London, www.information-britain.co.uk