• Russian beetroot salad with smoked eel (Food Safari Water)Source: Food Safari Water

Eels are something that not everyone has close contact with. Alla Wolf Tasker shares a piece of her Russian heritage where smoked seafood is a staple and like most Russian salads, where beetroot reigns supreme. Food Safari Water






Skill level

Average: 5 (1 vote)

You will need to begin this recipe a day ahead. 


  • 3 beetroot, trimmed and scrubbed
  • 2 small to medium dill pickles, diced
  • Small handful each of dill, parsley, chives, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 300 g crème fraiche
  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • 5 cm medium thickness piece of peeled and finely grated fresh horseradish, or to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized smoked eel

Smoked eel jelly

  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • 3 French shallots, chopped
  • 2 bulbs fennel, chopped 
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped
  • 200 ml Pernod
  • 2 kg smoked eel bones and skin and white fish heads and bones
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 white peppercorns
  • 4 leaves titanium strength gelatine 

To clarify the stock

  • 1 French shallot
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ fennel bulb
  • 10 egg whites
  • To serve, dill flowers, frisée lettuce, red vein sorrel, baby beetroot chips and dehydrated beetroot powder, optional (see notes)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Setting time: overnight

For the smoked eel jelly, heat a drizzle of oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the shallots, fennel, carrots and celery and cook until golden. Deglaze with Pernod, then add the fish bones, skin and heads, bay leaves and peppercorns. Add enough cold water to cover, then bring to the boil over high heat, regularly skimming any impurities from the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours. Strain through a colander and discard the solids. Strain the stock again through a piece of muslin or a paper oil filter. Stand until cool, then refrigerate until ice cold.

To clarify the stock, place the shallot, carrot, fennel and egg whites in a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. Place the chilled stock in a large saucepan and whisk in the egg white mixture. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring regularly to prevent the egg white mixture (called the raft) from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook gently until the raft comes together and floats to the top but do not boil. Gently break through the raft with a large metal spoon. If the liquid underneath is clear, turn off the heat and stand, without stirring for 20 minutes. If not, cook for a little longer, then check again. Without breaking up the raft, gently ladle the consommé into a muslin lined sieve over a bowl (or use a paper oil filter). Season the consommé to taste. 

For the jelly, soak the gelatine in a bowl of iced water until softened. Place 250 ml (1 cup) of the clarified stock in a saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling. Drain the gelatine, squeeze out the excess water, then add to the hot stock and stir until dissolved. Add another 750 ml (3 cups) and stir until well combined. Pour into a tray and refrigerate overnight or until set. The finished jelly should be well flavoured but quite loose. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining consommé for another use. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170 ˚C.

Wrap the beetroot individually in foil, then bake for 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. Allow to cool, then peel and dice.

When ready to serve, mix together the beetroot, pickles and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine the crème fraiche, lemon juice and horseradish. Fold three quarters of the mixture through the beetroot. Reserve the remaining mixture to serve. Peel the skin off the eel and remove the central bone. Slice the flesh into small chunks and remove any remaining bones. Fold the eel through the beetroot mixture. Spoon onto serving plates and serve with a dollop of the remaining crème fraiche. Garnish with dill flowers, frisee lettuce, sorrel and beetroot chips. Drizzle the leaves lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle beetroot powder around the salad and finish with a few small dollops of the smoked eel jelly. 

• To make the baby beetroot chips, scrub small red and Chiogga beetroots, then peel and thinly slice using a mandolin. Deep-fry in hot olive oil until crisp. Drain on paper towel and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. 
• To make beetroot powder, place any beetroot offcuts off cuts into a dehydrator until completely dry. Blitz in a grinder or Thermomix until into a fine powder. Add a pinch of salt. Store in a sealed jar.


Maeve O'Meara is back in Food Safari Water airing 7.30pm Wednesday nights on SBS and then you can catch-up on all episodes via SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, videos and more.