28. May, 2017

Great dish with Gula, Monkfish and Prawns.

Anyone who has grown up in the Basque gastronomic culture knows the basic difference between  angulas, gulas and surimi , but I hope that my post will shed some light and also some curiosity in one of the most aided ingredients of Christmas celebrations in this part of the Iberian Peninsula, whether in Its original form or substitute form.

For example, you know that the “angula” is the baby eel, about 6cm in size, but did you know that it is the only fish allowed to be captured with these characteristics, by the international fishing laws? It is more frequently consumed in the north of Spain, throughout the winter months, especially in the Christmas period (since it is a winter fish). Until a few years ago most of the fish was bought live by countries like China and Japan, for later breeding and consumption. Currently the EU does not allow its commercialization , and can only be sold for breeding farms in northern Europe.

The eels carry out its  migrations from the Sargasso Sea to the mouths of European rivers to reproduce (that is why they are usually caught very frequently in the estuaries), and are usually fished when they are between 2 and 3 years old. Another curious fact that many people do not know is that the “angulas” are born female, and it is with time when some of them change sex according to their needs.

Gastronomically speaking, the “angula” itself is not a particularly tasty fish , in fact it has a rather tasteless taste that is enhanced thanks to the olive oil, garlic and chili pepper from the classic recipe of “Angulas Bilbao style”. What is most appreciated of this bay eel is its slippery and crisp texture , which offers some resistance to biting. They are mostly whitish in color (or a little darker if they have been in the river for a longer time). Although in some areas, like northern Spain, they only want white, in other places like Madrid they prefer darker, and in that case the solution is simple: leaving them a couple of weeks in fresh water darkens them.

If they are bought raw, alive, they are transparent and they are killed with a mixture of tobacco and water. Why with tobacco, and not just hot water, like shellfish? Because tobacco manages to clean them better. Warm water in a pot and introduce the tobacco together with the eels until clean (about 15 minutes is enough) after which they are washed and dried, the color is definitely whiter.

Right now you can find fresh “angula” cooked at 800 euros a kilo, but it depends on the time of year and the demand, the intermediaries and the quantity that we want to buy.

Now the alternative to “angulas” is “gulas”

As most people know, " Gulas " is the trade name that “Angulas Aguinaga” gave to a substitute product made from surimi, a mixture that is made with Alaska Pollock and other fish of little commercial value, among Other ingredients (such as starches, vegetable oils, egg white, soy protein and flavorings). The other brands call different names, but at the popular level the most widespread are still " gulas " even when referring to other first brands, or to white brands.

Surimi is a whitefish muscle hash and although it has not been industrially developed until a few decades ago, the technique has existed for over nine centuries in Japan. On a nutritional level, and despite the additives used to give it consistency, it is a recommended product, low in fat and high in protein, very convenient to use since we find it all year at affordable prices. If we talk about flavor, they are quite acceptable with a good accompaniment of garlic and chili, in salads and as accompaniment, although it has not managed to match the unmistakable texture of the original Angula.

Today I will share with you my recipe with Gula, Monkfish and Prawns

This morning I went early to the fish market and they had small monkfish, these were very fresh and I bought 4. I asked the attendant to clean them removing the skin and separating the heads from the tails. I also bought 300 grams of fresh prawns and a packet of 200grams of gulas. Happy with my goods I set off home. Well, a very good friend of mine from South Africa and his wife accepted my invitation for lunch, this was a good opportunity to surprise them with something different that I was sure they had never savoured before.

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 4 small monkfish tails
  • 300 gram:s of prawns
  • 200 g of gulas
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 sliced red chili
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Flaked Sea Salt, pepper and chopped parsley
  • 1 cup of dry white wine -
  • Flour
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  1. Once you arrive at the work place in the kitchen and as my dear brother Goiko normally says: “a cook should never be working dry in his kitchen” so for the preparation of this meal I recommend you uncork a nicely cooled bottle of white wine. I recommend an Australian Chardonnay, Moorooduc Estate Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2015, according to the experts it has an enticing texture and attractive flavors of spices, earth and herbs that lingered long in the mouth.

  2. Pour a glass and enjoy the wine, then start preparations by placing the monkfish tails in a dish and season them with fresh garlic, flaked sea salt and parsley. Peel the prawns and with the heads ( leave four with shell and head for decorating serving dish) of both monkfish and prawns, prepare a concentrated fish stock. Then cut the monkfisk into thick slices and pass them very lightly through the flour, place in the now hot olive oil and let it remain for 2 minutes. The flour coating works to seal the outside of the fish, keeping the tender insides together in the process.

  3. Remove the now sealed fish from the frying pan and use the same olive oil and its flavors to fry the chopped shallot, add the sliced garlic and when these begin to take color place the prawns and the wine allow the sauce to reduce and the prawns to reach firmness, making sure it’s not overcooked. Introduce the monkfish together with the prawns add the fish stock to cover the fish and prawns sprinkle the chopped parsley and allow it boil for another 2  minutes until the sauce has reached the desired consistency.

  4. Whilst the fish and prawns are reaching the final texture, place another frying pan on the stove with a little extra virgin olive oil. Allow to heat up, then add the sliced  garlic, when these begin to take color place the Gulas, sauté and before removing, sprinkle the sliced chili on top of the Gulas.

  5. Add the Gulas to the pan containing the fish and prawns so that they can interlink together for a short moment, binding and reaching finally a fantastic texture and flavor..

  6. Serve together with a green salad and cherry tomatoes, I’m sure this will leave your guests marveled over this special dish. Let me know.