Recipe and Image: Leith Davidson – Executive Chef at Red Barn

(Tuna is the Māori name for eel)

Makes about 25 x 60g balls

Eel Stock

2 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 bay leaf
3 small stems of thyme
1.5 litre of water
1 eel frame

Risotto Rice

1 whole smoked eel about 500g–600g (Southfish in Te Kauwhata. Alternatively, you can use smoked kahawai for an equally delicious result)
400g Arborio rice
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or microplaned
100ml Crossing Point Chardonnay (Tekapoto Estate)
50g butter
¾ cup of Meyer Aged Gouda
60g baby spinach


2 free-range eggs
1 cup A2 milk
150g flour
200g breadcrumbs

You will want to wear a pair of gloves when prepping the eel.

Take the eel out of its packet and place it on a cutting board. Remove the skin and head. Using your thumb and index finger, run it down the spine of the eel removing the smoked meat away from the bone. Using a fork you can remove any remaining meat. Cut into small pieces, and place in a bowl in the fridge.

Save the skin and eel frame for the stock.

To make the stock, roughly chop the vegetables and place in a medium pot with the bay leaf and thyme. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Next add the eel frame and skin into the pot and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, strain the liquid.

For the risotto

In a heated pan add a splash of oil and the butter, diced onion and crushed garlic and cook until onions are transparent. Add the rice and mix well for 2 minutes, then deglaze the pan with the wine and cook until it has reduced by two-thirds, then start to add the stock. Add a ladleful of the hot stock mixture to the rice and stir over a medium heat until absorbed, then add another ladleful. Repeat until all the stock is used up or the rice is tender but still al dente.

Add the roughly chopped eel, baby spinach and grated Meyer tasty cheese then mix well, check seasoning and add as required. The consistency you are looking for is when you can take a spoonful of the mix and place it on a tray, it should hold its shape for a moment then it should start to lie flat. When ready pour on to a lined tray that will fit in the fridge.

Allow it to completely cool.


Place flour in a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper. In another bowl whisk eggs and milk together. In a third bowl add the breadcrumbs.

Take the risotto out of the fridge and weigh into 60g balls.

Place the balls, one at a time, into the flour mix, coating evenly and dusting off any excess flour. Then into the egg mix, coating evenly and draining through your fingers. Then place into the breadcrumbs, reshaping as you coat evenly. Repeat until all balls are crumbed

Now the balls are ready to be deep-fried.

Serve with your favourite salad and homemade aioli.

Read more about the Red Barn in Serving up a Taste of Waikato.

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