I say kinell​, you say quenelle[kə.nɛl])…


The skull and cross bones would be an ideal pennant for the carnivorous pike. Several feet of scaly flesh surmounted by a fierce head made monstrous by a mouthful of stilettos gives ample credence to this fanciful title. It will come as no surprise to hear that this predatory beast does not come quietly and, when eventually it is caught, will have the last laugh on the successful fisherman in that, having so many small bones, it is practically inedible. “Kinell” would indeed be a suitable oath for the Anglo angler when becoming aware of such a nightmare chewing its way along his line on the way to his arm. I am not a fisherman but, if I were, I would throw the rod, hook, line and sinker into the river and head for the hills…or a riverside pub to have a vengeful fish and chips. Le Meres de Lyon were made of sterner stuff finding something worth cooking even in the lowliest pieces of offal so, the word inedible not being in their dictionary, they were not slow in finding a way to separate bone from flesh in order that the noble brochet might appear on their bouchons’ menus next to the traditional brains, tongue, bollocks and tripe. The flesh of the cooked pike is passed through a tamis and then bound together with egg and breadcrumbs. This is then formed, with dexterity and spoons, into soft pillows which are gently poached in simmering water. The swollen “quenelles” are then napped with the crayfish and wine based sauce Nantua before being passed under a hot grill. I chose to eat my quenelle without the first passing it under the grill and, luckily having another quenelle about my person, passed that one under the grill. Both were very good and I am indebted to those smart Lyonnaises who know more than a thing or two about cooking. My delicious examples came from the celebrated Charcuterie Sibilia whose range of wondrous products is mouth watering.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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37 Responses to I say kinell​, you say quenelle[kə.nɛl])…

  1. Mad Dog says:

    F*kinell they look delicious 😉

  2. Conor Bofin says:

    I well remember seeing holidaying frenchmen getting very excited over awful, inedible pike, while fishing on the River Shannon. Now i understand. Lovely post.

  3. Bloody beautiful. Another thing I have not tried… my to do list is filling up quickly over here 🙂

  4. Pike was a popular fish – folklorically speaking – growing up, though I only really remember eating it in soup. I really wish quenelles would make a comeback. These look so terrific, but the last truly great quenelle I had was at a Thai (!) restaurant in NY :).

  5. Roger Goodacre says:

    Un vrai delice! One of Lyon’s great classics, strangely little known among Brits. Undoubtedly one of the courses in my ‘desert island’ menu – always make a point of having quenelles (baked in the oven with the sauce, they puff up nicely) when visiting family in Lyon, bought from a good traiteur in Tassin-la-Demi-Lune (great name!). Not convinced that the original recipe for the sauce contains any wine, although I’m sure it would do no harm… Making it from freshwater crayfish is a real labour of love and precision, as excellently demonstrated by Raymond Blanc in his TV prog on Lyon and explains why it can be expensive. As R Blanc emphasised, too often in restaurants the quenelles are bulked up with flour, but the flavours are very delicate and easily spoiled, so you need to choose carefully and not be afraid to ask the waiter what ingredients are used to be sure of getting the real thing.

  6. cecilia says:

    stunning, in more ways than one!. c

  7. MELewis says:

    Your blog is truly an education as it expands my urban vocabulary – merci! And raises the question of the mysterious quenelle. Why do the Lyonnais pronounce it ‘K-nell’? Why is it the name of an obscene gesture associated with the extreme right? We’re off to Lyon this weekend, time for some (hopefully tasty!) detective work…

  8. Roger, your photography is always a delight and an inspiration. That’s a given. However, I want to say the lighting in the second shot is downright amazing. I am not sure how you did it, but you did it perfectly.

  9. Amanda says:

    OMG that looks unbelievble. I’ve never attempted a quenelle, to eat or cook, but this is so beautiful. I was always a little wary of pike because of my early experiences with gefilte fish…oh goodness. But this is just…..superlative.

  10. Always handy to have a quenelle abou your person methinks….stunning!

  11. ChgoJohn says:

    You do eat very well, Roger. Call ’em what you like, they do look good. Real good.

  12. This looks perfect for cold weather. I’m going to hunt down recipes.

  13. Yikes, I think I’d throw my rod in as well if I caught that fish. But as they say, don’t judge the book by it’s cover. 🙂

  14. catterel says:

    my father was a keen coarse fisherman and occasionally brought fish home for supper – I remember pike and the awful bones. Then I got to France, was given quenelles de brochet and was amazed that it could be the same fish. Gorgeous photos, Roger.

    • I had never eaten pike before I ate a quenelle so I was spared the boney nightmare. I remember, as a young schoolboy at boarding school, being in awe of the rumoured presence of a carnivorous pike in the moat surrounding a nearby ancient house:)

  15. platedujour says:

    I’m in Lyon Roger 😊 yesterday we went for lunch to Chez Paul, one of those typical Lyon places. The food was absolutely fabulous and I was thinking of this post! They didnt have kinell on the menu but it’s true that here you can buy them everywhere. Enough to say we usually bring around 100 of those to Luxembourg and France, where they get distributed to the rest of the family! I hope you’re ready for Christmas xx

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