This delicious recipe for mussels, leeks and bacon comes from Giles Edwards – the chef and owner of La Tête restaurant in Cape Town. He opened this spot in trendy Bree Street last November and specialized in a nose to tail menu concept rooted in French cooking. I also discovered that this fabulous eatery has so much more to offer for even a slightly unadventurous eater such as myself, and I had the most delicious lunch there last Friday.
The vibe all round is pared down, and everything is unpretentious creating a backdrop that allows the food to be the focus. I’m not the biggest eater of offal to be completely honest and I consider this a gigantic foodie fail on my part. I know its good for our food chain and the environment (you can read all about why that is here), and of course I know it can be extremely delicious, but I struggle with eating certain parts of the animal from a textural and emotional perspective. It makes it all too real for me. Perhaps becasue my soul is vegetarian or that I was never brought up eating it, I’m taken too far out of my comfort zone.
I think Giles figured this out and graciously guided through the menu selecting a few tasting portions so we could experience a thorough a range of dishes (some of the dishes might be a little smaller than what is on their actual menu).
I had been encouraged to try the lamb broth and it was heavenly. Deeply flavoured lamb consommé – clarified first and then the delicious bits added back, and I felt like I added at least a month onto my life it tasted that nurturing and nutritious. The octopus and mint salad was vibrant and tasty and the pickled chicken of the wood mushrooms with char grilled green beans was inspired and packed a flavour punch.
The mussels, bacon and leek dish sent me directly to food heaven and nestled on fried sourdough toast, this is the stuff of food dreams people. I loved it so much I made the recipe right here. It was also published in the March edition of Taste Magazine.
The pig cheek, radish and watercress salad was fantastic as was the beer battered fried hake sandwich with egg salad and cress. Giles pickles his own capers so you find them dotted all over this menu, which makes me very happy. Giles brought the deviled chicken hearts and potato for me to try (he was trying to push my boat out here with me) and I really enjoyed it. Served on a silky intense jus, that had us scraping the plate.
All this deliciousness before two sublime desserts of made-to-order madeleine’s that come fresh out the oven to your table, and the most delectable floating island in crème anglaise imaginable (it has a salty and caramel kick that will send you over the edge). Dunk the madeleine’s in the custard and sip on a lovely sweet wine while you are at it.
Here are a few more pics of the lunch and you will find the recipe below for the mussels.
*Notes on the recipe – I used 400gms of mussels because that is how many I bought so I changed Giles Recipe to include a few more. His recipe had it down as 250gms.
Recipe – serves 2
- 400gms fresh mussels in shell (cleaned)
- 1 ½ cups white wine
- 2 leeks, washed and cut into 4cm long pieces
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 100gms pancetta or thick cut streaky bacon cut into lardons (cubed)
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
- Half a lemon
- 2 slices sourdough bread
- Olive oil for frying the bread
Steam the mussels in a medium pot with 1 cup of white wine until they open. Strain the cooking liquor through a muslin cloth and reserve it. Allow the mussels to cool and then remove them from their shell.
Braise the leeks in a small pot with the lid on with the remaining ½ cup of wine and 2 tablespoons of the butter. It will take around 50 minutes to one-hour depending on how thick your leeks are. Cook this on a very low heat and check to ensure the liquid doesn’t dry up at the end.
Fry the sourdough bread in a non-stick pan with olive oil until golden brown on both sides. Set aside.
Using the same pan cook the pancetta / bacon until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towel wiping done the pan from any excess fat.
Add the cooking liquid (from the mussels), the leeks and bacon back to the pan and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the mussels, remaining tablespoon of butter and chopped parsley and gently shake the pan or stir so that the butter emulsifies with the liquid.
Finish off with the juice of about half a small lemon and serve on top the fried sourdough ‘crouton’. The bread soaks up all the juices, which is utterly delicious.
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