Bacon – how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. A classic quote for a classic ingredient, bacon is an integral and much-loved addition to so many of our recipe repertoires. From a comforting pasta Alfredo to South Africa’s very own “oopsies” (streaky bacon wrapped around a kebab stick and braaied), bacon makes up a large part of our local diet – a detail that this bacon-lover isn’t averse to.
In celebration of Heritage Month, this September I got to experience Eskort’s range of appetite-inducing bacon offerings, including their brand new Braai Bacon – a sort of decadently thick-cut pork rasher – cured with Eskort’s signature smoky flavour and best enjoyed crisped up over the coals. Easily identifiable thanks to colourful new packaging that retains all the great taste, Eskort is South Africa’s most loved bacon brand, with a wide variety of products ranging from streaky to lean, diced, back, shoulder and round-cut bacon.
Faced with the challenge of developing a Heritage Month recipe with this iconic ingredient meant I was spoiled for choice with ideas – I mean, what can’t one do with bacon? While I’ve been known to indulge in the odd late-night bacon & peanut butter sarmie, I wanted to embrace my Weskus roots and run with a recipe that celebrates our beautiful coastline, summertime and seafood – with a smoky twist!
A summer holiday favourite, a mussel potjie cooked over the coals is a quintessentially West Coast dish. The addition of Eskort shoulder bacon, woody thyme and local whiskey lends a deliciously robust angle to this classic recipe, adding depth and flavour to the popular combination of cream, garlic and lemon.
Smoky West Coast Mussel Potjie with Bacon and Roosterkoek
Prep time: 15 mins /Cook time: 15 mins /Serves: 4
- 2 kilograms of fresh Mediterranean mussels, cleaned
- 30ml olive oil, for frying
- 200g Eskort shoulder bacon, diced
- 2 leeks, washed and finely sliced
- 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
- 250ml fresh cream
- 25ml South African whiskey or brandy (optional)
- Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
For the roosterkoek:
- 500g flour
- 7g instant dried yeast sachet
- 300ml lukewarm water
- 10ml fine salt
- 20ml olive oil
In a large bowl, combine the flour, dried yeast and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water. Using hands, mix the water into the flour until it forms dough. Turn out on to a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with a cloth for about 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size. Knock the dough down and divide into fist-sized balls. Place the balls into a greased hinged grid and braai over medium coals, turning often, until the roosterkoek is cooked through. Keep warm until needed.
For the mussels:
Use a large fire-proof casserole or “potjie” with a lid for this recipe, as it makes steaming the mussels in the sauce an easier task.
Place the casserole dish over medium coals and add a glug of olive oil. Crisp up the diced Eskort shoulder bacon before adding the leeks and garlic and sautéing until soft. Strip the thyme leaves from the woody stalks and add to the potjie. Simmer the mixture for another minute then deglaze the dish with the whiskey or brandy if using. Reduce by half and then add the cream. Season to taste, going easy on the salt. Once the sauce has thickened, add in the mussels – their liquid will loosen up the sauce again. Cover the dish with its lid and steam for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened – being sure to discard any that haven’t unless you’re sure of the origin and freshness of the mussels. If they’re very fresh and have opened a crack, simply work the shell wider with the tip of a butter knife.
Stir the mussels through the sauce and divide between four warmed bowls. Serve the mussels immediately with lemon wedges to squeeze over the top and the warm roosterkoek to mop up the sauce.