David Higgs on his first recipe book & the one meal he regrets not cooking

28 October 2018 - 00:00 By Hillary Biller
Chef David Higgs.
Chef David Higgs.
Image: Supplied

Celebrity chef David Higgs' cookbook ‘Mile 8’ reads like a biography peppered with beautiful recipes. 

In the book, you'll discover that his story started in a small coastal town in Namibia, and he shares intriguing tales of his journey to becoming an award-winning chef and respected Joburg restauranteur.

He tells us more:

I've been thinking about doing a book for a while. It was a big thing for me, and first and foremost I didn't want to do just another cookbook. I wanted something essentially different and catchy. I never meant it to be this personal.

About five years ago I underwent a major operation and went to Namibia to recuperate. It was the longest time I've been off work and while I was there the thought processes and stories of growing up in Walvis Bay, you start remembering a lot of things. I jotted all the stories down.

'Mile 8' really just darts around. My attention span is short and I start telling one story and end up in another story, so it's pretty much how the book is - and how the stories are told. The stories are short, punchy and pretty descriptive - and they talk like I talk, really.

Growing up in Walvis Bay is a child's dream. My dad was a storeman in a fish factory, my mom a receptionist at a tyre shop. We led a very, very simple life. Essentially life revolved around fishing and eating what we caught and living off the sea. There was no microwave, no pre-bought food, it was the 1970s, so no TV, well not in Namibia, and just a simple life playing in the dunes, going fishing, playing on the beach and going into the desert. It's a place I'd love to raise a family for sure.

I've dedicated the book to my dad. It was through fishing and his backyard hydroponics (we lived in a desert) that he introduced me to food and cooking without even realising it. The fires on the beach, the frequent braais all taught me so much.

During the writing of this book I was asked which meal I would have cooked for my dad if he were still alive. I was stumped. I realise that meal for my dad was the one meal I never cooked.

'Mile 8: a book about cooking' by David Higgs.
'Mile 8: a book about cooking' by David Higgs.
Image: Supplied

Putting together a Sunday lunch for my dad would definitely include snoek, vetkoek, sweet potatoes and lamb boerewors. I know where it would take place - in our backyard in our house in Walvis Bay, around the braai.

A favourite recipe in the book? There's a cheese dish in the book.

I love cheese, just love cheese, and love where the South African artisinal cheese industry is right now.

The recipe features Langbaken Williston cheese, made in the Karoo, which is outstanding.

Whilst working at Five Hundred restaurant at The Saxon we made a dish featuring the cheese as the hero by simulating a Karoo scene with koeksister twigs, tumbleweed made from gem squash, biltong dust and ginger-biscuit stones - a phenomenal dish which eats so well, even if I say so myself.

My last meal? I guess as long as I'm sitting on the beach with a beer in hand and some droëwors, I couldn't think of better way to go. The meal would involve a fire and lamb boerewors and freshly caught fish eaten straight off the fire. You can't beat it.

'MILE 8: A book about Cooking' by David Higgs is published by Marble Group, R550.