Chef David Higgs writes his first cook book

When a chef needs to recover from a stomach operation, the recovery time could either be daunting or rewarding. In Chef David Higgs‘ case, it was definitely rewarding, as that is when it all started. He started to write little stories, took photos and tried to come up with the perfect concept for his book, called Mile 8, which will be available from October.

He has cooked for the likes of Antonio Banderas, Charlize Theron, Chef Ferran Adria, Drew Barrymore, Elton John, Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga, MTN Team Qhubeka during the Tour de France and Nelson Mandela. And now he wrote a book!

I’ve been wanting to write a book for a number of years. About six years ago I ended up in Namibia after a stomach op and it was probably the longest period of time I’ve had to chill and relax. I started writing little stories, taking photos and trying to come up with a concept. I’ve never wanted it to be ‘just another cook book’ – I knew I wanted it to be something unique, beautiful and special to me – first and foremost. When My Kitchen Rules SA first approached me, I got into contact with Tessa Graham – she looked after Jamie Oliver for many years. It was at this time, with Tessa and my business partner, Gary, that I decided to do MKRSA, and I also started talking to Tessa about doing the book.

Why the name, Mile 8?

“For me, Mile 8 is a special marker as it is where I caught my first fish and my food journey began. Originating from the Swakopmund Post Office and running north for 108 miles, Namibia’s coast is dotted with mile markers.”

According to Higgs, the book is a very frank account of essentially his story – beginning in the small, coastal town of Walvis Bay, through the cowboy kitchens of Cape Town in the 90’s, to the heart of South Africa’s lush winelands, and culminating at Marble. 

Elsa Young was the photographer for the book. “… I met Elsa when I moved to Johannesburg from Cape Town. It’s very rare to find a photographer who sees food in the same way as you do. We have the same understanding of what we want the food to look like in an image. She’s terribly talented and she’s a good, honest friend.” 

With fishing being the initial start to Higgs’ cooking career, it’s only natural that he still enjoys it. “Fishing will always be part of my life for a number of reasons. First, it’s the most relaxing thing you can do, especially when you’re not surrounded by people. Generally, up the Namibian West Coast all the miles from Swakopmund there’s just peace and quiet, and the sound of the sea. It’s quite special and pretty much the area where I like to fish. My favourite fishing spot is Paaltjies, heading towards Sandwich Harbour – it reminds me of fishing with my father, although its catch and release now.

Higgs also enjoys cycling to unwind. “I ride mountain bikes and it’s close to my heart.” In fact, “In my dreams I would like to be a professional cyclist (haha).”

Higgs’ favourite dish to make? 

“I love slow cooking dishes like casseroles and stews, and I love cooking on fire. As I say in the book: ‘The first fish out of the water, goes onto the fire.’ It’s still the best way to eat – uncomplicated and with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. It goes perfectly with an ice-cold beer.

From his book, he would recommend the snoek with the sweet potato and apricot jam, the fish stew and the curry tomato soup.

If he could cook for anyone, it would have been his father. “Sadly, I was never able to cook for him while he was still alive.”

I always wonder where chefs’ preferred culinary destinations are. Higgs says: “I’m a big fan of New York, and I always have been. There is a lot on offer and a lot to see in a small space – you don’t have to travel far and wide to taste different types of cuisine. It’s got a great international offering, even if you are limited for time.”

It’s been quite an emotional experience, and it’s reminded me of so many stories from my childhood, and things I had forgotten about. But it’s lovely to be able to share this with people and tell stories as they are. It’s also great to be able to give everyone a real peak into the ‘behind the scenes’ of a professional kitchen. Some people will relate, and some won’t – but I like it, and so I hope people enjoy it. – Chef David Higgs on writing Mile 8.

Higgs says that Mile 8 is really accessible to everybody. “The important thing about cooking is that you need to experiment, and you need to push yourself. You don’t have to do everything the recipe says – you don’t have to put a lemon gel, you can rather just put a squeeze of lemon. I’m really just trying to show the combination of flavours. I wanted to have something for everyone – chefs, home cooks and even for people that collect beautiful coffee table books – to tell people about Namibia, South Africa, and show them what we’re about.”

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Desert Destinations

With all the possible holiday destinations, it can be quite overwhelming when planning your travels. Since we are entering warmer temperatures again, Travelling Mystery Guest took a look at some interesting desert destinations to visit. Some are in our neighbouring countries and some are very far, never the less, they do not disappoint:

  1. Canyon Lodge, Namibia

Located near the Fish River Canyon, not only does this lodge provide activities for all visitors, but their unique stone chalets will make you feel part of the beautiful Namibian desert. For South Africans, this lodge is not too far from home and for international travellers, this oasis is worth the distance.

  1. Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa

Located in the lush Catarpe Valley of the Salt Mountain Range (in Chile, South America), this destination is for those looking to travel further than South Africa’s neighbouring desert. Similar to the architectural design of the Canyon Lodge, the Alto Atacama Desert Lodge blends in with its surroundings, making you feel part of the terracotta ridge that rises behind it.

  1. Kubu Island
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Baobab in Botswana

Though this island’s location may not be defined as desert, the Kubu Island in Botswana (in the Makgadikgadi Pan area), consists of dry granite rock that features some beautiful Baobabs. An interesting fact about this destination is that the entire island is a national monument and it is considered sacred by the natives living in the area.

  1. Salvador Dali Desert, Bolivia

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The name of this desert, originating from the environment’s resemblance to Salvador Dali’s landscapes, already paints a picture in our minds of what to expect from this desert destination. It consists of long stretches of rocky hills, sand dunes and lagoons. So if it’s really desert that you’re after, you’ll find it here. This desert is in South America (close to Chile).

  1. Luxury Desert Camp in Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi is one of Morocco’s two Saharan ergs (a sand sea), the other is Erg Chigaga. The Luxury Desert Camp provides a true Moroccan experience in the desert, with the culture adding to every aspect of this camp. Camping in tents completed with Moroccan décor whilst surrounded by camels and the sun setting behind a dune would be an amazing experience!

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys

 

 

Get out, look up & be amazed

Winter evenings in South Africa can be chilly, but if you spend all your time inside, you’ll miss out on one of winter’s famous attractions – the night sky. The clear, cold winter nights of the Southern Hemisphere often offer perfect conditions for stargazing.

Shaun Pozyn, Head of Marketing for British Airways (operated by Comair) suggests the following places to do some amateur astronomy, as well as other attractions for each:

Stargazing in winter

HOGSBACK

Just over three hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth, this small town in the Amatole mountains of the Eastern Cape often has snow in winter and is frequently misty, but because of its many very clear nights and very few artificial lights, it can offer good stargazing opportunities.

Some visitors say Hogsback reminds them of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings books and movies, and the area is said to have inspired the more idyllic, pastoral parts of JRR Tolkien’s epic works. While you’re no more likely to see short people with hairy feet there than anywhere else, it does have many other attractions.

Mountain-bikers love the trails in the area. There are also hiking-trails to suit any fitness level and local restaurants offer everything from pub-grub to fine dining. See www.hogsbackinfo.co.za

SUTHERLAND

Star-gazing can be very rewarding with just the naked eye and a flask of something to keep you warm, but if you want some technology on your side, you can head to Sutherland, about four hours’ drive from Cape Town. Sutherland is world-famous for its stars and its SALT (Southern African Large Telescope), one of the biggest optical telescopes in the world.

The SAAO (Southern African Astronomical Observatory) has set up several telescopes for visitors, and the Sterland guesthouse, for example, offers telescopes for guests’ use. Day-time attractions in the area include hiking and four-by-four trails. See www.sutherlandinfo.co.za. Sutherland is often one of the coldest places in the country, but that hasn’t stopped a steady flow of visitors going there to stare into the universe and to, appropriately, give the experience 4.5/5 stars on www.tripadvisor.com

NAMIBIA

Away from its towns, Namibia has very little light pollution. The desert climate boasts very few clouds, allowing for excellent stargazing. In fact, alongside Hawaii and Chile, Namibia as among the world’s best places to do so. There are many guided tours and a number of guesthouses have telescopes for guests’ use, like Hakos Guest Farm and Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm.

Straddling the border between South Africa and Namibia, the ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park has a starkly beautiful mountain-desert landscape and is essentially uninhabited. This means no light pollution, or pollution of any sort, creating ideal conditions for astronomy. Visitors have also found the lack of cell phone coverage liberating. (Also see our post about Digitial Detox). There are plenty of campsites, but you’ll need a four-by-four vehicle to traverse the park. The Orange River has some excellent fly-fishing too.

Photoblog: Kalahari and Namibia

Hello and happy New Year!

We are back from Namibia and would love to share a few moments of the trip with you.

Enjoy!

Vanzylsrus. ©Renate de Villiers

Vanzylsrus. ©Renate de Villiers

Vanzylsrus Hotel. ©Renate de Villiers

Vanzylsrus Hotel. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi. ©Renate de Villiers

Toto and Tina at Kalahari Trails. ©Renate de Villiers

Toto and Tina at Kalahari Trails. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi beauties. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi beauties. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi relaxtion. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi relaxation. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi twilight. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi twilight. ©Renate de Villiers

Kalahari Trails. ©Renate de Villiers

Kalahari Trails. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi serenity. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi serenity. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi Springbok. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi Springbok. ©Renate de Villiers

Horses at Red Dunes. ©Renate de Villiers

Horses at Red Dunes. ©Renate de Villiers

Camping at Sossusvlei. ©Renate de Villiers

Camping at Sossusvlei. ©Renate de Villiers

Camping at Sossusvlei, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Camping at Sossusvlei, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei Entrance. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei Entrance. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei beneath your feet. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei beneath your feet. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei patterns. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei patterns. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei mystery tracks. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei mystery tracks. ©Renate de Villiers

Mystery me. ©Renate de Villiers

Mystery me. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Nature love, Solitaire. ©Renate de Villiers

Nature love, Solitaire. ©Renate de Villiers

Henties, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Henties, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Swakopmund jetty. ©Renate de Villiers

Swakopmund jetty. ©Renate de Villiers

Joe's Beerhouse, Windhoek. ©Renate de Villiers

Joe’s Beerhouse, Windhoek. ©Renate de Villiers

Rising moon at the Botswana border. ©Renate de Villiers

Rising moon at the Botswana border. ©Renate de Villiers

Travelling Mystery Guest went Travelling

Yup, that’s right, the Travelling Mystery Guest is out travelling once again! Where, you may ask? Well, Namibia off course!
So…if you’re looking for us between 12 December 2014 and 6 January 2015, you will unfortunately not be able to get hold of us.
May you have a blessed Christmas and a very happy New Year!
See you soon.

Gone Travelling

Gone Travelling