The celebrated chef and co-owner of Marble restaurant recently launched his first cook book, Mile 8, with 150 recipes influenced by the journey of his career. This extract from its introduction is invaluable advice to anyone who loves cooking…
“When Garth Stroebel, then Head Chef of the Mount Nelson, spoke to students from my School of Good Cooking many years ago, he said something that really stuck with me. He said that cooking is 90% common sense and 10% skill. It’s so true. So, when you’re making the recipes in this book, or any recipe for that matter, use a bit of common sense. Here’s what I mean:
When you are cooking on the stove and something is too hot or it’s smoking or burning remove it from the heat.
When you are making a soup and the recipe says to add a litre of stock, add half a litre first, see how thick it becomes and add more to thin it if you need to. Once all of the stock has been added, it’s difficult to thicken a soup without affecting the flavour. The same goes for sauces.
Just before you serve something or as you are cooking it, taste it. If it needs more salt, add more salt; if it needs more pepper, add more pepper. Dip your finger in, or use a spoon if you are a bit more precious. As the cooking process carries on, the flavours will continue to change.
Put thought into what you’re doing. Taste your own food. Think about the whole plate and the different textures and flavours you are serving together. If there is too much sweetness, balance it with something not sweet. The right amount of acidity is crucial, and many cooks forget about it. A squirt of lemon juice added to just about anything enhances the flavour. These aren’t the things that you read in a recipe. They really are just common sense.
What I really want is for you to have fun with the book. Use the recipes as guidelines, or for inspiration. Make the dishes your own, and in your own way. Follow parts of recipes. Replace elements or ingredients. Challenge yourself and see what happens. And above all, enjoy it.”
Cured kudu loin, figs, goat’s cheese
This combination is a classic, and delicious. Curing game is key, as it is very bloody otherwise. The game should firm up nicely when properly cured and will be enjoyed a lot more too.
Serves 8 starter portions
1 kudu loin – about 1.25kg
250g coarse salt
250g brown sugar
1 whole small head of garlic – crushed lightly
Goat’s cheese mousse
15g chevin goat’s milk cheese – at room temperature
15g crème fraîche – at room temperature
1g ground white pepper
1 whole pomegranate
16 baby purple figs sliced into 56 slices – 7 per serving
32 half-moon slices Baris Clarens goat’s cheese – 4 slices per serving
64 red amaranth leaves (refreshed) – 8 per serving
40 small fennel blossoms (trimmed) – 5 per serving
Mix all the ingredients for the cure together and cover the kudu with the mixture. Cure for 6 hours. Wipe off the curing mixture with paper towels and then sear the dry kudu in a dry pan or on the coals. Refrigerate until cool. For serving, slice the kudu into 10cm-length pieces – 65g per portion. The remaining kudu will keep for a few days, refrigerated.
Mix both cheeses until soft and well combined. Add the white pepper and mix well. Reserve in a piping bag and refrigerate until needed.
Slice the pomegranate in half horizontally, and over a bowl, hit the back with a spoon to loosen the pips. Refrigerate the pips in an airtight container until needed.
To assemble, arrange on each plate as you wish, or follow the photo. Place a 65g portion of the kudu on each plate. Onto the kudu, pipe 7 dots of the goat’s cheese mousse and garnish with 10g pomegranate pips. Place 7 fig slices on one side of the kudu, and 4 half-moon slices of goat’s cheese on the other side. Place 8 amaranth leaves per portion over the fig slices. Position 5 fennel blossoms on top of the kudu and add sea salt flakes as desired.
Described as a “a book about cooking”, the 352-page Mile 8is on shelves this month and catalogues Higgs’ career with recipes that bring together the unique and interesting flavours of Southern Africa. Impala Tartare, Snoek & Apricot, Amadumbe & Chakalaka, and his version of the classic Malva Pudding are just some of the dishes. Price R550