UCOOK, we all cook with David Higgs this month


WRITE drunk, edit sober – Ernest Hemingway apparently never said, but someone did. So here goes. I’ll admit to “tipsy” because a fair measure of the bottle of Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir went into the risotto – a leisurely dish which requires a glass of wine at hand (and another for when you eat) – and not my mouth.

Meal kit delivery company UCOOK has partnered with chef David Higgs this month to offer three of his dishes over two weeks (so six in total), and the featured wine estate for September is Haute Cabrière. If you have a look at the selection you’ll see the prices are super affordable, for wonderful wines. I’m already a fan so I was delighted to be invited to cook live alongside David this afternoon while drinking wine. What’s not to love? You get one of our country’s top chefs showing you how it’s done, and one of our country’s finest cellar masters, Takuan von Arnim, talking about his passion.

David is just the coolest guy, seriously. He’s a chef, restaurateur and judge on My Kitchen Rules SA (season three begins on M-Net on Sunday, September 19 and I can’t wait). He’s put up his recipes on UCOOK, which go live on September 15 and 23 with orders closing the following Wednesday (September 22 and 29). We got to make the Emerald Risotto, which was on the menu back in his Rust en Vrede days, so a dash of nostalgic respect is the secret ingredient.

We were in our kitchens, and David was in his, wearing a floral shirt and funning around with a vase of roses before we got down to the serious stuff. UCOOK supplies all the ingredients in the correct measurements, and a recipe card. It’s a vegetarian recipe but you should feel free to add chicken or bacon or whatever. “The recipe is a method, and a guideline,” said David. “Ignore the recipe, listen to me,” he added as he tossed out clever chef tips.

Use a pot that is not too small, nor not too big, he advised. A Goldilocks pot that is just right. Too big and the stock is going to evaporate before your rice is cooked. I learned not to stir the risotto; it’s too aggressive. Unlike a martini, it should be gently shaken.

The dish showcases vegetables and herbs and David encourages us all to grow our own if possible. He dropped a hint that a veggie garden is something we’ll see in MKR. “Vegetables are beautiful, there is so much you can do with them,” he said. So don’t relegate them to a side dish or an afterthought. Flaunt those beauties.

I’m a keen bean when it comes to these online cooking events so I did a lot of the prep before I signed in. “Overachiever,” David teased me. He’s not wrong. I’m not a risotto novice so I was comfortable with the recipe, and even though I was a few steps ahead at one point it all balanced out in the end, and I finished at the same time as David. The risotto includes mushrooms, thyme, spinach purée which is stirred though to give it its colour, goat’s cheese, hard Italian-style cheese, luxurious truffle powder or oil, and a dash of lemon zest as the final flourish to liven it up.

I am not overstating it when I say it is probably the best risotto I have ever made. It was so cool to be eating it right there and then, and so was David, with some relaxed chatter between the guests. You know you can absolutely trust a chef who enjoys his own food.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Bianca Coleman ©


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