Yiayia Next Door | Recipe For Kokkinisto (Greek-style Ragu)

Yiayia Next Door | Recipe For Kokkinisto Greek-style Ragu
One of the contributions from the Yiayia Next Door community, Kokkinisto (Greek-style Ragu).

In the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir, an area with a large Greek and Italian population, there’s a heart-warming story about neighbourly friendship and the power of food in bringing people together. And while it’s a very human story, it’s also a very Australian story, of friendships forged across cultures, symbolized by the passing of food over a fence.

Daniel and Luke Mancuso’s mother, Teresa, grew up in the home in Reservoir where they now live. Tragically, Teresa was murdered in the home in 2013 by her ex-husband, Daniel and Luke’s father.  

In navigating the grief that followed, the young men were buoyed by the support of the Greek yiayia and pappou (grandmother and grandfather) next door. The two families had known each other for decades and yiayia was particularly fond of Teresa. “I loved your mum very much,” she told the pair. “She was my favourite.”

Yiayia began passing home-cooked meals over the fence to them, and like most twenty-somethings they soon began sharing these acts of kindness on Instagram @yiayianextdoor

Their posts very quickly captured people’s hearts, growing a following of thousands and leading them to set up Yiayia Next Door, a social enterprise with a mission to encourage people to “love thy neighbour”.

Working closely with organisations such as Carlton Football Club’s Respect program, Our Watch, Safe Steps and the Australian Childhood Foundation, they have become a powerful voice in family violence education, prevention and support.

Yiayia Next Door

Inevitably, their story has led to the publication of a cookbook, Yiayia Next Door, published by Plum. It’s a collection of recipes not only from yiayia’s kitchen but also from the Yiayia Next Door community, after they put out a call and were swamped with much-loved family recipes and similarly heart-warming stories.

The recipe here is one such contribution, offered by the granddaughter of another yiayia who clearly put so much love into the dish that no-one else in the family has ever been able to nail it in quite the same way.

The recipes in Yiayia Next Door are pure comfort: pastries such as spanakopita and tiropita; warming soups made with chickpeas, lentils and beans; hearty pasta and rice dishes such as moussaka and yemista; the unmistakable flavours of barbecued lamb and keftedes; and delicious desserts such as baklava and custard-filled galaktoboureko.

There’s the chicken and rice dish that yiayia first passed over the fence, a cannelloni dish that Teresa taught yiayia to cook, and even more poignantly, a beautiful rack of lamb recipe that was one of the last meals Teresa cooked for her sons.

This is such a feel-good book that demonstrates how simple gestures, such as giving someone a home-cooked meal, can transform lives. A portion of the proceeds is being donated to the Australian Childhood Foundation, an organisation which aims to protect children from family violence.

Buy your copy of  Yiayia Next Door from Book Depository (free delivery worldwide).

Buy your copy of  Yiayia Next Door from Australian-owned Booktopia.

Yiayia Next Door cover

Recipe For Kokkinisto (Greek-style Ragu)

Serves 4 to 6

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 large onions, diced
1 kg meat of your choice, such as chuck steak or boneless lamb, cut into chunks, or cutlets on the bone (skin off)
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon tomato paste
350 g passata
salt and black pepper
cooked rigatoni or spiral pasta, steamed rice or homemade thick chips, to serve

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the meat and cook for 10 minutes or until seared on all sides. Add the clove, cinnamon and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant, then stir through the tomato paste and passata.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and add enough boiling water to just cover the meat. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 2½ hours (or 15 to 20 minutes if using chicken), until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened.

Serve with cooked pasta, steamed rice or homemade thick chips.

Recipe and image from Yiayia Next Door, by Daniel & Luke Mancuso (with Yiayia), published by Plum, photography by Mark Roper. Reproduced with the publisher’s permission.

This story originally appeared in PS News.

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