Lisa’s Capsicum Dip



Our friend Lisa served this dip at a large gathering over quartered avocados and we loved it so much that we asked for some pointers and set about recreating it. We used a recipe for Baba Ghanoush from Claudia Roden and substituted the aubergines with capsicums, added cashew nuts and feta and toned lemon juice and garlic down to complement the capsicums’ sweeter tones. This dip is wonderful on bread, carrot or celery sticks (or indeed avocados!). Accompanied by some tabouleh, it makes a wonderful light summer lunch.



  • 7 red capsicums
  • 1 and ½ cups of roasted cashew nuts
  • 100gr feta cheese
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or more to taste)
  • 1 crushed garlic cloves (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons of tahina paste (or more to taste) – I use the unhulled one, which is darker and has a deeper flavour
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper



  • Cut the stalks and seeds out of the capsicums, place upside down in a baking dish and roast in a 180’ C oven until soft and a bit blackened (approximately 1 hour)
  • Put the capsicums in a salad bowl and cover with a plastic bag. Leave steaming for at least ten minutes and then uncover and peel. Steaming the capsicums makes peeling them much easier
  • Put the cashew nuts in a food processor and grind them to crumb size
  • Add the capsicums, feta, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, two spoonfuls of tahina and a generous splash of olive oil and process into a paste
  • Add more tahina, lemon juice and salt to reach the level of zestiness that suits your palate
  • For best consistency, cook one day in advance and store in the fridge; that gives the nuts enough time to soak up the juices, which firms the dip up.
  • Enjoy.

Maurizio Viani





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Market Tart



We have been buying produce at farmers’ markets ever since our neighbour Judy put us on to New Brighton’s. Excellent food, friendly stallholders and an endless stream of yummy treats for my son have brought us back every week. Where else do you find French surfer dudes selling tomatoes with a beaming smile, Sicilian rastafarians making the meanest cannoli this side of the Messina Strait and sourdough bread baked with a BIG heart? For this recipe, I have bought Kalamata olives and extra virgin olive oil from Denise, cheese from Doug and Deb, eggs from Glenys and herbs from Ian (Ian-The-Slasher, as my son started calling him after seeing him at work on his tractor). Our usual banana supplier had garlic as well today so we bought some from him while the silverbeet comes from Will’s farm.


This is a good dish if you are going to or are having a party: it looks and smells scrumptious and its crusty base makes it easy to pick up and eat while you are having a chat; the recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s 2007 Jamie at Home cookbook but I have tweaked a few things from the original (hopefully improving it in the process): I make a vegetarian version of the tart by substituting ham with olives, I use silverbeet instead of spinach because…Well because that is what my mum would do and notwithstanding how much I love Jamie, Nonna Iole takes precedence, when it comes to food. I also substitute some of the sour cream with Deb’s cottage cheese because I come from Modena – home of Parmigiano Reggiano – and I have learned early in life that excellent cheese can work magic on a dish.




For the base:

  • 300gr flour
  • 125gr butter
  • 30gr grated cheddar cheese
  • A few springs of rosemary and thyme (leaves picked)
  • 3 eggs
  • A tablespoon of milk


For the filling:

  • 3 red onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 350gr of silverbeet (or spinach or cavolo nero)
  • A few springs of oregano
  • 250gr sour cream
  • 250gr cottage cheese
  • 150gr grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • A handful of pitted Kalamata olives
  • Olive oil, salt & pepper


Execution (base):


Put the flour, butter, cheese and a pinch of salt in a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds. Add the rosemary and thyme leaves, the eggs and the milk and pulse for a few more seconds until the pastry comes together. Put the pastry onto a floured work surface and pat a few times (but do not knead it). Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.


Execution (filling):


Take your pastry out of the fridge and roll it into a 30 * 40 cm rectangle roughly ½ cm thick. I do this with a floured rolling pin directly on a sheet of floured baking paper, which makes it much easier to then move the pastry to the baking tray.


Once the pastry is in the tray, prick it all over with a fork and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven at 190’C and blind bake the pastry for 8-10 minutes or until golden.


Put a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the chopped onions on a medium heat for 10 minutes or until soft. Turn up the heat and add the sliced garlic and the silverbeet (washed, stalked removed and roughly shredded). Add the oregano and salt and pepper and cook for 3 – 4 minutes or until the silverbeet has wilted.


In a bowl or in your food processor, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, cottage and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.


Spread the silverbeet mixture over the pastry case and add some olives. Cover with the cheeses, cream and egg mixture and then add a few more springs of oregano and a bit more grated Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with some olive oil and bake for 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and well set.








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Sera’s Thumbprints


Our friend Sera gave us some of these lovely biscuits for Christmas a few years ago and we immediately asked her to hand over the recipe, which she did graciously. These thumbprints are so easy and gorgeous that we have been baking them regularly ever since. If you don’t have coconut oil, you can use a different vegetable oil (like corn or sunflower) but with coconut the bikkies turn out extra-delicious and the house smells like heaven while they are in the oven.

Ingredients (make 26 chunky biscuits):

• 2 cups almonds
• 2 cups rolled oats
• 2 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1 pinch of salt
• 1 cup coconut oil
• 1 cup maple syrup
• Jam


In the blender, buzz the almonds and then the oats into a meal. Add the other dry ingredients and pulse. Add the wet ingredients and buzz some more until everything is incorporated.

Scoop up spoonfuls of dough and shape them into balls. Flatten onto a tray lined with baking paper. Make an indent with your thumb and put a little jam in the dent.

Bake in a medium (~170’ C.) oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Do not over bake or the biscuits will go hard.


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Pimping Pestos

South West Rocks Pine Trees

South West Rocks Pine Trees



175ml extra virgin olive oil
75gr pine nuts
1 garlic clove
150gr fresh basil leaves
100gr Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 ice cubes

• Toast the pine nuts, wash the basil, grate the cheese, chop the garlic
• Put 50ml of oil in the food processor together with the pine nuts and garlic and blend into a paste
• Add the rest of the oil, the basil and the ice cubes and blend briefly until amalgamated
• Add the parmesan and salt and pulse quickly until incorporated
• Done

The traditional way to use pesto is with “trofie”: a Ligurian handmade pasta that looks a bit like a skinny gnocchi. I attempted that once and obtained a glutinous mass that stuck to the pot for eternity. In my wiser days, I now use pesto to dress spaghetti or as a spread with bread or celery sticks.

You can swap the pine nuts for cashew, if you like. It is not traditional, but it tastes good. Use extra virgin olive oil: it is cold pressed and the best and – as with all Italian cooking – it is the ingredients that make the difference.

The recipe above comes from “A Year of Family Recipes” by Lesley Wild; the cookbook of Betty’s of Harrogate’s, one of my favourite tearooms. I trust it because the author’s source is the chef of the Splendido Hotel in Portofino, the Grande Dame of Ligurian hotels.

I often cheat and add extra cheese because, as dad used to say, “al furmai le un gran ruffian”, which is a Modenese dialect say that translates literally as: “cheese is a great pimp”. Dad loved proverbs; he had one for every occasion and he used to deploy them liberally accompanied by a knowing grin; they were his fool-proof way to win an argument: only a fool would attempt arguing with the pearls of wisdom distilled and passed on by our ancestors and anyway how does one disprove something like: “cheese is a great pimp”? His debating technique bored me and – I suspect – half of his friends senseless but I have to give it to him: years after his death, I still remember his proverbs…

Whatever you do, don’t change the cheese: don’t be tempted by cheddar or by the dreaded Grana Padano, which is a much inferior cheese to Parmigiano Reggiano and cheaper for a reason: it holds its shape to maturity thanks to a whiff of formalin added to the mix instead of the traditional Parmigiano, which is all natural and only holds to maturity if the cows the milk comes from are hormone free and have been fed an unadulterated diet. If you can’t find proper Parmigiano at your local deli, move.

OK that might be a touch strong. If you can’t find proper Parmigiano, make this other pesto instead:

Use equal quantities of pecorino cheese and toasted walnuts. Grate the cheese, blend in the food processor with the nuts and enough extra virgin olive oil to form a paste. Add salt, if needed. Use as above to dress pasta.

Ivonne, my best friend’s mum from university times, was used to keep a jar of this in the fridge at all times for easy dinners and Laura, who was maid of honour at our wedding still talks about the ribbon pasta dressed in this nutty pesto that she ate at a Tuscan restaurant in Modena after the ceremony.

Buon appetito.

Maurizio Viani

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