Q&A with Daniel and Luke Mancuso (Yiayia Next Door)
We chat with the two brothers who, with the help of their community and a very special yiayia, are responsible for compiling the collection of recipes, Yiayia Next Door.
Your beautiful heartfelt cookbook is only part of the story, but let’s concentrate on that now. This a book that celebrates neighbours and community and being the best you can be. Can you tell me the first meal Yiayia cooked you both and why it has remained a favourite?
It was her famous chicken and rice. It’s famous for a reason, as we get asked all the time to share the recipe through our social channels, which funnily enough was where the idea of the cookbook first came from! This dish sits on the top shelf of both of our hearts because of the significance it holds. The exchange caught us off guard. Yiayia called Daniel to the fence after hearing him in the backyard. After finally getting some form of closure in July of 2017, Yiayia stepped in and began to fill our hearts and stomachs with the love and support we needed as we mourned the loss of our beautiful mother.
I love that the cookbook is dotted with recipes from your community with their own stories. So many of those dishes are inspired by family memories. I’m very partial to lemon potatoes and the story of bread being dipped in the juices. Oh, for every Sunday to be this good. What are your favourites Sunday recipes?
We’re all about the bread mopping up the plate! That’s the best part if you ask us. Our first thoughts when bringing the cookbook to life were how we could incorporate our Yiayia Next Door community, as without the love and support we receive from them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do! So having recipes from yiayias and mothers all around Australia was ever so fitting and they are so delicious they even blew Yiayia’s cotton socks off.
If we’re talking about a Sunday special, it would have to be the Paidakia tis Skaras, which translates to Marinated Lamb Cutlets. Usually the smell from over the fence alerts us that Yiayia’s cooking up extra for her adopted grandsons. Being one of the first dishes Yiayia learnt from her mum, this dish means a lot to Yiayia’s family because it was always cooked together at celebrations. When there’s smoke there’s fire and we know this means we will be over at Yiayia’s shortly, enjoying her lamb cutlets as a family and just really enjoying each other’s company.
All of the recipes in this collection are super easy to create, although some are time consuming. Many of the ingredients come from garden plots and top tips are included in the book for growing veggies. From all the dishes in this book, which dish provides you each with your favourite aroma? (I love a house filled with the smell of fresh herbs and slow cooked tomatoes for example)
Hands down the grilled peppers, a very familiar scent for us as our Nonna and Nonno would also grill the peppers they proudly grew in their garden. There’s really nothing like cooking and eating fresh produce. I’ve found that when you grow something, such as peppers and tomatoes or any fruit or vegetable, you tend to forget how jam packed they are with flavours compared to those purchased from the supermarket.
I know you didn’t set out to be activists and I’m so sorry that your situation has led you both to becoming so. Can you tell our readers a little about your social enterprise so they too can rock one of those gorgeous aprons?
It’s something we both think about from time to time. That without our pain and trauma, Yiayia Next Door wouldn’t exist. But it’s entirely a reflection of the type of loving, caring and positive soul that Mum was and will always remain. She would always turn a negative into a positive and pain into power. Her legacy has morphed into Yiayia Next Door as a social enterprise. We are driven to support and inspire communities where people feel safe, and where neighbours connect and care.
Our vision is for an Australia where people experiencing family violence feel supported, and our aim is to support like-minded initiatives that can help us achieve this. We have a merchandise range via our website where you can find our gorgeous aprons, tea towels for all the chaos that happens in the kitchen, and reusable tote bags for shopping. A percentage of the profits from these are donated to the Australian Childhood Foundation.
How are you both, with Yiayia I presume, going to celebrate Greek Easter this year?
I think there will be some extra celebrations this year, maybe an extra bottle of Metaxa or two! It will be a time when we can all sit back and reflect on the beauty we have created. But yes, Greek Easter will be celebrated at Yiayia and Pappou’s, with Yiayia manning the grill and constantly looking over to see if our plates need a refill or two…or three. It’s the time we cherish the most with Yiayia, as we feel at one with her family and it’s always a special day as we laugh and just enjoy each other’s company.