Foodie Favourites #2

Unleash your inner chef and join a cooking class – you’ll learn new techniques and skills from the experts while sampling delicious cuisines.

Central Coast cooking classes

Especially as the weather cools down, we look forward to succulent food and experiences beyond the beaches and waterways. An escape from the city need not mean only sun and sand. Cooking together is a great bonding experience for small teams (and you might be surprised at what cooking skills and food handling can tell you about your colleagues). 

So scrub up, put on the gloves and let’s get cooking!

Cooking with Chef Nico

Always on the lookout for inspiration, our editor Sally Macmillan recently joined a cooking class hosted by Pachamama’s Ali Bishop and Osteria il Coccia’s chef-owner Nicola Coccia. 

Fourteen keen foodies gathered at Killcare Surf Club – what a glorious setting on a late summer’s evening – and Chef Nico prepared and cooked four different dishes in front of us. While it wasn’t a hands-on class, we were encouraged to wander through the kitchen, smell and look at the ingredients, ask lots of questions and, of course, eat every dish. 

Nico shared some secrets about making egg pasta – he buys organic eggs from Erina’s Egg Shed and flours from Young Barons in Woy Woy – and resting the cling-wrapped dough in the fridge for at least an hour is essential. 

He sprinkled the demonstration with personal cooking stories; for example, his grandmothers, one from Naples and one from Puglia, taught him how to make pasta when he was a boy and his 84-year-old mother still hand-rolls her own pasta every morning. 

The pasta was served with an enoki and oyster mushroom and spinach sauce, seasoned with plenty of garlic, fresh thyme and grated parmesan cheese. 

Next up was swordfish caponata (adapted from the recipe at right). We learned that swordfish skin is packed with bacteria and not usable even in stock and that the garlic oil that Nico used to coat the skinned fish steaks must be home-made.

The swordfish steaks needed just a couple of minutes on each side in a hot-to-smoking pan. The resulting dish was delicious and one that is very achievable for the home cook.

And while brussels sprouts aren’t the most glamorous vegetable, Nico’s side dish of burnt Brussels Sprouts with Turmeric Yogurt and Finger Limes made them quite irresistible. 

Fig-lovers were in for a treat – for the evening’s finale, Nico cooked halved fresh figs (flesh side down) in a hot pan with a little butter, then served them with a tangy ricotta and orange cream topped with a rich balsamic glaze. 

For bookings at Osteria il Coccia, call 02 4327 8952, see


Class recipe

Eggplant Caponata: Serves 8

  • 3 eggplants
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely diced
  • 50g capers, chopped
  • 100g black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 500g tinned tomatoes
  • 50ml white vinegar
  • 50g white sugar
  • 1 bunch basil leaves, chopped
  • 100ml olive oil
  • sea salt

Cut the eggplants into 2cm cubes and place into a colander. Mix with 1tbsp of salt and set aside for 30 minutes. This will draw moisture out of the eggplant and add flavour. Transfer onto some paper towel and pat dry. Head 50ml of olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, capers and olives and cook for 4 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar, basil and remaining olive oil and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and combine, reduce the heat to very low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Reproduced by permission from Farm to Flame: Cooking without rules in the Bistro Officina kitchen, by Nicola Coccia (book available at Osteria il Coccia, Ettalong)

Trish Arnott