• Aviva Visoli's chraime with eggplant. (Aviva Visoli )Source: Aviva Visoli
Mullumbimby is the surprising location for some of the country's most exciting Iraqi, Persian and Moroccan dining.
Emily Lloyd-Tait

12 Jan 2021 - 10:40 AM  UPDATED 12 Jan 2021 - 10:42 AM

A country town in New South Wales is not where you expect an Iraqi, Persian and Moroccan restaurant, but that's where Adama Home Cooked is located.

Adama Home Cooked, which is run by couple Aviva and Gad Visoli, has already attracted a legion of fans. Café breakfast pioneer Bill Granger brings the whole family in when he is in town. Restaurateur-farmer Palisa Anderson and host of Palisa Anderson's Water Heart Food on SBS Food is also a regular.

Aviva's cultural history is a complex one. She was born to Iraqis, was raised in Israel and her in-laws are Yemenis and Persians. Her first marriage was to a Moroccan, her second was to Gad Visoli, an Israeli-Russian-Polish man she met in a queue at the council offices in Tel Aviv.

It was he who imparted the value of a simpler life in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. He greeted her each morning with photos of the famous Cape Byron Lighthouse and surrounding beaches until she relented and they moved to Mullumbimby.

Aviva Visoli in her restaurant with one of her children.

This unlikely location is where they've opened a small restaurant where her unique culinary influences are woven into the food. Although, there are only eight bain maries at 45 Burringbar Street, which means there's only one hundred serves per day.

So fierce are people's love for the food at Adama Home Cooked that some come back twice daily for the stuffed eggplants and capsicum. Aviva, who leads the cooking, also makes a lamb tagine from dates, carrots, onion, garlic, black olives and pepper that's too popular to ever come off the menu. There's an eggplant take on a traditional spicy Moroccan fish dish called chraime, and coriander meatballs cooked in a turmeric spiced broth. Dishes are served on rice and come with a side of house-made zhoug and tahini.

"We have an eating culture in the Middle East, and food brings people together."

As the eleventh child of 12, there wasn't a lot of time for mother-daughter bonding, but Aviva remembers her mother's big pots that she would feed her children. Cooking was also how Aviva's mother made ends meet. Aviva says, "She was a chef in an Iraqi food factory, and red kubbeh [soup] and kibbeh were her specialities. She was famous for her food."

Now Aviva spends her days in the restaurant's kitchen surrounded by 18-litre pots, which remind her of her mother. "Cooking in the restaurant, I'm thinking about her and what she went through. She loved Umm Kulthum [a 1920s Egyptian singer] and I play [her songs] every day in my restaurant. I'm reliving my childhood and saying goodbye to my mother."

The lowdown: Middle Eastern cuisine
We’ve happily added falafel, hummus and knafeh into the Aussie diet, but there are plenty more Middle Eastern favourites to cosy up to. Here's the lowdown on sensational share plates and how to make sure you never skimp in any meal.

There's not much room in Adama Home Cooked. There's just enough for a gas stove, a small bench for rolling out fresh pita bread, and walls lined with jars of organic spices. She uses them to make her own ras el hanout and baharat spice blends, which are critical to achieving the right balance of flavours. "The ready-made preparations didn't smell like the spices we used in Israel. It was missing the dry acidity of lemon so I had to find dried black limes and grate it into the mix."

While people are spreading the word of Aviv's cooking, she has no plans to expand operations. "One hundred meals is one hundred meals. I don't want to hire anyone else. I'm exhausted but I love it. My husband works with me, my children work with me. It's the best thing I've ever done in my life. We have an eating culture in the Middle East, and food brings people together."

Love the story? Follow the author here: Facebook @theemilylloydtaitPhotographs by Aviva Visoli and Kalani Cook.


Chraime, which comes from the word for 'hot' and 'forbidden' in Arabic, is a spicy fish stew from the Maghreb, but Aviva has reworked it with eggplant. 

Recipe by Aviva Visoli. Serves 4-5 

  • Oil for deep frying
  • 400 g medium size eggplants cut into to 2cm thick steaks (you should get at least 4 steaks)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 16 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 red capsicum cut into stripes
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp red Israeli paprika (substitute any unsmoked paprika)
  • ¼ tsp hot paprika
  • 2 fresh green chilies, chopped
  • 1 ½ tbsp good quality tomato paste
  • 400 g can of chickpeas
  • ½ bunches of fresh coriander cut (reserve some for garnish)
  • 600 mL water 
  • 2 tsp salt (add more if you like, this dish loves salt)
  • Steamed rice for serving

1. Salt eggplant steaks and leave to sweat. Dry before cooking.
2. Heat frying oil in a deep pan or pot until shimmering. Deep fry the eggplants until golden brown and set aside on paper to drain
3. In a separate deep pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
4. Add the chopped garlic and stir frequently so that it doesn’t burn.
5. Add the capsicum and continue to stir.
6. Add all the spices and chilli and fry until fragrant, again taking care to avoid burning the spices.
7. Add the tomato paste and continue stirring.
8. Add the chickpeas, still stirring.
9. Add water and the coriander. Bring to the boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes or until chickpeas are tender. Season with salt to taste.
10. Serve eggplant steaks on steamed rice and ladle over spicy sauce. Garnish with fresh coriander.

Honouring age-old Persian dishes one charred eggplant at a time
At Brisbane restaurant Zeitoon, chef Ali Mohammadi is proving that the food of his childhood has universal appeal.
Sabich is an addictive Iraqi-Jewish breakfast sandwich
A pita filled with fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, potato, salad and pickle, and slathered in hummus, tahini, amba and zhug. What's not to love?
Feels like home: How an Israeli family stew became 'the best potato you've ever had'
“My mum is kind of the Donna Hay of Israel. So one day I just started flicking through her books and toyed with the idea of making really simple, fresh dinners that you would want to have when you’re stuck in the house.”
15 + dishes to impress your Persian mother-in-law
Dishes to cook if you want an in with your new Persian family.
This Middle Eastern dessert is still being made like it was 300 years ago
Knafeh, a sweet cheese pastry, is a love letter to the history and complexity of the Middle East. Here's how it's being made in Australia.
This Middle Eastern restaurant celebrates Sydney's melting pot of cultures
From shwarma burgers to Middle Eastern fruit cocktails, this restaurant celebrates the different cultures of Merrylands, Sydney.
Balagan Kitchen does Middle Eastern food, but not as you know it
Expect shanklish (Middle Eastern cheese), updated classics and even a halva semifreddo.
WATCH: Four ingredients, one comforting Middle Eastern dish
It’s astounding how much flavour comes from four key ingredients - lentils, rice, onions and olive oil - but, as they say, it’s what you do with them.
Sambusak (Middle Eastern pastry turnovers)

Sambusak is a traditional stuffed pie or turnover popular in the Middle East. It can be filled with any kind of meats, vegetables and/or cheese.

Chef tips: Master Middle Eastern at home
With a multicultural team at the helm, Sydney restaurant Nour borrows from the best of Lebanese, Israeli, Libyan and Palestinian cuisines. Here, executive chef Roy Ner shares some his top tips for achieving a medley of Middle Eastern flavours at home.