Renowned for her culinary online platform, Ostro, Julia Busuttil Nishimura returns with her latest book, A Year of Simple Family Food. Her debut cookbook, Ostro, was released in 2017 and was short-listed for the 2018 ABIA ‘Illustrated Book of the Year’ and named in Gourmet Traveller’s ‘Best Food Books. Not only is she a celebrated author and a cook, she also teaches cooking workshops and pasta master classes.
A Year of Simple Family Food centres around seasons and taking advantage of the best ingredients available. Whether it’s slow-roasted tomatoes with mint and mozzarella in summer or dark chocolate, walnut and oat cookies in winter, Julia has accumulated quick and simple recipes that celebrate seasonal produce and ingredients. Whist seasons is the overarching theme, the importance of family and the art of simplicity is what truly lies at the heart of the book.
The AU Review caught up with Julia to track the journey of revealing her new book through family, simplicity and her passion for food.
What is the food philosophy behind A Year of Simple Family Food?
A Year of Simple Family Food is all about really simple, generous, unfussy food. It’s based around seasonal eating. The premise is about bringing in that beautiful produce when it’s at its best. The heart of the book is the family aspect. I have a family who I cook for and cooking food by nature is warming, comforting, simple and often quick to put together. Also there are recipes in there that can be a nice weekend project.
Your new book centres around seasons and trying to use the best ingredients at its best, what is one favourite ingredient that you love to use each season?
Summer is very plentiful and tomatoes are a very obvious ingredient. Apples are really beautiful to cook with in Autumn. In winter, I really like things like greens, like spinach. In Spring I love broad beans and it is definitely one that I look forward to.
What made you fall in love with the culinary arts?
I’ve always loved cooking since I was little. My family is from Malta and part of our culture embraces getting together as a family. I used to love reading my mum’s cookbooks and it kind of continued on. I bought my first cook book and then it kind of took off from there and it was something that I really wanted to do for my career.
As your family is from Malta, what kind of foods were you brought up with?
Growing up I was also surrounded by a lot of things with ricotta flavours, such as ricotta pie and a lot of seafood. I loved broad beans and pasta – my parents cooked pasta such as Matlese ravioli. There’s a few maltese recipes in my book such as the Maltese white bean salad and maccheroni.
What are your favourite dishes to cook for your family?
So I’ve got a four year old and he loves pasta and so does my husband. When I cook pasta, especially fresh pasta. I also really love to bake even though I’m a savoury person, I find it really relaxing. There’s this yeasted apricot cake in my book.
Do you have a favourite place in Melbourne where you buy your ingredients?
I always shop in the farmers market for my fresh produce such as Toscano’s or farmers markets, usually Flemington or Abbotsford. I buy from a butcher called Meatsmith, Gary’s or Donati’s. There’s also a really good grocery store called The common good store, it’s got really great produce and amazing people. For bread, I love bakeries such as Wild Life Bakery and Baker Bleu. I also love Harper and Blohm and Maker and Monger for good quality cheese. I love seafood and I buy fresh seafood from Claringbolds and Ocean Made.
What is your go to simple recipe from A Year of Simple Family Food?
Bucatini all’amatriciana is a staple.
How does your love of food influence your family and especially your four year old son?
My husband is actually a chef as well. He cooks a lot of Japanese food and I cook a lot of Italian food and it kind of all comes together. So I think that kind of environment where we are always creating is really nice. Having gatherings and friends over or eating breakfast as a family is a nice part of the day. For my four year old, I really want to instill the enjoyment of cooking and how it’s really pleasurable. I want him to know that using fresh and seasonal ingredients are really important and to enjoy the beauty of simple things.
I know it’s a terrible thing at the moment with what’s going on with Coronavirus, and a lot more people will be cooking from home. Do you have any tips for them?
I think the biggest thing is to keep it simple. Cooking what you like to eat. It might be hard to get every kind of ingredient that we want but I think be creative and keep it simple. Just use really good quality ingredients and don’t over complicate it.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s A Year of Simple Family Food is out now from Pan Macmillan. Grab your copy HERE