(Photo credit: Eve Wilson)
Julia Busuttil Nishimura's newly launched YouTube channel 'Ostro' was a salve during the extended NSW lockdown. We have a taste of freedom now, but other areas are still feeling the effects, including Julia's home in Melbourne. She always has a smile, is constantly whipping up delicious meals and sparks a sense of unadulterated joy, so we asked her all our burning kitchen questions.
What is your favourite thing about cooking/food? How did you find your passion?
I have always loved to cook. From a young age I was always in the kitchen with my mum and aunties. I adored cookbooks and preferred them over anything else really. For me, cooking is completely transportive, creative and such a joyful act. I had plans to study cookery after high school, but then decided to study politics and Italian. Which led me to Italy. I returned home and became an Italian teacher with cooking still there in the background.
In 2017, still a teacher, my first cookbook, Ostro, was published. Slowly, food became my full time work. In 2020, my second book A Year Of Simple Family Food was released and sold out before publication day. Writing cookbooks is such a dream come true – I feel thankful everyday I get to do this for a job. Something I love and feel so passionate about. My third book will be published in 2022.
What are your top three pantry staples? And top three fridge essentials?
Extra virgin Olive Oil
Flaky Sea salt
Do you have a go-to outfit or look for days spent in the kitchen?
I love linen as it’s light and keeps me cool. As the weather warms up, I love in a loose linen dress and a pair of Birkenstocks while I’m cooking.
What is your advice for creating a simple yet satisfying weekday meal? And what meal or technique should we all have in our cooking arsenal?
Keep it really simple and use good quality ingredients. Some of my favourite meals are just a few ingredients. Lately I’ve been making pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and marjoram. The tomatoes marinate for a little while. Then the hot pasta is added along with the oregano and all tossed together until warm. It’s so quick and satisfying and a perfect example of the kind of cooking I love.
Herb - Oregano - fresh and dried
Dessert - Fior di Latte gelato
Cuisine - Italian
Workday snack - Bread with butter and anchovies. Some radishes, ripe tomatoes and boiled eggs on the side.
Do you have any tips for those of us still in lockdown? How can we find inspiration, motivation and keep things alive in the kitchen?
Living in Melbourne has meant a lot of time in lockdown over the past 18 months. The thing that keeps me feeling inspired is no matter what is going on, the seasons still keep changing. Broad beans and artichokes come, no matter what. Pumpkins were here for a while. New season apples were such a treat.
The new and abundant produce of each season is exciting and an event in itself and something that I lean on always, but especially during these lockdowns when it can all feel a bit ‘Groundhog Day’.
Raspberry Butter Cake
From A Year of Simple Family Food. Perfect for Spring picnics.
(Photo credit: Armelle Habib)
200g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
200g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
200g (1 1/3 cups) self-raising flour
Icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease a 21 cm square cake tin with butter and line with baking paper.
Beat the eggs with the sugar for 3-4 minutes, or until very pale and fluffy. This is best done in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, then the butter and mix until well combined. Sift in the flour and gently stir until well incorporated.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven and gently press the raspberries on top of the batter - adding them at this later stage stops all the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Cook for another 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Lightly dust the cake with icing sugar before serving.