~ What is done in love, is done well ~
When we were thinking about Christmas food, and Christmas party food ideas, we tried to think about who on our radar has as much love for creating food as we do. Julia was one of the first people who sprung to mind. Her philosophy is both beautiful and simple:
Good Food. Made with simple ingredients. In a small kitchen in Melbourne.
This perfectly relatable mantra, coupled with her delectable Instagram feed, and incredible food story had our hearts swelling with inspiration. We were honoured when this talented mumma agreed to share her story with us, and share some of her drool-worthy recipes. Julia's wholehearted, passionate approach to creating seasonal dishes is something that we wanted to share with you.
In the Q&A below you will find some incredible Christmas lunch ideas from Julia's blog Ostro, plus find out how her kitchen becomes a favoured playground for her son Haru. One thing is for certain, this mumma will leave you wanting to take a bite of her brilliant cullinary creations right off the screen. If cozy, hearty and mouth-watering is your style - keep reading...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura Italian teacher, home cook & author of Ostro, plus mumma to Haruki and wife of Nori, and a mentor at Free to Feed; tell us, is there another role that you dream of one day adding to your bio?
I recently worked on a video, cooking in front of a camera, and it was so much fun. I really got a buzz out of working on this project with a crew on set. I’d love to slowly move into doing more cooking on camera and be able to share my recipes with a wider audience.
What inspired your passion for food, and what does food mean to you?
My passion for food has definitely been inspired by a few things – most notably my family’s love for food but also from my time living in Italy and from the many other food writers and cooks I admire. For me, food and cooking is something that truly comes from within. It feels so much a part of me and my history and is what really makes me tick. Being in the kitchen, I feel creative and that excites me.
You have Maltese heritage, and your husband is Japanese; what surprise discovery have you made by combining the influence of two distinct food cultures?
I think there is a care with the produce and how it’s prepared which share similarities between the two food cultures. Also with Italy, there are definite links there too. That emphasis on simple and seasonal is apparent and intertwines throughout everything.
Do you feel that your childhood has affected how you parent?
Most definitely. Nori and I are both much more relaxed than I think both our parents were with us. I grew up in a fairly strict Maltese migrant family where success seemed to be defined by quite traditional markers, similarly with Nori growing up in rural Japan. Having that childhood has really shaped how we are with Haruki. I think also being a teacher really impacts on the way I parent too and there’s so much information out there which explains why children behave the way they do which perhaps wasn’t all that readily available back when we were growing up.
How do you get Haruki involved in the kitchen?
If we’re in the kitchen, that’s where he wants to be too. Getting him to pick herbs from the garden, wash ingredients, mix and stir – anything he can do, I’ll encourage him to have a go. His favourite is making pasta – it’s messy and fun and of course loves eating it!
What’s your ‘recipe’ to building healthy food habits with children?
Having a relaxed approach is working so far. Making the shopping a family activity is a great way for children to get excited about healthy food. I think not labelling food as ‘healthy’ per se is a good thing too. We just try to offer Haruki a wide range of food and show him that it is genuinely delicious because it’s delicious, not just healthy. We also don’t cook seperate meals for him, but rather hope that by him seeing us eating and excited by good food, he’ll eventually share our enthusiasm too. If he initially doesn’t eat what we’ve cooked, he knows there’s no special meal for him after and will usually give it a good try. Also letting him know that it’s ok to have a piece of cake or a biscuit every now and again, especially if they’re homemade! Moderation!
Which cupboard/fridge basics does every mum need, and why?
Haru loves tofu, so we always have some of that in the fridge, as well as basics like carrots, cucumbers, cheese and nuts for quick snack plates. We always have lots of fresh fruit in the fridge – Haru goes wild for anything that is fruit. Dates are his favourite treats too which we always have on hand for smoothies which we make with bananas and oats. A good selection of staples too, like pasta, rice and grains, is always great to have in the cupboard, especially for quick midweek dinners.
What’s your stress-free, holiday party plan when it comes to food and entertaining with children?
Fresh fruit platters are a great party food for kids and adults alike. Lately I’ve been making mini bagels and then having lots of different fillings like avocado, cucumber, cured salmon, cream cheese on a board and people just build their own which is really fun. Overall though, I think making things that you can prepare ahead is always a good option if you’re entertaining and have children too.
Something like this Roast Beetroot Dip is easy to prepare in advance, delicious, and visually stunning too. Get the recipe HERE.
What’s on the menu for Christmas day this year?
We’ll be starting with some fresh seafood – prawns, sashimi and oysters. Followed by plenty of salads and perhaps a slow cooked pork shoulder. Dessert is always pavlova topped with lychees, mangoes and passionfruit.
Julia's Roasted Pork, Kale, Fennel & Bread Salad pictured above - get the recipe HERE.
Julia's Pavlova with Crème Fraîche, coconut and tropical fruits pictured above - get this brilliant Christmas lunch desert recipe HERE.
What music was playing in the kitchen last night?
Angel Olsen’s new album ‘Phases’ – So beautiful.
What was your last food-related “wow moment”?
The first bite of a summer’s peach last week – It gets me every year!
What's your go-to comfort food?
My go to comfort food is something so simple – a slice of freshly baked sourdough drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.
A proper roast chicken seasoned simply with rosemary, sea salt and olive oil or a bowlful of Ribollita – a wonderfully thick Tuscan bean and bread soup – would do nicely too.
Or something like this... Ricotta gnocchi with cherry tomato sauce from my book.
Get the recipe HERE. Or, buy Julia's book Ostro and turn to page 141 - available to purchase from all good bookstores, or for orders outside of Australia go to Readings.