Cooking has always been Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s thing. Growing up, she loved reading and making recipes from cookbooks.
‘I would spend my whole weekend reading from them, choosing what I wanted to cook and then going shopping with my mum for all the ingredients,’ Julia says. ‘So just the fact that I have two (almost three) cookbooks published, really is something that I never thought I would achieve.’
Julia’s name has become synonymous with her wholesome dishes, both sweet and savoury. She’s now a household name amongst foodies in Melbourne and beyond… but it might surprise some to know she started out as a primary school Italian teacher in her former career!
While she initially considered going into hospitality, Julia says she wasn’t interested in becoming a chef. ‘Back then, there didn’t really seem like other options, so I just kept it as a nice side project which I loved doing whilst I was studying and teaching.’
Julia’s passion for food writing (and blogging) lead to her first cookbook – Ostro, which was published in 2017 – and so she stepped away from teaching. These days, her love and knowledge of Italian culture has instead found its way into her recipes, including those in her upcoming book.
Julia started working on Around the Table in the depths of lockdown, inspired by the joy of sharing a meal around the table in a time where gathering was strictly off the menu. ‘With the lengthy times away from friends and family, I think we all realised just how important that connection through food is,’ she says. ‘The book is filled with 100 recipes for every occasion. There is a chapter dedicated to weeknight meals, one all about summer feasting and another a collection of Japanese recipes I love to cook with my husband, Nori.’
There’s plenty in there to get excited about, including the shokupan (a Japanese milk bread) that required many attempts, and some of Julia’s go-to recipes like cavatelli pasta with roast cherry tomato and pistachio, or the braised barramundi with ginger and coriander.
‘Overall though, I think my favourite recipes are ones that have sentimental meaning, like a recipe passed down from my grandmother, or one that I learned living in Italy. But I am truly proud of every recipe in my new book — all delicious, all wonderful!’
I wake up around 6:30am or when the boys wake up. 7:00am is bliss! In the morning, I usually stay upstairs for a little while and check my social media and emails and make a plan for the day. I’m a big list-maker and like to break my things up into different sections – priority tasks for the day, non-urgent and then more creative ongoing things which I like to set aside some time for too.
Nori takes the boys downstairs and will get breakfast going, and when I can smell the coffee brewing, I’ll head down too and join them. Nori makes me breakfast every morning which I love! I never used to be a breakfast person but he makes it for me and I eat it, and it feels like such a good start to the day – so it’s something I really enjoy now. I usually will have two boiled eggs with maybe some smoked salmon or avocado and some tomatoes and cucumber. I really love a good savoury breakfast. I like the mornings, although I wouldn’t mind sleeping a little longer, but that quiet time I get each morning sets me up really well for a productive day.
Before school drop off, I usually try and do a few important emails, but I won’t really kick into gear until around 9:30am. If I’ve got a shoot on, the day will properly start much earlier, around 7:30-8:00 am.
If it’s a quiet day with no photo shoots or meetings, I’ll mostly be recipe testing and writing, so I begin my day shopping for produce. I’ll head to my local grocer or venture a little further to go to the butcher or fishmonger. If I’m heading out to pick up produce, I’ll stop for a coffee too or arrange to meet a friend. I really relish in these slow days so I like to do nice things like that balance out the more full-on days.
Once I’ve picked up the produce I need, I will head into the kitchen with my laptop or more often just a notepad and pen, and begin cooking and writing as I cook. On a busier day, I’ll have a few recipes on the go in which case the writing will be very shorthand, as I focus on getting the recipes right in the kitchen. Sometimes I’ll grab lunch out, like a really good salad sandwich, or I’ll make a simple tuna salad with radicchio or rocket, chickpeas and whatever vegetables I’ve got in the fridge. Or if I’m testing something in the kitchen, I will eat that for lunch which is always really nice too.
By the afternoon I’m usually winding down my work, and like to take a little time out to maybe do something relaxing like pilates, go for a walk or watch a show. I might start thinking about dinner, which will usually be another recipe I’m testing or an idea I want to try out. The boys are home by around 4:30pm, so I like to feel like I got a bit of ‘me’ time in before they get home, as it can be really demanding at home in the evenings.
I like to finish work around 4pm or 4:30pm. I will make a plan for the next day but I like to keep my lists pretty tight, so hopefully I would have ticked off all of the priority tasks for that day.
Dinner really does vary, from something super simple like pasta with peas and pancetta to perhaps a recipe I am testing which is a bit more involved. Weeknights are really busy though, so I really like to not put too much pressure on dinner time.
Unwinding is something I’m still working on. I’m always really tempted to do just that little bit more in the evenings, which I sometimes do if necessary. But ideally unwinding is watching a show, nothing too serious, doing some pilates or giving myself a facial. I find podcasts are so good to help me switch off and also setting sleep mode on my phone. I really try not to just lay in bed scrolling on my phone but that’s something I’m still working on for sure!
I usually go to bed around 10:30pm which gives me a good amount of sleep. Sometimes it’s later, which is fine a for a few nights but then I definitely crash later!
Right now I’m listening to, watching, and reading…
Watching: Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Reading: Sunbathing by Isobel Beech
I get my best work done when…
I have space and time and don’t feel rushed. That being said, I do work well with a looming deadline!
My productivity tool/tip is…
Set smaller and more achievable goals or tasks and tick it all off. It gives me a real sense of accomplishment and keeps me motivated.
A philosophy I live and work by is…
My friend had a poster in her office that said ‘Work hard and be nice to people’, which I think sums up how I live by really nicely. I would add the importance of being yourself and empathetic to others too.
Something I’ve learned the hard way is…
To let go of comparing myself to others. It is detrimental to creativity and gets you nowhere. It can be so hard in a world where we see everything and know what everyone is doing, but I’ve learned that it is so important to just run your own race!
Secure a copy of Around the Table by pre-ordering now, or find it in all good bookshops from July 26th!