Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: A Year of Simple Family Food, by Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Generous, delicious food that the whole family will love, all year round, linked by taste and pleasure, and making the most of seasonal produce.

My new go to book when I’m looking for simple and delicious dinner ideas.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura is a Melbourne-based cook, author and teacher. She runs sell-out cooking workshops and pasta-making classes, and is a regular contributor to various Australian and international publications. A Year of Simple Family Food is Julia’s second book, with her first cookbook, Ostro, named in Gourmet Travellers’ Best Food Books for 2017.

I rushed to put my hand up to review this book as I grew up eating Maltese dishes made by my Nan. This book is filled with dishes inspired by Julia’s Maltese heritage, her time living in Italy, as well as Japanese influences. I gave up adding Post-It notes to my “must cook” recipes when I realised that I was tagging almost every page.

The book is broken up into four sections: summer, winter, autumn and spring. There is a big emphasis on using what is in season not only for better taste, but as a more cost effective option.

The book is presented in a way that cooks of any skill level can feel confident in recreating her delicious meals. Opening with a little about her background and what inspired her to write this book. Julia then goes on to detail how she approaches her weekly shop as well as what she considers pantry staples and essential cookware. She including the all-important disclaimer of what kind of oven she uses (conventional). This is an important factor when baking and often missed by other authors.

Each recipe is introduced with a paragraph on what inspired the dish as well as serving suggestions. The ingredient lists and methods are formatted in an easy to read layout accompanied by a beautifully styled image, making them easy to follow and remember your place. The font is a standard size and was easy for me to read alongside my prep area however, some may struggle to read it from afar. The book didn’t stay open for all recipes (not surprising from a softcover cookbook) but this was easily fixed with a small clip to keep the pages from turning.

Beef Involtini (page 172)

Inspired by her mother’s bragioli recipe, Julia brings a fuss-free approach to a classic dish. I don’t recall my Nan making this dish but I remember a few of her dishes which were inspired by bragioli so this was a must-try for me. I was pleasantly surprised by how straight forward this recipe was. It was relatively simple for the amazing taste it produced. Easily serving four with a side of garlic bread and steamed veg, I will definitely be making this again. My only alteration was using parmesan instead of pecorino as my local Woolies didn’t have any.

Dark Chocolate, Walnut and Oat Cookies (page 196)

I had never made cookies from scratch before so I was proud of my end results. The recipe was easy to follow and didn’t take much time at all. From this recipe I was able to make 34 cookies and from everyone who tried it, there was a request to make more. I can confidently say they were better than any store-bought cookies, so well worth the effort. I did substitute the walnuts for pecans because I had some in the pantry.

Overall, this book is beautifully presented with so many mouth-watering recipes. There is a good mix of quick and simple dishes, as well as weekend treats (recipes that are simple to make but require more time). I intend on cooking my way through the whole book. I’m even inclined to make this my new go-to housewarming gift!

Reviewed by Jessica Incoll
Twitter: @littlejadventur

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: August 2020
RRP: $39.99

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