Conversations + Colour: Julia Ostro

This week, we travel to Melbourne (and a few weeks back in time, between lockdowns), and we chat with cook, author and Italian teacher - the delectable Julia Busuttil Nishimura. 

Back in 2017, Julia splashed onto the scene with her first cookbook ‘Ostro’.  celebration of her Maltese upbringing and time living in Italy, rather than your regular cookbook, this was a foray into the sensual art of slowing down, stressing less and getting hands on creating delicious meals with simple ingredients (if you haven’t made her greens pie - who even are you?!). 

Welcome into the delicious world of Julia. 

Julia Busuttil Nishimura wears Little Tienda Britta dress

Julia Busuttil Nishimura, tell us who you are and what you want us to know about you: I am a cook and an author. I spend my days shopping for produce, cooking and writing. I have two cookbooks and am currently working on my third. I love spending time with my beautiful family – I have two young boys who I absolutely adore. 

Where do you live and what do you love about it? I live in Melbourne with my two boys and husband Norihiko. I love how alive Melbourne feels with its cafes and parks and restaurant scene. Although Melbourne is a big city, it has such a local feel. 

Besides the obvious - what’s the best thing about being out of lockdown? Definitely school being open. Working from home plus remote learning during lockdowns are a huge challenge. Having space and time to do the things that are important to me are super important, and that space and time really gets stretched when school is closed. 

How did your career kickstart? I always loved to cook and would read cookbooks from cover to cover from the age of 15. After school I studied politics and Italian and then went on to become an Italian teacher. All the while, cooking and writing slowly bubbled away in the background. I think when I began to write recipes for The Design Files, I began to gain a following and it all just unfolded from there. 

Who inspires you? There are many things and people who inspire me, but I would have to say my main source of inspiration is travel. The change of pace and the space to think clearly when travelling is completely life enhancing. No to mention the different smells, tastes and sights which are incredibly inspirational.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura prepares radicchio for a salad

Where does a recipe start? How does it come to life? A recipe often starts just with an idea, maybe sparked from something I’ve eaten, an ingredient I’ve picked up at the market, or perhaps just something I really feel like making. I will write a quick recipe down – really basic. A list of ingredients and some vague measurements, then I will begin to cook. The cooking and writing happens simultaneously. Later on I will sit down and flesh the recipe out in long form. If it hasn’t worked out, I will usually know what needs tweaking. If it is a complete disaster I may research that recipe to analyse how others create it and see how I can improve my own. 

Favourite toasted sandwich set up? I think it would just have to be a classic ham and cheese toasted sandwich, but the bread fried in olive oil in the pan. Fresh mozzarella and maybe some garlic rubbed on the bread. Plenty of flaky sea salt. 

Washing up or drying up? Dishwasher!! 

How did you and your husband meet? I met Nori when I was in my final year of university. My housemate was a waitress at the Japanese restaurant where he was cooking. She invited him to my birthday party because I thought he was incredibly handsome. The rest is history! 

Tell us what a regular day looks like for you:  We wake up between 5:30-6-30 – the boys are super early risers. Nori will make breakfast for us all and then he and Yuki will leave for the day (work and day care). Haru and I will have some time just the two of us, which I think is really important, before I drop him off at school. Then I’ll usually go grab a coffee and check what’s on my list for the day. I will most likely go shopping for ingredients then return home and test a few out. In between cooking and writing I will always have emails to answer or deadlines to make or shoots to organise. I always fit in a home Pilates session, even if it’s just 15 minutes, I have to do it! It makes me feel strong and in control. I like to begin to think about dinner at around 3 as it’s usually something I’m testing, so hate to rush! Time to pick up Haruki and maybe go to the park for a bit and then it’s family time again!

Julia Busuttil Nishimura - Little Tienda Awakening Britta dress

At a dinner party I am likely to be… I love hosting dinner parties but I feel like I’ve become so used to not socialising this past year, that I haven’t hosted one in so long! I am determined to get my mojo back this summer! I love talking about politics and current affairs and dinner parties are such a good place for that. 

Favourite Little Tienda piece? The Martha dress in gingham! 

Someone you love following on Instagram? Remodelista for house inspo! 

If you could send us a postcard from anywhere in the world, where would you be right now? I would be in Tokyo! We haven’t seen Nori’s family for nearly two years now and no one has met Yuki! So it would definitely have to be Japan. 

Song that never fails to make you want to dance? You can’t hurry love by The Supremes! 

Tell us - what’s coming up next for you? I’m currently writing my third book so that is something big I’m working on! Besides that, I have been filming some cooking videos and they will be released in the next few weeks. I’m also excited to be launching some nice market bags and hopefully aprons in the next little while. 

You can find Julia on Instagram here, subscribe to her new YouTube channel here, or buy her book ‘A Year of Simple Family Food’ from Pan Macmillan here

Julia wears the Britta dress from the Awakening collection throughout. 

Photography by Annika Kafcaloudis.