One of the best things about winter is not just rugging up in thick socks and curling up on the couch in front of a fire (or heater) with a good book and a hot drink. It's the food that puts a smile on our faces. Winter means mulled wine, slow cooked stews, hearty soups, freshly baked cakes and delicious roasts.
We chat with Melbourne food writer, cook and teacher Julia Busuttil Nishimura about food, her cookbook Ostro and how she prepares for winter. Julia has also kindly shared a recipe from Ostro to inspire you to enjoy winter cooking.
Thank you so much for sharing your Greens Pie recipe with us, we can’t wait to give it a go now that it’s getting colder. What makes this recipe special to you?
This recipe was inspired by my Auntie’s ricotta pie. I first ate it late one night after taking a boat from Sicily to Malta. It was 10, maybe 11 o'clock at night and she had it all ready when I walked in the door. It was my first time in Malta and I felt like I had come home. This version is my take on it though, so there is cheddar in the pastry and lots of greens. It’s really so lovely prepare and always a winner.
Your cookbook Ostro is a must-have for all food lovers and we are so excited to have it online and in our stores. What is the food philosophy behind this beautiful cookbook?
Thank you so much for having it in your beautiful store! Ostro is all about uncomplicated food cooking with simple ingredients. It’s also about finding the joy in the cooking itself and appreciating the simple pleasures of making things with your hands – whether it’s a simple salad, a cake for afternoon tea or some fresh pasta. There are recipes for quick weeknight meals as well as those ones you can settle into for a weekend project. It is all very much inspired by my time living in Italy.
What is the recipe testing process like? How is it different to when you post a recipe on your blog?
The recipe testing process is quite lengthy and meticulous. Once a book is printed you obviously can’t make any changes and people who are buying the book and cooking from it are putting a lot of trust in your recipes. It is so important to me that my recipes work! I test all of my recipes several times, making notes and tweaking things as I go along.
The photo shoot like a final test, and a lot more collaborative as there are lots of people around to give feedback. After that I might test certain ones again just to be sure or check on something. Finally there is a lot of editing that goes into the recipe, but at the later stages it’s more about the language than the actual recipe. The blog is completely different and free flowing. I still want them to be very reliable recipes as people are buying ingredients and investing time into a recipe, but I know I can always add something later or fix it up so there is a lot less pressure.
As we are approaching winter, do you have a winter ritual to help you adjust to the cold?
I really love winter, being cosy and cooking comforting meals. For me it’s all about embracing it and just being prepared – cashmere socks, lots of tea and warm jumpers for home. My shopping and cooking changes as I settle in for long slow braises, citrus and foods that will ward off any colds – plenty of ginger, lemon and honey!
What is the perfect winter meal?
The perfect winter meal is a big bowl of homemade pasta with a slow cooked tomato sauce or a meat ragu. That and a glass of red wine next to the fire! Maybe for dessert a pudding made with apples and blackberries.
Recipe: Greens Pie - serves 6
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, finely sliced and washed
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
600 g leafy greens, such as cavolo nero, spinach and silverbeet, tough stems removed, leaves washed thoroughly and left damp
150 g fresh full-fat ricotta
100 ml pure cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon pinch of freshly grated nutmeg black pepper
Cheddar Shortcrust Pastry:
300 g plain flour
100 g cheddar cheese, grated
Pinch of sea salt
200 g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
About 60 ml (1⁄4 cup) iced water
To make the pastry, combine the flour, cheese and salt in a bowl. Add the butter, and rub into the flour using your fingertips until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Drizzle in enough iced water, a tablespoon at a time, to bring the dough together using your hands. Divide the dough in two and flatten into squares. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the leek, garlic and a pinch of salt and sauté for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Set aside in a large bowl.
Place the damp greens in a large saucepan and cook for 3–4 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until just wilted. Set aside to cool, then squeeze any moisture from the greens. Roughly chop and add to the bowl with the leek.
Combine the ricotta, cream, most of the egg (leaving a little to make an egg wash for the pastry), lemon zest and nutmeg in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Add to the greens and leek mixture and stir to combine well. Season to taste and set aside.
Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Roll each piece into a 25 cm square. Place one piece of pastry on the prepared baking tray and arrange the filling on top, leaving a 1 cm border of pastry all the way around. Whisk 1 teaspoon of water into the remaining egg to make a wash, and brush around the border of pastry. Top with the second piece of dough, trim any excess, then pinch the edges together to seal, marking with your index finger to create a crimped effect.
Brush the top of the pie with the remaining egg wash and poke a hole in the centre of the pie using a small, sharp knife to allow steam to escape during cooking. Bake for 45–50 minutes until golden and cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.