Julia Busuttil Nishimura's simple summer party recipes

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's summer entertaining for a crowd.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura's summer entertaining for a crowd. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

During party season, cook, author and teacher Julia Busuttil Nishimura draws on her Maltese upbringing, and time living in Italy, for a relaxed menu that focuses on a few simple things done well. By preparing ahead as much as possible and letting guests get involved with DIY at the table, everyone gets to enjoy the fun.

I love having friends over for lazy long lunches or equally as long dinners. And as the days stretch out into balmy evenings, I feel much more inclined to invite people around.

I grew up in a family where having people over was serious business. The menu was carefully considered for weeks and the fine bone china, crystal glassware and the special cutlery (none of which could go in the dishwasher) was always brought out. It was a big occasion, an event. Days and days of cooking, and cleaning for that matter, to make sure everything was just right. For my mother, entertaining was her way of showing family and friends how much she cared about them.

While I do enjoy making guests feel taken care of, I go down a far more casual route when it comes to hosting a meal. For me, it's all about super fresh, good quality ingredients and not taking anything too seriously. I want guests, and myself, to be as relaxed as possible.

For this to work, a little planning is key. I have a tiny kitchen that doesn't really allow for more than two people at a time to be working away, so making ahead is my secret weapon. Not to the point where every last thing is complete when people arrive – I'm not usually that organised – but enough so that I can at least socialise a little without becoming flustered in the kitchen, juggling hot pans.

Melbourne food writer Julia Busuttil Nishimura.
Melbourne food writer Julia Busuttil Nishimura. Photo: Emily Weaving

If you are cooking for a really big crowd, make larger quantities of fewer individual dishes. This not only saves time when shopping and prepping, but means you can just focus on a couple of things and do them really well.

I pick my battles, too. A few store-bought shortcuts here and there take the pressure off, and can be a talking point. If my mother showed her love through perfectly ironed tablecloths and curls of butter on tiny plates, I show mine by driving halfway across town to buy a specific kind of bread or a particular ingredient.

Whatever your entertaining style, at the end of the day, your guests are probably just happy they're being cooked for. Open up a bottle of something nice, don't overthink it and enjoy.

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Julia Busuttil Nishimura's prawn rolls with watercress and tarragon mayo.

Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Prawn rolls with watercress and tarragon mayonnaise

I always buy far too many prawns on Christmas Day, so the leftovers are usually made into these delicious prawn rolls on Boxing Day. I've suggested homemade mayonnaise but a good quality store bought one is more than fine; simply stir through the lemon zest and tarragon and it's ready to go. You can have the rolls ready-made for your guests or place everything on the table and let people assemble them as they go.

INGREDIENTS

1 bunch watercress

2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of half a lemon

sea salt and black pepper

1.5kg (about 24) cooked king prawns, peeled

12 bread rolls, halved

lemon wedges, to serve

Tarragon mayonnaise

1 egg

300ml vegetable oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

sea salt and black pepper

zest of a lemon

small handful tarragon leaves, finely chopped

METHOD

1. To make the mayonnaise, place the egg in a food processor. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream very slowly until the mixture is pale and thick. Add the vinegar, mustard and continue to process until well combined. Season to taste then stir through the lemon zest and tarragon. The mayonnaise can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

2. Combine the watercress and cucumber in a small bowl. Dress with the olive oil and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Spread a little mayonnaise on the base of each roll, top with some watercress, cucumber and 2 prawns. Dollop some more mayonnaise on top, more generously this time, top with the other half of the roll and serve with wedges of lemon.

Serves 12

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's whipped ricotta with berries and amaretti biscuits.

Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Whipped ricotta with berries and amaretti biscuits

This dessert comes together in minutes and is a lovely finish to any meal or dinner party. Have the ricotta already in the glasses in the fridge if you like, and just top with the berries and crushed biscuits before serving. While the amaretti biscuits are easy to make yourself, good quality store-bought ones are fine. If you can't find them, substitute with some roughly chopped toasted almonds.

INGREDIENTS

300g firm full-fat ricotta

3 tbsp castor sugar

finely grated zest of an orange, plus extra to serve

pinch of ground cinnamon

1 tbsp marsala or amaretto

200ml pure cream

250g berries of your choice

50g amaretti biscuits, crushed, to serve

METHOD

1. Whisk together the ricotta, sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and marsala or amaretto in a large bowl until smooth. Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold through the ricotta. Spoon into individual glasses or bowls and top with berries and crushed biscuit and an extra grating of orange zest.

Serves 6