Julia Busuttil Nishimura, cooking teacher, cookbook author and mother of two children, started Instagram videos because she could no longer do her cooking classes. She'd always been too scared to do videos but she got over it. "You kind of feel a bit helpless and I just had so many nice people saying, 'Thank you so much for your recipes, during this time it's been so helpful' and I was like, 'Oh, I should do it more'." It was particularly encouraging for her to see the professionals such as chef Danielle Alvarez posting cooking demonstrations.
It was Nishimura's banana bread – aka the cult food of COVID – that really resonated with her followers. "I think there's something weirdly comforting and nostalgic about banana bread. And the greens pie has been going off as well. I think people have loved having the time to actually do things like make pastry from scratch … all the things that nine to fivers don't get to do."
Her advice, for anyone transitioning back to work is to cook what you love to eat, but don't bite off more than you can chew. "Don't go back to work expecting that you can whip up a pie or a fresh pasta at 5.30pm. Be realistic. But still take the time to do those things."
Everyday banana loaf
- 2 eggs
- 150g raw sugar
- 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 2½ tbsp full-cream milk
- 2 very ripe bananas (about 250g in total)
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2½ tbsp Dutch cocoa
- 100g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa), roughly chopped
- 50g (½ cup) walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 banana, cut in half lengthways
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 24cm loaf tin with butter and line with baking paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale. Pour in the olive oil and milk and whisk to combine.
- In a separate bowl, mash the bananas until smooth, then mix them into the batter.
- Sift in the flour and cinnamon. Stir gently, being careful not to overwork the mixture. If you wish to add the cocoa, chocolate and/or walnuts, add them to the mixture now. The cocoa will need to be sifted in, but just stir the chocolate and walnuts through.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and, if using, top with the halved banana. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, neatly sliced and washed
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- sea salt
- 600g leafy greens, such as cavolo nero, spinach and silverbeet, tough stems removed, leaves washed thoroughly and left damp
- 150g fresh full-fat ricotta
- 100ml pure cream
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- zest of 1 lemon
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- black pepper
Cheddar shortcrust pastry
- 300g plain flour
- 100g cheddar cheese, grated
- pinch of sea salt
- 200g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- about 60ml (¼ 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 180C. 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 saute 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 25cm square. Place one piece of pastry on the prepared baking tray and arrange the filling on top, leaving a 1cm 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 the 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.
This is an edited extract from Ostro by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, published by Plum, RRP $44.99, photography by Armelle Habib