Winter warmers from Julia Busuttil Nishimura's new book

Cauliflower pasta with crunchy breadcrumbs.
Cauliflower pasta with crunchy breadcrumbs. Photo: Armelle Habib

Melbourne food writer and cooking teacher Julia Busuttil Nishimura aka @juliaostro shares three warming recipes from her upcoming cookbook, A Year of Simple Family Food, the follow-up to her debut, Ostro, which became a quarantine cooking cult favourite recently.

Cauliflower pasta

I love the simplicity of this pasta. It's fresh and zingy and has wonderful texture thanks to the almonds and breadcrumbs. You could top the pasta with a scattering of parmesan, but with the breadcrumbs, you really don't need to. Omit the anchovies to make it vegetarian.


  • 300g cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ long red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 320g dried short pasta, such as paccheri, calamarata or penne
  • 50g (⅓ cup) toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Crunchy breadcrumbs

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 100g (1¼ cups) fresh breadcrumbs
  • sea salt
A Year of Simple Family Food will be published in August.
A Year of Simple Family Food will be published in August. Photo: Armelle Habib


  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the cauliflower for 10-15 minutes until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Don't drain the water, as you'll cook the pasta in the same pan.
  2. Meanwhile, for the crunchy breadcrumbs, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to coat, then continue to stir and cook for about 5 minutes until they are golden and crunchy. Remove from the heat, season with salt and set aside to cool.
  3. Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over a low heat and gently cook the garlic, chilli and anchovies for 3-4 minutes, stirring often to stop them burning. Add the cauliflower and a ladleful of the cooking water and simmer for about 5 minutes until the cauliflower is very tender.
  4. Meanwhile, bring the cauliflower cooking water back to the boil and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the packet instructions until just under al dente. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the cauliflower mixture and stir to combine. If the sauce is dry, add another ladleful of cooking water.
  5. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring the pasta, for 1-2 minutes until everything is well coated and the pasta is al dente. Stir through the almonds and lemon zest and serve topped with plenty of crunchy breadcrumbs.

Serves 4

Lamb ragu. Recipe extract for Good Food online from A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, published by Plum. Single use only. Photography Armelle Habib. June 2020.

Lamb ragu with large rigatoni pasta. Photo: Armelle Habib

Rigatoni with lamb ragu

The secret to this ragu is the smallest amount of milk, which gives the sauce a lovely richness and, at the same time, mellows the fattiness of the lamb. I particularly love serving this ragu with large, ostentatious rigatoni – the ridges are very good at catching the sauce – but other shapes like penne and fusilli would be fine, too. Try and find authentic pecorino made with sheep's milk. It has the perfect sharpness and saltiness.


  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • sea salt
  • 400g lamb mince
  • 200g canned whole peeled tomatoes
  • 100ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 ½ tbsp full-cream milk
  • 320g dried rigatoni or other short pasta
  • grated pecorino, to serve


  1. Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over a low–medium heat. Gently fry the onion, celery and garlic for around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and beginning to colour. Add the rosemary, allspice and a generous pinch of salt and cook for a further 2 minutes until fragrant. Increase the heat to high and add the mince, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon.
  2. Cook for around 10 minutes until the mince has browned off nicely, then add the canned tomatoes and stock. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, then stir in the milk and cook for a further 5 minutes. Keep warm over a very low heat.
  3. Cook the rigatoni in a large saucepan of generously salted water for a minute or two less than the cooking time instructed on the packet until just under al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 250ml (1 cup) of the cooking water.
  4. Increase the heat under the sauce to medium and, when bubbling again, add the pasta along with some of the reserved cooking water. Cook the pasta in the sauce for 1-2 minutes until al dente. If the sauce is too dry, add more pasta cooking water as needed.
  5. Serve with a generous scattering of grated pecorino.

Serves 4

Spiced rhubarb crumble cake

I love rhubarb in cakes. Not only does it look beautiful, even once cooked, but it adds a subtle sourness that counters the sweetness of baked treats. This cake is for my two friends Polly and Nova, whom I adore – they equally inspired me to create this cake and eventually write it down. They are both German, so this is affectionately known as German rhubarb cake in our home.


  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g raw sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • finely grated zest of ½ lemon or orange
  • 50g (⅓ cup) almonds, coarsely ground
  • 180g (1¼ cups) plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Rhubarb filling

  • 350g trimmed rhubarb stalks, cut into 1cm pieces
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves, ground

Oat topping

  • 210g rolled oats
  • 3 tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • generous pinch of sea salt
  • 150g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra if needed


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 21cm square cake tin with butter and line with baking paper.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and simmer over a low heat for about 4 minutes until nutty and brown. Set aside to cool briefly.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla until pale. Stir in the cooled butter, followed by the lemon or orange zest and the ground almonds. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix until combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and spread out evenly. Set aside.
  4. For the filling, place the rhubarb in a bowl, sprinkle with the sugar, flour and spices and toss to coat. Scatter this mixture evenly into the cake tin, pressing the rhubarb gently into the batter.
  5. To prepare the topping, mix the oats with the sugar, flour and salt and then add the butter. Toss to coat all the butter pieces and then, working quickly, use your fingertips to roughly rub the butter into the dry mixture until incorporated. You should be able to press the mixture together into large clumps. If it is too crumbly and not holding, add some extra butter.
  6. Scatter the oat topping evenly over the rhubarb and and bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Serves 8-10

This is an edited extract from A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, photography by Armelle Habib, published by Plum, $39.99; buy now