Julia Busuttil Nishimura is a Melbourne-based cook, author and teacher, and the creator of Ostro, a beloved online space where she shares her food, photographs and stories.

In conjunction with the release of her latest book, A year of simple family food, she has agreed to answer some questions that any busy mum who has to cook for her young family can relate to.

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How did you come up with the recipes in your book?

The recipes in my book are inspired by just our everyday life at home, cooking and eating with the seasons, as well as time spent in Italy and Japan. They are all recipes I love to cook for my family and friends. 

How old are your children?

I have two boys. Haruki is five and Yukito is nine months old. 

As a mum, do you sometimes find it hard to find time and energy to cook for the family? How do you overcome that?

There are definitely days when I’m too tired to cook or don’t have the motivation. On those days I just accept that’s how I’m feeling and not push myself to do anything extraordinary. Usually the most simple meals are the most enjoyable. My husband is also a very good cook though, so we usually tag team in the kitchen. 

What’s your go-to “I can’t be bothered to make anything” recipe?

The pici with lemon mascarpone but I would use dried spaghetti instead. The sauce takes only as long as the pasta and there is almost no cleaning up too! 

pici with lemon mascarpone
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Most kids seem to prefer chips, nuggets, pizza, etc. How have you managed to convince yours to eat what’s in your cookbook?

My five-year-old would happily eat all of those things and sometimes he does, but we do eat a huge variety of different foods, like the ones in my cookbook. We simply offer those other foods far less often and it’s not really an option to just eat nuggets, chips etc. From when he was very little, he would simply eat what we are eating and we always emphasised that food is pleasurable and a joy to cook and eat. Of course there are some things he currently dislikes—cherry tomatoes or sweet potato for example—but I think it’s really important to give children many opportunities to try something, even if they don’t like it the first time as their tastes are very malleable.

Read: 4 tips to handle a fussy eater, from a nutritionist

The likes of Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules have probably influenced us mums to feel the pressure and stress to “plate up” amazing food for our family. What is your response to that?

I think it’s important to understand that while of course we eat with our eyes, the best food is food that is comforting, tastes delicious and made with love. A simple plate of spaghetti bolognese is much more satisfying than something complicated and fancy. There are definitely times when we want to challenge ourselves and make something new or difficult, but that is not always. For me, when I remember the food I loved eating as a child, it was always just the simple things.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s A year of simple family food is out now. Published by Plum, RRP $39.99. Photography by Armelle Habib.

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