We test recipes from Around the Table

Recently we tested a selection of recipes from Around the Table, the latest cookbook from beloved local chef Julia Busuttil Nishimura.

We were of course thrilled to then have Julia herself stop by to taste test our attempts and judge the best replication.

Rosalind McClintock made ‘Leek and Feta Tart’


This recipe was so easy! The pastry didn’t take long at all, didn’t require much care beyond getting the quantities vaguely right and the fact that I cut the three leeks (I was meant to have 4) wrong and didn’t have fresh thyme didn’t seem to matter. It was a lovely mix of salty and buttery. I will be making this again, on the regular!

Judge’s comments: Pastry is cooked perfectly. Great thickness and flakiness. Onions are really delicious.‘

Chris Gordon made 'Ricotta and Orange Olive Oil Cake’


Especially in Winter, I want to make a cake that fills the house with warmth. I want a cake that reminds me of sunshine. And friends, here it is: The Ricotta & Orange Olive Oil Cake. This dream of a dish is light and golden. It took me approximately 10 minutes to make and 40 minutes to cook and in between time, the house was filled with wonderful burnt orange and butter aromas. Once you have sorted your orange peel into the caster sugar, squeezed your oranges for the freshest juice - you simply pop everything in a mixer, bake, and then sprinkle with icing sugar for that final fling of elegance. The end result is a summer holiday right there on your bench top.

PS. I did test trial this cake over the weekend, and found that it was a little richer the next morning with my coffee. It’s that sort of cake - one that continues to give and give.

Judge’s comments: Beautifully coloured. Great orange flavour. Delicious!

Joe Rubbo made ‘Brothy Beans’


My first choice for this cook-off, the polenta and pear torte, was a tad ambitious to have prepared for a Tuesday lunch. So I revised my choice to something less finicky: The Brothy Beans. My time constraints and the wintery Melbourne weather made this a winning choice. It was easy to prepare with few ingredients - some white beans, a ham hock from Donati’s and a few pantry staples. Fifteen minutes prep time and two hours on the hob was all it took to produce a delicious, satisfying soup. The spoon of salsa verde on top makes it sing.

Judge’s comments: Cooked to perfection. Great acidity. It’s my recipe… but it’s so good!

Lian Hingee made ‘Spiced Carrot Soup’ and ‘Hazelnut and Polenta Lemon Drizzle Cake’


I so desperately wanted to win this one that I road-tested a couple of different recipes before deciding on two of my favourites for the day. I made the Spiced Carrot Soup, which was astonishingly easy and absurdly flavoursome, and an absolutely perfect winter warmer. The addition of coconut milk gives it both a silken smoothness and keeps it vegan. It’s immediately gone onto my regular rota at home. The second recipe I made was the Hazelnut & Polenta Lemon Drizzle Cake, which is a lovely textured cake with a pronounced crumb and a glorious tang from the lemon and greek yoghurt. I broke out my secret weapon - Yuzu lemons - which elevated an already excellent cake into something really special. It’s the kind of easily made cake that you can whip up quickly for unexpected guests, and the glaze is my new favourite icing.

Judge’s comments: So creamy and really nicely spiced. Great texture and the shallots aren’t too burnt. And for the cake: Love the Yuzu twist. The icing looks amazing. It looks better than mine on the cover.

Angela Crocombe made ‘Roast Fennel and Orange Salad’


Initially I chose the Saffron Fruit Buns, but after a test run resulted in rock cakes (totally my fault - I didn’t put enough yeast in!), I decided to stick with what I know best and made a salad. This winter salad using fresh fennel and oranges was super easy (just how I like it) and was a nice palate cleanser before (or after) the many delicious, sweet dishes in the cook-off. I will definitely make it again.

Judge’s comments: Beautiful presentation. Nuts are well toasted and the segmenting is great. Really fresh and light. Delicious.

Mark Rubbo made ‘Cheddar and Chive Scones’


I made the Cheddar & Chive Scones; they were super easy to make (knocked them up before work) and delicious… if I do say so myself. I haven’t baked anything since I was a kid and used to get my mum to buy packet cake mixes. It was so exciting to see the butter and flour turn into little doughy peas just as Julia said they would. Then when I added the cheese and the chives the aromas were seductive; adding the final ingredients and kneading away I had so much fun and was also pretty incredulous that it all seemed to be working. The recipe said to roll out the dough in a rectangle 2.5 cm thick. I was doing this at 6 in the morning and struggling a bit with my metric conversions. My dear partner who’d been assisting told me it looked OK. So, I cut the dough into chunky squares, gave them a brush with milk and popped them into the oven. 23 minutes later a beautiful tray of my brown babies emerged, and they even looked a little like the picture. I snuck one away for us to taste, piping hot buttery, cheesey and chivey. Not bad I thought – thank you Julia! I’ve also cooked the pork chops with grapes, sage and marsala and they were bloody delicious!

Judge’s comments: So flaky. You can see the layers and they have a really good height. Really beautiful.

Megan Wood made ‘Muhammara’


How to choose what to make when Julia Busuttil Nishimura releases a new cookbook?? I would normally lean towards sweets (and there is a great selection of which my colleagues baked us proud), but this time decided to make something different and it was delicious. I hadn’t heard of Muhammara before, but it’s a simple Syrian dip of walnuts and capsicum that is as much a pleasure to make as it is to eat. I have now discovered the joy that is peeling roasted capsicums. The recipe was so easy to follow, and I love the versatility of what you can eat with this dip. I’ll definitely be making it again.

Judge’s comments: Great texture and seasoning. You can really taste the pomegranate and molasses.

Judi Mitchell made ‘Chocolate and Pistachio Sablés’


My original plan was to make the Walnut & Cinnamon Coffee Cake (which I will still do!) but something came up so I needed to find a simple recipe which could be done in advance. The Chocolate & Pistachio Sablé seemed my most obvious choice. They were super easy to prepare with not a kitchen appliance in sight. Once the dough was rolled into a sausage and refrigerated I had time to do other things before cutting them into rounds and popping them in the oven. Chocolate and pistachio are a great combination and make these the perfect bite-size biscuit to accompany any beverage. It’s the kind of delicious treat to brighten up your morning or afternoon tea/coffee or to serve at the end of a meal, but who needs an excuse … right?

Judge’s comments: Really cute size and great uniform. Great texture. Well-formed and the mixture hasn’t been overworked.

Jess Strong made ‘Flapjacks’


I am a full-time snacker and have a gargantuan sweet tooth, so when it came to choosing a recipe, I was all about the dessert and bite-size treats. Growing up, a staple in my lunchbox was the humble honey and oat slice, so I was excited to make a new version of a beloved dish. Making the ‘Flapjacks’ from Around the Table proved a dream – honestly so simple, which is the main requirement for homemade treats for me. I also struggle to adhere to strict quantities within recipes and these turned out great despite my trouble adhering to exactitudes. My housemates were sad I didn’t bring any leftovers home, so I will definitely be making them again soon (probably this weekend!).

Judge’s comments: So nice and golden. Yum! Perfectly cooked. Smashed it!

Mel Barillaro made ‘Miso Chilli Pork Belly’ and the ‘Shokupan’


There is nothing scarier than cooking someone else’s recipe for them, but when I was told of the cook off, I knew I had to join! I’m a long time lover of Julia’s recipes and indecisive by nature so, of course, I had to make two dishes: the Miso Chilli Pork Belly and the Shokupan! Even though I was dealing with the anxiety of cooking for a food genius while using a not-so-reliable sharehouse oven, I’m so happy with how my dishes turned out! Julia knows how to make even something as detailed as Shokupan feel simple! The pork was mouth-wateringly good and the Shokupan was fluffy and slightly sweet. And they went very well together as a sando! This book might just become my favourite of the three.

Judge’s comments: Smells really good! Beautiful caramelisation and the salad is nice and fresh. They nailed it. And for the Shokupan: Oh my god, yum! Great aroma, super fluffy and great gloss. Perfect sandwich bread.

Natasha Theoharous made ‘Maritozzi’


Against all better judgement, I decided to make the Maritozzi despite selling my stand mixer when I moved earlier this year. Armed with a hand mixer, my winter-atrophied bicep strength and a few podcasts, I whipped up a batch of these yeasted Roman buns. My test batch were perfect, using currants and drizzled with a fennel syrup I had in the fridge for cocktails, but I was too blasé with my cookoff batch (didn’t punch down the dough enough). They were still delicious little pillowy treats perfect with an afternoon coffee.

Judge’s comments: Beautifully filled. Love that they have gone with both currants and pine nuts. The cream is well whipped and they have proved really well. Really fresh. This dish is breakfast ready.

The final verdict?

The winners:

Miso-chilli Pork Belly
Hazelnut and Polenta Lemon Yuzu Drizzle Cake

Honourable mentions:

Brothy Beans

Around the Table is out now and you can purchase a copy online or in-store.

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Around the Table: Delicious Food for Every Day

Around the Table: Delicious Food for Every Day

Julia Busuttil Nishimura

$44.99Buy now

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