Julie Biuso's ricotta-stuffed chicken breasts with verjuice
Julie Biuso's ricotta-stuffed chicken breasts with verjuice

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But as nice as a beautifully presented plate courtesy of a professionally trained chef is, it's still tough to beat a good old-fashioned home-cooked meal, prepared with – dare I say it – love.

But the practice of cooking a meal from scratch has become a bit of a dying art of late, something chef Julie Biuso hopes to turn around with her new cookbook, 'Julie Biuso at Home'.

Chatting in her own beautiful North Shore home, Biuso says she wants to encourage people to cook ‘real food’ again.

"At the heart of it, I do see that we’re getting fatter and I do see that we’re getting sicker and I do think we’re losing that wonderful thing of having the family around the table," she says.

"If we keep on buying ready-made food then we’re not going to be having that wonderful inclusive dining experience which I think is central to our wellbeing."

Biuso’s latest collection of recipes places particular emphasis on cooking from scratch so that people know exactly what it is they’re feeding themselves and their families.

RECIPE: Julie Biuso's ricotta-stuffed chicken breasts with verjuice

It stems from a childhood that saw Biuso and her siblings all having to help out with cooking and growing vegetables.

"In those days, you did learn [how to cook] by osmosis, because so much cooking was happening around you.

"We were really involved in that part of it, which was neat, because it gave you that appreciation of fresh food."

When Biuso left home to go flatting, she said she loved to host elaborate dinner parties that required hours of preparation.

"Back then you spent more time cooking – now people just want instant results, whereas we were in that era where if you were having people round for dinner, you cooked all day, that’s just what you did."

But fear not - while Biuso says she doesn’t believe much in the 10-minute meal, her recipes these days also don’t take hours on end.

Julie Biuso at home in her kitchen

"I think if you can commit 30 minutes to a meal, I think that’s a reasonable amount of time," she says.

"I’ve had that as the heart of this book – there’s a lot of stuff that answers that midweek meal kind of thing."

Biuso’s book also covers those bits of life in between, such as recipes for special occasions, afternoon tea and – my personal favourite – the hangover cure.

Biuso says everyone should have a base of five or six recipes in their cooking repertoire that they can get confident cooking and start changing up to suit tastes and seasons.

She recommends getting a baked dish under your belt, whether it’s a cottage pie type of meal or the vegetarian moussaka from her latest book.

"It’s really handy because you can assemble it a day before you need it, or you can make two lots and freeze one. It feeds a lot of people, the one-dish meal, so a dish like that is great."

Biuso says everyone should have at least one recipe for a substantial soup that can be put in the freezer for those nights when you just can’t face cooking but can still have something homemade.

A good basic tomato sauce can also go a long way, says Biuso, as can a dish that uses eggs.

"Eggs are just the answer," she says.

Biuso hopes her latest book builds the home cook's confidence to try new dishes and adjust them to their own family’s preferences. She says the book’s 32 pages of Cook's Notes is its real strength.

"It’s a reference, it’s knowledge, it’s things you can absorb to help your cooking. I hope that becomes something that is really well used," she says.

"It’s really important for me that people continue to cook from scratch, and by that I mean the actual preparation of food, rather than using a can or jar that you add something to.

"I’m not saying I’m totally against shortcuts, but that basically the bulk of the food [should be] prepared, because I think we’re kind of losing a bit of that."

'Julie Biuso at Home' by Julie Biuso, with photography by Aaron McLean is available now. Published by New Holland, $65.00

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