Light fare for the days of sunshine

Moving into January always makes me crave lighter, fresher food like salads, stonefruit and berries.

Not because of any New Year’s resolutions or overindulgences of Christmas but for the longer days and that lighter holiday feeling of the new year. It is such a beautiful time to include more fresh fruits and veges into your day no matter which diet you follow (or don’t follow).

When the sun is shining I love having salad as a meal on its own, so like to include a few things to make it feel substantial and ensure its nourishing my family and me.

Aiming to include a protein, a starch and a fat helps to create a balanced meal, and adding crunch, acid, salt and a pop of sweetness helps to hit all those flavour notes to keep us satisfied. Then the addition of greens, herbs and something fermented supercharges the vitamin levels of the salad.

The following are our go-tos and an easy way to build a salad is to add one or two of each.—

Protein: Lentils, chickpeas, black beans, edamame, hummus, peanuts, tofu, tempeh.

Starch: Quinoa, roast potato, kumara or pumpkin, wild or black rice, barley, corn, vermicelli noodles.

Fat: Avocado, mayonnaise, cashew- or seed-based mayonnaise, tahini, olive oil, hemp seeds, coconut yoghurt.

Crunch: Toasted nuts and seeds, croutons, radishes, corn chips, crispy noodles, fried shallots.

Acid: Lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar, pickle juice, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar.

Salt: Sea salt, miso paste, soy sauce.

Sweet: Dried cranberries sultanas, fresh orange, stonefruit, mango, maple syrup, dates.

Greens: Kale, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, silverbeet, broccoli.

Herbs: Dried seaweed, wasabi, ginger, garlic, basil, mint, coriander, chives.

Fermented/pickled: Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickled onions, pickled ginger.

New Year’s lemony lentil, cucumber and feta

Lentils (looking like tiny coins) are thought to bring prosperity and abundance to the year ahead. The parsley in this dish is not merely a garnish but the main greens component so be confident with it — use a big bunch at least, two if you can, and make sure it’s the flat-leaf Italian variety.

Serves 4


2 tins brown lentils, drained and rinsed

1 telegraph cucumber sliced into thin coins

1 red onion thinly sliced soaked in apple cider vinegar 1 hour, then drained

2 tbsp capers

1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 avocado diced

1 red chilli, de-seeded and sliced

Feta to serve (I used cashew feta)

Cracked black pepper

For the dressing:

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pinch salt


Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar then stir through the combined salad ingredients, keeping aside the chilli and feta to sprinkle on top.

Easy as that.

Raw green goddess with creamy sunflower seed dressing

This salad feels unbelievably healthy to eat —  you really do feel like a goddess. If eaten on the day it is made it is crunchy and vibrant. The second day the vegetables soften and stirred through hot pasta, with a little extra nutritional yeast, it is so delicious. The use of sunflower seeds in this dressing make a nice change from cashews and is just as creamy and addictive (cheaper too).

Serves 4 with enough left over for the next day


1 large broccoli

2 courgettes

½ fennel bulb

1 cucumber


1 cup sunflower seeds soaked at least 2 hours in water

juice and zest 2 lemons

½ cup olive oil

½ cup cold water

1 bunch basil

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

salt to taste


With a mandolin, the flat side of a grater, or a food processor with the slicer attachment, slice all your vegetables into a large colander.

Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and let sit over a bowl to drain for at least 30 minutes.

In a high-speed blender place all of your dressing ingredients and blend until very smooth and creamy, adding more cold water to thin as needed.

Taste and season, remembering the vegetables are quite salty.

In a large bowl stir the dressing through your sliced veggies and transfer to a serving dish.

Fennel, orange and beet with coconut labne

The colours in this salad are divine. Serve as is with a protein side or stuff into a pita pocket or flatbread with some falafel.

Serves 4


4 beetroot cooked whole, peeled and sliced

1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly

3 oranges, peeled and sliced into ½cm slices

½c toasted walnuts

2 cups coconut yoghurt

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

Mint to garnish


To make the labne, stir the salt through the yoghurt then place in a sieve lined with muslin or cheesecloth on top of a bowl in the fridge overnight. The next day, discard any water that has come out of the yoghurt. It should now be thick and the consistency of a soft cream cheese. Grind the nutritional yeast down to a powder with a mortar and pestle and stir that through the yoghurt with the onion and garlic powder, then season to taste.

On a serving planter place the labne then arrange slices of fennel, beetroot and orange. Top with toasted walnuts, flaky salt and mint leaves.

Smashed cucumber, black rice, tempeh and sesame salad

This is such a wonderful throw-together salad. If the rice is already cooked and in your fridge it takes no more than 10 minutes until it’s on the table. This salad is substantial enough to be a meal on its own and a great way to use up leftover greens from the fridge. Add a little kale, baby spinach or even broccoli right at the end of cooking the tempeh if you have some. I like to serve it with some kimchi or pickled ginger and mayo for an easy light and healthy dinner.

Serves 4


3 cups cooked and cooled black rice

1 block tempeh rinsed then sliced into 1cm cubes

3 Tbsp sesame seeds

1 tsp plant-based chicken stock powder

1 telegraph cucumber

2 avocados, diced

1 bunch coriander, chopped

1 red chilli seeded and sliced

oil for frying


3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 Tbsp maple syrup or honey

1 tsp Sriracha


With the back of a knife, hit the cucumber to break it up then chop into 1cm pieces.

On medium-high heat add 2 Tbsp of oil to a fry pan then add the tempeh and sesame seeds, stirring

occasionally so the sesame seeds toast but do not burn. Add stock powder and set aside.

In your prettiest large bowl add the rice, tempeh, sesame seeds, cucumber, coriander and dressing. Toss to combine then top with diced avocado and red chilli.

Spiced chickpeas, grilled eggplant and pomegranate with tahini dressing

This is a lovely warm salad that can be eaten on its own or wrapped up in a flat bread with hummus and greens.

Serves 4


2 eggplants cut into ½cm slices

2 courgettes cut into 2cm slices

2 tins chickpeas, drained

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp plant-based chicken stock powder

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp maple syrup

olive oil for frying

4 large handfuls tender greens such as baby spinach, lettuce, sliced kale

2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

seeds from 1 pomegranate


4 Tbsp tahini

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

juice and zest of 2 lemons

½ cup water


Drain the chickpeas and add to a fry pan with 2 Tbsp oil. Fry on medium until starting to crisp up (about 10 minutes) then add the spices and continue to cook, stirring all the time for another 3 minutes. Add lemon zest, juice and maple syrup and cook until the lemon juice has evaporated.

While the chickpeas are frying, griddle slices of eggplant and courgette in another pan in plenty of olive oil until soft.

While the chickpeas and vegetables are still warm mix together in a large bowl with the greens and half the dressing. Place in a serving bowl and drizzle the rest of the dressing, the pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds to serve.

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