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Dani VennPlant Based Vegan, Veggie

We are heralding the end of our gorgeous summer crops of plump tomatoes, crisp zucchinis and fragrant basil in Australia, but it’s not over just yet! Interesting varieties of speckled green and yellow heritage tomatoes are still available, which is such a treat and turns an ordinary garden salad into something special.

With my new baby girl coming into my life last October I sadly didn’t get around to planting my usual summer garden (hey you can’t do everything!) so opted instead to plant out lots of herbs that don’t require as much time and attention. I’ve now got a flourishing herb garden with different varieties of your usual herbs, I have a few types of basil (purple, Thai and Italian) as well as mints (spearmint, apple, Vietnamese) and even some perilla which is very exciting for me as I usually only find perilla if I hunt for it in Vietnamese grocers.

With an abundance of herbs it’s lovely making interesting salad dressings, like pesto, packed with bursts of flavour made with only a few simple ingredients – namely herbs, garlic, oil, nuts and citrus. You can chop and change the herbs, nuts and citrus to make something completely your own.

When you are cooking with herbs do not get hung up on what a recipe says because pretty much all herbs taste good in all dishes! Yes this recipe says Thai basil, but I know it’s not easy to source so you could use standard basil or coriander or parsley or thyme! I also have suggested macadamias as I love their creaminess but you could easily use cashews, almonds, walnuts or whatever is at the back of your pantry instead. Similarly you could use lemons or lime, just to give your dressing a bit of zing! I always play around with a recipe and I never get too concerned if I haven’t got all the ingredients, tomatoes and zucchinis in season with a little salt and olive oil taste pretty darn good too!

Here is my recipe for a raw zucchini ‘noodle’ salad, really it’s just julienned zucchini, anyone can do it – even you! Dani x

PS: As you can probably tell I am a massive fan of herbs, I will be cooking at and MCing the cooking stage at this years Herb and Chilli Festival in the Yarra Valley on 14 – 15 March, I would love to see you there!

Serves 5 as past of a shared picnic

Takes about 20 minutes

Number of ingredients: 10 (some are optional!)


2 – 4 medium sized zucchinis, ends trimmed

A few big handfuls of Thai basil (or whatever herb you please!)

½ cup raw macadamia nuts (or whatever nut you please!)

1 tablespoon fresh lemongrass, finely diced (optional)

½ long red chilli, deseeded, diced (optional)

1 fresh kaffir lime leaf, finely sliced (see note)

¼ cup softened coconut oil

1 teaspoon diced garlic

1 lime, juice only (or lemon!)

A few cups of in season small tomatoes, chopped in half


To make the zucchini noodles use a mandolin with a julienne attachment and slice into 5mm thick noodles or cut the noodles yourself, or just grate the zucchini or use a peeler and make ribbon strips – it will all taste the same! Keep the zucchinis in a cold bowl of water if making this salad in advance.

To make the herb pesto, place herbs, nuts, lemongrass, chilli, kaffir lime leaf, coconut oil, garlic and lime juice in a blender and blitz until a rough paste is formed. Alternatively you could smash up roughly in a mortar and pestle. Taste and season with salt flakes.

When you are ready to serve, throw the zucchini and pesto together in a bowl and mix well, add in your tomatoes, and I like to garnish with extra herbs and nuts. Enjoy!

  • Kaffir lime leaves keep really well in the freezer! If you ever walk past a flourishing tree, pick some leaves and store them in your freezer for times like this!
  • Leftover pesto can be stored in a sealed container for one week in the fridge