Creative salad-maker Hetty McKinnon on her love for what comes from the earth, delicious veggie combinations, and her first cookbook, Community.
Cycling around the streets of Surry Hills delivering fresh, homemade vegetarian salads to her customers, Hetty McKinnon has turned her passion for preparing and sharing food into her life.
Bursting with colour, texture and flavour, her dishes are seasonal, simple and beautifully presented, and the lucky Surry Hills locals can’t get enough. Hetty’s first cookbook, Community, shares 60 of her wonderful recipes and is a beautifully photographed visual treat that will inspire many a delicious meal.
What do you love about vegetables?
I love that they grow from the ground. I also really love the colours of vegetables. When I cut open a shockingly crimson beetroot or I look at a basket of multi-coloured heirloom tomatoes, it fills me with happiness and satisfaction.
How can people reimagine salads as a complete meal?
Generally, salads are so often treated as an afterthought, something to add to a dish or meal to make you feel healthier. I look at salads very differently. If approached creatively and with some thought, why can’t a beautiful bowl of char-grilled broccoli with smashed chickpeas sprinkled with dukkah be a full meal? My salads are hearty enough to be a meal; they are so full of flavour that the diner will not feel like they have missed out on anything.
What are some of your favourite salad combinations?
There are so many favourites and I must change my mind about my favourite combinations every week. I love sweet golden beets and juicy turnips with wasabi mayonnaise, honey-roasted carrots with mung beans and home-made labneh, crispy Brussels sprouts with French lentils and balsamic dressing. And I have a real affection for the Brassica family of vegetables: Brussels sprouts, kale, cavolo nero, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Char-grilled broccoli is one of my absolute foods – I especially love it with chickpeas and mint, with a hint of chilli and squeeze of lemon.
Eating together is important to you – who do you love to eat with?
I love to eat with my family. Growing up, we always sat down to eat as a family – every night was a huge Cantonese dinner with an array of dishes in the middle of table and a bowl of rice. This really taught me the joy of eating together. I love the social aspect of dining, so sharing food and drinks with friends and neighbours is something I relish. In general, I love feeding people, and I get so much joy from cooking a pie or some dahl and springing it onto my neighbours!
What are your top winter salad suggestions?
Definitely Brussels sprouts! They are my winter staple. Roast them, pan-fry them, char-grill them on a BBQ or shred them raw in a winter-style slaw. They are so delicious. I also love the richer flavours of butternut pumpkin and sweet potato in winter, which I love to spice up with cinnamon or ginger. Pan-fried turnips are juicy and a real treat. And I can’t go past kale, which is loved by all my family, even my kids. Roast it in a slow oven and sprinkle with sea salt, and you have a healthy, satisfying snack for the kiddies.
What do you love about Surry Hills?
We live very outdoor lives here – we walk everywhere, we congregate in parks, or street corners. I love its beautiful tree-lined streets, its diversity, its tolerance, its unending creative energy and the great food and coffee that surrounds us! But most of all, I love the people – over the last three years making and delivering salads to locals and those who work in the area, I have met the most wonderful, inspiring, generous bunch of people.
If you are short on time what is your go-to salad recipe?
My favourite quick salad is cabbage and fennel with peas, mint, parmesan and lemon. It’s raw – just shred the cabbage and fennel, add some blanched frozen peas, lemon, a few sprigs of mint and grate over parmesan. It’s so delicious and healthy.