In 2012, Alison Hutley gave up a job as James Packer’s private chef in Sydney. She moved home to Brisbane, where she and her husband, fellow chef Brett Hutley (who worked as a private chef for Aussie John Symond), opened Botanica, a raw salad bar in Red Hill.
The pair, keen to start a family, wanted the flexibility of owning their own business. “We wanted to be our own bosses,” says Hutley. “We wanted to create something that didn’t exist – Brisbane has incredible cafés, and we didn’t want to come into a saturated market.”
Back in 2013, the trend for food that was healthy, convenient and accessible was just starting to gain momentum. “People were time-poor…but wanted to nourish themselves,” says Hutley. “We filled that hole in the market and it’s grown every year from that first week.”
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The couple opened the first Botanica store in 2013 when Alison was pregnant with her daughter Imogen, now eight. Since then, the pair have opened three more stores with a fifth – a “mega-kitchen” and retail outlet in Albion – in the works and have added a son – three-year old Oliver – to their family. “Every year, we’ve had something major on the go,” Hutley says.
After almost a decade at Botanica’s helm, Hutley has nailed the formula for a sensational salad. “We think the secret is making sure that it’s interesting and the flavours are balanced,” she says. “We are always thinking about texture, mouth feel and obviously flavour.”
Hutley says Botanica salads “have to be a bit more complex than something people can create at home. We pay a lot attention to making sure you’ve got a lot of crunch and different textures. We use a lot of herbs, nuts and pickled vegetables to give salads a punch.”
The raw broccoli salad with cranberries and cashew garlic cream is a classic – one of the eatery’s most popular dishes. “It’s super simple but it ticks all the boxes,” says Hutley. “You’ve got the crunchiness of the raw broccoli, which is shaved finely, and the toasted almonds. It’s a perfect crisp raw salad to have on a summer’s day with a glass of wine at a barbecue.”
One of the salad’s strengths is that it’s vegan-friendly. “While a slaw-style salad would typically have a mayonnaise or a cream-based dressing, we wanted to make a nut cream dressing for this one so it could be enjoyed by everybody,” says Hutley. “The blended cashew nut cream comes up like a really delicious buttermilk or an alfredo-style pasta sauce.”
Hutley adds cranberries to cut through the richness of the cashew dressing. “They’re a pop of sour but also sweetness,” she says. “The cranberries are an essential part of this salad to give it that delicious flavour profile.”
Hutley’s advice for anyone preparing the dish at home is to pay attention to the cashew dressing. “Make sure you blend it long enough so it’s super creamy, rather than blending it until it’s just combined,” she says. “It will have a really creamy texture and it will be heavenly.”
Here’s how to make Botanica’s raw broccoli salad using cranberries at home.
Raw broccoli with cranberries and cashew garlic cream
Serves 4 to 6 as a side
Prep time: 20 mins
No cook time
1 head of broccoli
½ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
⅓ cup Ocean Spray Craisins dried cranberries
Garlic cashew cream dressing:
1 cup of raw cashews soaked overnight
1 cup filtered water
½ cup lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients and process in blender until you have a delicious creamy dressing.
Use the grater disc of a food processor to finely shred the entire broccoli, including stalks and stems. If you don’t have a food processor, you can finely slice by hand by slicing the florets off the stalk and then slicing the stem into strips.
In a large bowl combine the shredded broccoli, Ocean Spray cranberries and toasted almonds.
Gradually pour the cashew cream dressing over the ingredients, starting with half and adding more to evenly coat all of the broccoli slices. All of the ingredients should be covered in a coating of the delicious cashew cream, just like alfredo sauce over pasta.
Delicately heap the ‘slaw’ style salad into a beautiful bowl.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Ocean Spray cranberries.