The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

cucumber, shallot and strawberry salad with mint and passionfruit dressing

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Right now, here in the UK, we have a wonderful abundance of locally grown, fresh organic fruit and vegetables to choose from, making it the perfect time to prepare and appreciate a good quality salad. This is a recipe for one which is delicious, quick to prepare and light on calories.

Fresh food is an uncomplicated, healthy alternative to the fatty, sugary, additive-loaded processed foods that form such a large part of our diets these days, and which are heavily implicated what has been dubbed the obesity epidemic.

Given the choice, most people who are overweight would probably rather not be overweight. That, of course, is why the diet industry is such big business, making profits estimated to be over $60 billion in the US alone.

But it’s an industry which specialises in tackling the symptom rather than the cause.

One of the main reasons we become overweight is because we eat unhealthily. And we eat unhealthily because everywhere we turn we seem to be surrounded by a masquerade of easy options – fatty, sugary and additive-loaded ready meals, take-aways and other highly processed foods.

Given the growing body of research showing the impact of these unhealthy foods, why don’t the global food giants exercise more responsibility by simply stopping production of them? The truth is that there is absolutely no incentive for them to do so, quite the reverse in fact, because encouraging us to overconsume their unhealthy products generates for them a big fat (pun intended) profit.

Another reason for their inertia is that the global food giants also just happen to have a major stake in that multi billion dollar diet industry. Yes, that’s right, the people who are helping us to diet are the very same people who are making us fat in the first place.

Slimfast, for example, is owned by Unilever, which is responsible for such culinary creations as Pot Noodle, Walls sausage rolls and Ben & Jerry’s “Chubby Hubby” ice cream.

Weightwatchers was owned by Heinz for over twenty years, and to this day they remain a significant shareholder in the company. That’s the same Heinz that puts high fructose corn syrup in its ketchup and which has brought us such classics as spaghetti hoops, sandwich spread and tinned coleslaw.

Lean Cuisine is owned by Nestle, manufacturers of a range of sugar-rich products including Nesquik, Cheerios and Aero.

So, if you want to lose weight, don’t plough even more profits into the companies who made you overweight to begin with. A much better long term solution is to change what you eat, away from heavily processed ready meals and get yourself back to eating natural, fresh, organic additive-free food.

mint growingtwo cucumbersliced strawberrypassionfruit vinegar
Here’s an example – a tasty, healthy, fresh organic salad, full of summer flavours and very easy to make.

I sourced the passion fruit vinegar for the dressing from a local farm shop. Everything else, apart from the olive oil, was grown organically on my allotment plot, the Circus Garden. If you can’t get hold of passion fruit vinegar, use another fruit vinegar such as raspberry.

This salad is delightful all on its own but it will complement all manner of light summer lunches.

However you choose to eat it, you will enjoy it all the more knowing how few calories and minimal effort it takes to make something taste so good.

cucumber, shallot and strawberry salad with mint and passionfruit dressing


200 g fresh organic strawberries
1/2 organic cucumber
1 large organic banana shallot

for the dressing

100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp passion fruit vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped


1. Place the oil, vinegar and mustard in a bowl and whisk until it is emulsified. Stir in the finely chopped fresh mint and set to one side.

2. Halve the cucumber lengthways and use a melon baller or small teaspoon to remove the seeds from the centre. Slice the cucumber into thin half-moon shapes. Hull the strawberries and slice them thinly. Very thinly slice the shallot.

3. Add the strawberries, shallot and cucumber to a bowl. Pour the dressing over the top and mix to combine.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, raw, vegan

Tags: , , , , , , ,

17 replies

  1. That looks delicious – I love strawberries in salad. Did you make the vinegar yourself?

    As for diets, never been on one. We were lucky enough to be brought up to not eat between meals and our tuck box got thrown on a bonfire in about 1968. I can still see it flying through the air into the flames!

    • Hi Miranda

      Thanks for the comments. That was a bit of a cruel fate for your tuck box, but I’m glad it hasn’t done you any lasting damage.

      I purchased the passionfruit vinegar from Chadford Farm Shop, which is near Evesham – – They stock a wide and interesting range of oils and vinegars and potential customers are invited to try them. This one is particularly good.


  2. I’ll get some next time we’re over that way, it sounds amazing.

  3. That looks so delicious and fresh. Just right for this hot weather.

  4. I didn’t realise that the junk food and slimming aids came from the same companies. It’s a great business plan when you think about it – make ’em fat, help them lose weight, make ’em fat… Your salad looks very good. I like the idea of using strawberries in a savoury dish.

    • Hi Sarah, yes it’s quite an eye-opener to realise how cynical and greedy the major players in the food manufacturing industry really are. Thanks for the comments on the salad. It’s one of my favourites.


  5. This looks fantastic! Thanks for a great recipe and an informative post.


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