The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

chargrilled courgette salad with lemon and basil

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Three weeks ago the charity Diabetes UK warned that diabetes “threatens to bring down the National Health Service” unless we tackle the obesity crisis through better food regulation. This warning echoed a similar prediction by the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, who in May this year called for sugar to be taken out of food and fizzy drinks to help tackle the obesity epidemic. He went on to say that “if that doesn’t happen then, in effect, what we’re doing is a slow-burner food poisoning through all of this sugar that goes on to cause cancer, diabetes and heart disease”.

In contrast, over in the United States, a recently formed organisation called the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) has been promoting a very different message: that obesity prevention should focus much less on what people eat or drink and more on encouraging them to be active.

The truth is that both diet and exercise are important in tackling obesity, although it is widely accepted that – contrary to the GEBN’s claims – diet plays by far the more important role in obesity prevention.

According to its website, the Global Energy Balance Network is “a newly formed, voluntary public-private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to identifying and implementing innovative solutions – based on the science of energy balance – to prevent and reduce diseases associated with inactivity, poor nutrition and obesity”.

Scratch a little below the surface, however, and you will find that GEBN is sponsored by Coca Cola, one of a number of companies whose profits would suffer if there was a crackdown on sugary drinks.

Rather than reconsider the composition of its products and look at ways to make them less harmful, Coca Cola instead prefers to spend millions of dollars on intensive propaganda, marketing and lobbying designed to deflect the obesity spotlight away from its products.

But it is in part due to the high sugar content of products like those made by Coca Cola that obesity in the developed world has reached such epidemic proportions. Related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, requiring ongoing and expensive treatment, are placing huge demands on the NHS and other health care providers around the world.

It is time our governments took on those global food and drink companies whose products are making us ill. Punitive taxes should be placed on harmful and less healthy foods, with the revenue raised going to preventative and other healthcare services. At the same time there should be the introduction subsidies on healthier foods, such as organic fruit and vegetables.

The main reason this has not happened to date is that, unlike the processed food and drink industry, organic fruit and vegetable producers do not “sponsor” politicians, nor do they run multi-million dollar campaigns of propaganda, lobbying and dubious “research” to try to convince us that black is white.

courgette growingbasil growingharvested lemons 2thinly sliced courgettes

Onto the recipe, which uses organically grown courgettes from my allotment plot, the Circus Garden.

This is a simple, great-tasting salad that can act as a perfect foil for a variety of other dishes.

chargrilled courgette salad with lemon and basil

  • Servings: 4-6, as a side dish
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3 medium courgettes, very thinly sliced lengthways (use a mandolin if available)
20 g fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn
100 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
juice of 1 lemon
large pinch smoked sea salt


1. Place a ridged griddle pan over a high heat until the pan is very hot. Brush the courgette strips on both sides with olive oil and place them across the ridges. You will need to do this in batches. Don’t be tempted to move the strips, other than to turn them over once. When they have charred lines on each side they are ready. Drain on kitchen paper and pat dry to remove excess oil.

2. Whisk together the olive oil, garlic, smoked salt and lemon juice until emulsified. Place the courgette strips in a bowl, add the olive oil, garlic and lemon dressing and the basil and toss gently to combine. Set to one side for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop before serving

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan

Tags: , , ,

13 replies

  1. Thank you for highlighting the issues around diabetes. One close to my heart.

  2. Well said! I also watched the Jamie Oliver programme ‘Sugar Rush’ which called for a similar tax. It is staggering how companies such as Coca Cola are allowed to produce such dubious research. Lovely sounding recipe again.

    • Yes, I saw that programme too. I’m so pleased that Jamie Oliver has taken this issue up; let’s hope his profile and energy will help to force our government to taking action.

  3. Education, beginning at an early age is the key. Kids should be taught at school to grow and cook veg and about nutrition. It’s not just cane sugar that is to blame but all highly refined, fat and sugar laden processed foods sold cheaply in enormous portions and packages that contribute to the problem. Dietary related obesity is merely compounded by sedentary lifestyle, advertising, peer pressure and habit.

  4. Thank you… Great blog!
    Eating healthy… Is the way to go… And tastes great…. More vegetables and less sugar….

  5. I love this recipe! Thanks for tip 🙂 Bye. K

  6. There must be some weird people who work for places like Monsanto and Coca Cola. But I like your salad.

  7. Beautiful salad and I agree with everything you’ve written! Easy to make, nutritious food is the key and your salad fits the bill perfectly!


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