The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

saffron braised leek with cannellini and farro

saffron-braised-leek-and-farro jump to recipe

Tomorrow, as the world looks on with varying degrees of trepidation, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America.

With Republican majorities in Congress and the House of Representatives, he has the scope to fulfil many of the sweeping changes he promised during the presidential election campaign, with potentially profound impacts on US foreign policy, trade, immigration, and civil rights.

However, his most dramatic and long term influence may well be in the field of climate change.

President-elect Trump is a climate change denier. He does not accept that climate change is a real phenomenon (back in 2012 he infamously tweeted, “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”).

Of course, just because Trump doesn’t accept the scientific evidence doesn’t mean it is not real. On Monday of this week the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed that 2016 is likely to be the hottest year ever recorded. The previous five year period, 2011-2015 was the hottest five-year period on record. Unfortunately for Trump, and the rest of the world, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, drought and freak weather conditions do not respond to denial, rhetoric, bluff and bluster.

During the presidential election campaign Trump said he intends to dismantle the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency and disinvest in renewable energy. On a global level, he promised to pull out of the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement and to remove all federal funding from climate change research.

So, assuming he follows through on these pre-election promises, what are the potential environmental consequences of a Trump presidency?

At the very least, four or even eight years of a Trump presidency will mean a gap in international cooperation over climate change at a critical period when we simply cannot afford to lose any more time or momentum.

If he does withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement (or simply ignores the USA’s obligations under that agreement) it would have a major impact on global warming because the US, as the world’s second biggest polluter, is responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, even if every other country that signed the Paris Agreement follows through with their pledges, without the buy-in from the USA many of the agreement’s targets will not be met.

All need not be not lost, however.

Mr. Trump cannot stop other countries from doing the right thing. Some, like China (currently the world’s biggest polluter), now seem to be committed to genuine change. Soon, over 20 percent of China’s power generation will come from renewable energy and that country has also introduced tight restrictions on pollution from coal and heavy industry.

So we must encourage the other key global players, like China and the European Union, to stay on the agreed path, to adhere to and build upon the historic Paris agreement.

If Trump follows through on his campaign rhetoric I would like to see those countries which stay faithful to the Paris agreement banding together to introduce collective trade tariffs on any US goods that are connected with avoidable greenhouse gas emissions. Such a measure would reflect the principle “the polluter pays” and would also discourage any other countries from following the USA’s disastrous lead.

leeks growingcelery harvestedsaffrondried bay leaves

On to the recipe, which uses one of winter’s great vegetable heroes: the leek, a vegetable that quite literally holds its ground whatever the winter weather throws at it.

Here it combines with saffron, farro and cannellini beans to create a very satisfying and hearty dish. Farro is an ancient, highly nutritious form of wheat which also happens to be much less glutinous than modern wheat. It is fairly widely available, but if you can’t source it use pearl barley in its place.

This lovely, comforting dish is great served with some steamed greens and garlicky crostini or plain crusty bread.

saffron braised leek with cannellini and farro


1 onion, chopped
3 leeks, sliced
60 g farro
2 stick celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
400 g can organic chopped tomatoes
400 g can organic cannellini beans (flageolot, borlotti or similar beans would be fine), rinsed and drained
400 ml vegetable stock
½ tsp saffron strands
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp sea salt
2 bay leaves
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped, for garnish


1. Place the saffron strands in a small bowl and add 2 tbsp hot water. Leave to steep for 10 minutes.

2. Pour the oil into a large casserole dish with a lid and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring for five minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the leeks, celery and garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring. Add the tomatoes, stock, bay leaves, saffron (along with its soaking liquid), smoked paprika and sea salt. Stir occasionally and bring to a simmer.

3. Lower the heat and place the lid on the casserole dish. Cook for 35 minutes or until the farro is soft but still has a little bite and the vegetables are tender. Add the drained cannellini beans, stir and cook for a further five minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Scatter with the chopped parsley.


Categories: dairy free, vegan

Tags: ,

23 replies

  1. Love the recipe – very worried about ‘Trumpism”.

  2. As a resident of USA, you can’t begin to imagine my anguish over the election results, and all that (potentially) comes with it. Your “comfort food” recipe is deeply appreciated.

  3. Dear Stephen

    I am just so glad to not be in America and can hardly believe the outcome of that election. I look forward to trying this recipe as I love leeks and use them often.

    Teresa Napier

  4. I like your suggestion about trade tariffs. Like the recipe too. Glad I bought saffron in India.

    • Lovely. I’m hoping to visit India later this year and you’ve prompted me to look out for saffron while I’m there 🙂

      • Spices are everywhere, but saffron is a little harder to find. I bought some in Darjeeling and more in the south (Kerala). If you get to a place with lots of spices do some price comparison. I got really good deals in both places in shops off the tourist track.

  5. As an American citizen who most definitely did not vote for him, I share your deep concern. In fact, I think I’m pretty terrified. I don’t know how else to deal with the next four years except with humor and cooking and reading. Thank you, and please keep these posts coming. We have to keep the hope alive somehow.

  6. It feels like the whole world is waiting and holding its breath. What else can we do except try to live by and promote these kinds of values? Your recipe seems perfect for this historical moment – humble pulses, stoic leeks, resilient ancient grains and a touch of exotic spice for grace and hope. Food for life.

  7. Your closing words say it all, The Circus Gardener: “the USA’s disastrous lead”. Precisely. Its not like (m)any of Trump’s predecessors have exactly been shining lights when it comes to climate/environmental issues. Consequently I am no more – or no less – worried today than on (m)any other US inauguration day.

    • Hi Katherine. That may well be true, but if Trump follows through on his pre-election threats/pledges, his period of office will, without doubt, represent an enormous setback to global cooperation in the face of climate change. Of course, Trump’s capricious personality means none of us know for sure how this will all pan out, but so far the signs are not at all good. Steve

      • Indeed – lets see how pre-election converts into post-election… There, too, Trump comes from a long line of disappointments: 8 years ago Obama stood on the same platform promising to close Guantanamo (just by way of one example), and… no change 8 years later. At least we have our own little patches of Earth where we can make a difference – you with your veggie garden and me with my orchard 🙂

  8. I’ve only just discovered farro thanks to a foodie blogger’s recipe. I’ve loved it as the main ingredient in a dish, and can’t wait to see how it gets along with others, particularly the leek. (Lindsay Davis’ ancient Roman detective, Falco) talks about it which influenced me to try it, now I substitute onions for leeks whenever I can.)
    Steve you’re the sort of activist I admire. Goodonya mate. Keep it up.

    • Hi Mary. I hadn’t heard of Falco until now, but he sounds like a rather discerning chap. I’m far more of a ranter than an activist, but thanks for the encouragement! Steve x

      • When it comes to issuers I’m passionate about, I’m a ranter. Your posts are informative and considered, leaving the rest of us to decide for ourselves how we feel about what you’ve said. I couldn’t have been more impressed than when (talking about heritage seeds) I read: ‘So, my fellow growers, be political and choose your seeds wisely!’

  9. I’m always looking for recipes that use saffron. I’m excited to give this one a try. It looks delicious.

  10. Great informative post as ever. There are many reasons to worry about Trump, but for me climate change is the big one, it’s so important that we all pull together, and I’m not sure we can wait 4 years.

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