In 2016 nearly 800 million people across the world did not have enough to eat. This was not, however, due to there being insufficient food to go round.
Last month the World Food Programme published a report called Counting The Beans: The True Cost of a Plate of Food around the World.
It is an eye-opening and uncomfortable read. Using a “global index” of food prices, the report calculates the true cost of the same plate of food in different countries across the world.
Using a standard bean stew with rice as its baseline, the report shows that the ingredients to make the dish would cost a consumer in New York just $1.20. For the same ingredients the relative cost to someone in Bangladesh would be $11.25. In Yemen the relative cost would be $46.30 and in South Sudan it would be $321.70.
To put it another way, to put that meal together would cost an individual in New York just 0.6% of their daily income, whilst for an individual in South Sudan that single, simple meal would cost more than they earn – 155% of their daily income.
The report demonstrates that it is not an absence of food that led to so many people going hungry last year. It is the sheer cost, the true cost, of that food that is the problem. Factors affecting the price of food in these poorer countries include global warming, political instability, military conflict and weak infrastructure.
The report makes a number of detailed, well thought out recommendations, ranging from social protection, health and education to changes to food systems and supply chains.
However, one further sobering thought which is not covered in the report is this: whilst those 800 million people went hungry last year, the rest of us threw out enough edible food to feed 2 billion.
On to the recipe.
My pumpkin and squash harvest was a little disappointing this year. In the UK we suffered quite a temperature drop in August, and having spoken to other gardeners, it seems that this may be why some of my squash fruit ended up smaller than expected.
But never fear, there are lots of wonderful things that can be done with baby squash, as this recipe shows. The variety I have used is called blue ballet, which I like for its attractive outer colour, but any variety of small squash or pumpkin would work just as well.
Under the terms of our arrangement, every couple of months I select products from the Suma Wholefoods range which Suma provide free of charge. From these I create an original recipe which appears on the Suma website as well here, on the Circus Gardener’s Kitchen.
When I saw that Suma had started stocking black chickpeas I couldn’t resist the temptation to use them in this recipe. Like the more common, paler chickpea, the black chickpea is high in protein but has a higher fibre content. I really like its buttery texture and earthy, nutty taste.
If you can’t source black chickpeas, or indeed red quinoa, use “conventional” varieties of both.
roast squash and black chickpea salad
2 small squash
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
160 g organic red quinoa
2 400 g cans organic black chickpeas
350 g cavalo nero or other kale, thick ribs removed and shredded
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, finely sliced
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
for the dressing
1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F, gas mark 2). Leaving the outer skin on, halve the squashes and scoop out the seeds. Cut into thin wedges, about 1 cm thick. Place the wedges in a deep roasting tin and add two tablespoons of the olive oil, together with the thyme sprigs. Toss to combine.
2. Place the halved cherry tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking tray. Drizzle over a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle evenly with the sea salt and the cinnamon.
3. Place the squash and the tomatoes in the pre-heated oven on separate shelves. Roast the squash wedges for 25 minutes, or until they are tender and starting to started to catch at the edges. Remove from the oven. Drain the wedges on kitchen paper, and set to one side. The tomatoes will need a bit longer – about 45-50 minutes cooking time in total – until they are soft and beginning to catch slightly on the edges. Remove from the oven and drain on kitchen paper. Set to one side.
3. While the squash and tomatoes are roasting, place the quinoa in a sieve and rinse under cold running water. Place in a pan and cover with cold water to a depth of 2 cm above the quinoa. Add a pinch of sea salt and place the pan over a medium heat. As soon as the water begins to simmer, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, by which time the water should have been absorbed and the quinoa will be just cooked. Remove from the heat and leave to one side.
3. Place a large frying pan or wok over a high heat and add the remaining two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the shredded kale. Stir-fry vigorously for 2 minutes until the kale is just wilted and beginning to char slightly. Remove from the heat and tip into a bowl. Add the quinoa, black chickpeas and red onion and toss to combine.
4. For the dressing, place the avocado, cumin, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and water in a blender and process until smooth.
5. To assemble, divide the chickpea, quinoa, kale and red onion mixture between four plates. Arrange the roast squash and tomatoes across the top. Serve with the avocado and cumin dressing, which should be drizzled generously over the salad.