The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

roast squash, quinoa and black chickpea salad

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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.

This recipe has been created in association with Suma Wholefoods Cooperative.

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

half an avocado
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp organic tahini
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch sea salt
150 ml extra virgin olive oil
50 ml water



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.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan

Tags: ,

28 replies

  1. It’s criminal the way food is wasted. I so very much admire organisations, such as Oz Harvest, that collect unused (but fresh) food from supermarkets and restaurants and prepare it for those who haven’t enough.
    Thanks for the recipe. I’d not heard of black chickpeas before.

    • Thank you Peggy. We have similar, amazing organisations here in the UK. I really admire the way they not only throw a spotlight on the problem but also address it in such a socially constructive and positive way. 🙂

  2. Great article and a fantastic recipe! Most importantly, the staggering facts that precede it. I am reblogging it.

  3. I feel the same as Peggy about food wastage in the developed world – it is so senseless when people are starving around the world. It’s so hard to understand.

  4. At this time I almost feel I have to apologize for the Australian preponderance of comments thus far: here is another 🙂 !! Oz Harvest is wonderful but too limited for the problem . . . and not worldwide! My heart absolutely breaks when I see news photos of huge amounts of fruit and vegetables going to waste here with so, so many children around the world dying because of insufficient nutrition!! Because money rules the roost . . . because ‘some’ people don’t seem to count . . . . your comparison of a plain dish twixt the US and South Sudan is absolutely tragic . . . so, damn it, we are NOT ‘do-gooders’ . . . we would just like a fairer world to exist . . . so, it just takes a first step . . . for you . . . now!!

    • Please don’t feel the need to apologise at all: I love hearing from people across the world. It is disheartening to find we share the same problems but also heartening to find so many people who care and want to make a difference. Steve

  5. Sad that in this day and age children are still dying of hunger and malnutrition, there are people on the streets who beg for food…We should all do more and yes there are great organisations who do what they can but it has never been enough…Mans greed and corruption knows no bounds and it should… Enough is enough but it needs someone who can to stand up and be counted and those who can to do a bit more…..NO! Not a bit more a LOT more!

  6. Nice and tasty recipe 🙂

  7. Thankyou for this …. I had no idea and yet I consider myself to be educated and informed. It is intolerable that people are still starving and dying from hunger. And the stark difference in the true cost of a simple meal is boggling. We must all stand against this and your article stirs me to find out more and do what I can to engage others and not shut up til things change. The meal looks delicious, by the way

    • Thank you Osyth. As a result of your comments I have now discovered your utterly delightful blog, and will be following it avidly 🙂 Steve

      • What a lovely thing to say! I hope I won’t disappoint and look forward to having you alongside as I churn out my drivel! 🙂 I have only rule, by the way – I only EVER say what I mean so my comment was entirely meant. I shall enjoy following your blog too 🙂

  8. Fantastic article, thanks for creating such an awareness ! It is really painful to find the food wasted is larger than the food required to feed the people living in hunger.
    Btw your salad looks so beautiful, love the addition of black chickpeas in here !!

  9. Looks beautiful and delicious

  10. I had Honey glazed roasted Pumpkin & Couscous salad today for lunch, such a delicious combination, and the best part is Roasted pumpkin 😀

  11. Oh wow that pumpkin looks fantastic

  12. WOW! I had no idea there was such a difference in prices. We do take for granted how cheap our food is here in the USA. I just volunteered last week at our local food pantry. We worked for 3 hours straight getting food into the hands of people that are struggling here in our community. We do it every 6 weeks. I am amazed at how generous all the gardeners are that donate food as wells as grocery stores. I often wonder if those people have a garden or if they know how to grow food. It was my first time volunteering so I will have to see what goes on next summer. I know I will be putting in some rows of fresh greens to share….
    Check out this source for homegrown, USDA Organic Black Kabuli Chickpeas

    I am not the cook you are:-) but I did make black chickpea hummus from their beans. I did it for the “anthocyanin” content of their beans. They are out of beans, I am not able to find them anyplace else in the USA right now( organic). I have one bag left and am holding on to it as if it were precious stones-LOL

    You might enjoy their story. They wrote a book about their farming practice. I won a free copy of the book since I ordered so many beans from them-LOL. They have an amazing red lentil hummus recipe on their site.
    Here it is-

    I am excited to find your site, you sure know how to make food beautiful and I assume great tasting! It looks scrumptious in your beautiful photos!

    • Hi Robbie. Thank you so much for your lovely comments, and for the links.

      I’m based in the UK but many of my followers are in the USA, and they may well be tempted to try black chickpeas from your source.

      Well done with your volunteering work. It’s heartwarming to know how much good and kindness there is in the real world, away from the venality, bombast and lack of humanity displayed by too many of our politicians and decision makers.


  13. Too sad that in Greece I cannot easily find kale! Your salad looks great!

  14. I will have to look for black chick peas. Great combos for a meal! Eager to try this. 😀

    On the food waste and cost comparisons, I have too many thoughts for a tiny comment box (which I’m typing with thumbs on a tiny phone in a car). :/ Nice compilation and pointedness, as usual.

    PS – how’s the Suma network working for you?

    • Thanks for your kind comments Shannon. I’m enjoying working with Suma. I like their values and ethos, and they also have plenty of organic and ethically sourced products. Steve

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