The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

cabbage, coconut and cumin pakora with coriander relish

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Glyphosate is a systemic herbicide widely used in agriculture.

In the USA, around 80% of genetically modified crops (GMOs) have been modified to be “Roundup-ready”, in other words to be resistant to the weedkiller Roundup, the world’s most popular glyphosate-based weedkiller.

Many of these “Roundup-ready” crops end up in cattle feed, which is not just used in the USA but exported around the world. As a consequence traces of glyphosate have been found in meat and numerous meat products.

Glyphosate also works as a dessicant and is used to help dry and ripen wheat and other cereal crops at harvest time. As a consequence, a third of all bread sold in the UK contains glyphosate traces.

Glyphosate has also been found in tap water, honey, biscuits, crisps, breakfast cereals such as Cheerios, Froot Loops, Special K and, more recently, in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Glyphosate can remain stable in foods for a year or more, even if the foods are frozen, dried or processed. It cannot be removed by washing nor broken down by cooking

Tests routinely show traces of glyphosate in the urine of adults and children.

Given that glyphosate was declared to be “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organisation (WHO) two years ago, there is every reason to be alarmed.

The product has only been in widespread use for around 30 years, and we still know little of its long-term effects on our health. Most of the tests carried out by regulatory bodies have been carried out with glyphosate at very high levels of concentration. Little is known about its impact at the levels commonly found in our drinking water and food.

Nevertheless, studies conducted in the USA and Europe have shown that glyphosate traces are higher in the urine of those with chronic illness compared to more healthy humans.

Other recent studies suggest that Roundup may pose a risk to our kidneys and liver.

Despite the WHO declaration, and despite growing concerns, Roundup and similar glyphosate-based products continue to be sold widely, and there is mounting evidence of the huge scale of glyphosate penetration of both our food chain and our bodies: another reason to choose organic products, that have been grown in healthy soils and without the use of poisonous agrochemicals.

On to the recipe.

In just a few weeks’ time I will be in Kerala, south west India, and the idea for this dish came about whilst I was experimenting with the ingredients for a classic Keralan cabbage and coconut dish called thoran. As is often the case, I ended up with something quite different to what I’d originally planned.

The coriander relish works perfectly with these crispy, tasty pakora, making this dish a real treat.

cabbage, coconut and cumin pakora with coriander relish


1 onion, finely sliced
1 small savoy, or other winter cabbage, approx 400 g, core removed, shredded
100 g fresh coconut, grated
150 g gram (chickpea) flour
250 ml cold water
2 green chillies, seeds in, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed in pestle and mortar
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
groundnut oil, for deep frying

for the coriander relish

3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
2 green chilies, seeds in, chopped
2 cm piece ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
juice of 1 lime
pinch sea salt


1. For the relish, place the coriander, chillies, ginger, garlic, lime and sea salt in a food processor and blend to a paste. Set to one side.

2. Place the gram flour and water in a large bowl and whisk together into a smooth lump-free paste. Whisk in the turmeric and sea salt, then add the cabbage, onion, coconut, green chilli and crushed cumin seeds. Stir to combine.

3. Pour groundnut oil into a deep pan to a depth of 5 cm. Place over a high heat. Once the oil is hot enough to brown a small cube of bread in 30 seconds it is ready. Carefully lower spoonfuls of the pakora mixture into the pan. Do this in small batches, to avoid crowding the pan and reducing the temperature too quickly.

4. Fry the pakora until golden brown and crispy all over. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on kitchen paper before serving along with the coriander relish.


Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan

Tags: , , ,

19 replies

  1. Love this article, reminds me why I spend so much time growing food for our family! This dish looks so so yummy, I will have to try it!

  2. Brilliant colours in those images The Circus Gardener 🙂 And your post talks of what is (one of) the greatest food farming travesties of our generation – it cannot be spoken and written about enough – thank you for being part of the chorus of dissent.

  3. Steve – your roundup about ‘Roundup’ [sorry!!!] made me shiver in fear as the mention of glyphosate always does. I live semi-rurally in a gated village where the gardeners still use it : ‘Oh, Mrs Carr, don’t listen to these nuts, we are told it is 100% safe’ always comes up when I refuse my surrounds to be sprayed. Was even threatened with legal action once: they did not believe when I told them to bring it right on!! Absolutely love your recipe and have just put a fresh coconut on my Christmas food delivery list . . . .

  4. Nice and tasty recipe 🙂

  5. There was a HUGE hooha in France earlier in the year when the new minister for the environment announced a ban on glyphosate and many farmers objected. I am happy to say the government won the day and in some sense the country breathed easier. I am delighted that you are vocal in highlighting this dread stuff. Like asbestos (which killed my father) it just needs to be banned. Full stop. The recipe looks fabulous … just the thing for a miserable wet day when I think, on the whole, I would rather be in Kerala!

    • Thank you Osyth. I’ve been quite impressed by recent French government decisions: the glyphosate ban and the outlawing of supermarket waste in particular. Steve

      • Let’s hope the attitude here begins to creep across la manche if only because the British don’t like to be bettered by the French 😉

  6. Great recipe Steve and I envy your trip to Kerala. Corporations like Monsanto need to be reined in and made accountable for the damage they ultimately do, all for profit. Organisations like Sum of us and 38 Degrees do a great job in trying to expose this agribusiness assault on the population. More young people need to be engaged and made aware of the agribusiness activities because it is the future which is in jeopardy. A future in which it is predicted every other person will suffer some form of cancer – imagine what a load that will put on the NHS, if it still exists in any future. How do you engage the young when they have grown up in a world where most of their food comes from supermarkets who are hand in hand with agribusiness and only grudgingly offer organic produce and most news media rarely report on important food issues.

  7. Thank you for your blog Steve. If it wasn’t for people like yourself highlighting the problems with the food industry and health issues a lot less people would be aware. I hope your audience grows and grows.

  8. Thank you for this post. Hopefully it creates more awareness about the use of toxics in the farming industry. It’s shocking and sad. And beautiful and delicious looking pakora’s and chutney!

  9. It is really alarming to find the residue of Glyphosate even within us.
    Your pakora & relish seems to be a beautiful & delicious pair and I like to try them soon!
    Wishing you a very happy New Year !!

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