The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

beetroot, avocado and pink grapefruit salad


Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver attracted criticism recently over his claim that poor people “eat crap” because they “think in a different gear” to the middle classes.

His remarks were made in the context of figures revealing that poor children are twice as likely to become obese as rich children, and were themselves taken out of context. He had gone on to say, “what you see is parents who aren’t even thinking about five fruit and veg a day. They’re thinking about enough food for the day”.

When you are poor, as Oliver has suggested, you are far more concerned about where your next meal is coming from than you are about its nutritional value.

The fundamental problem, however, is not about class, nor about the way that poor people think. It is about the way food choices are presented to us all.

There is an unequal struggle for our attention between inexpensive, highly processed, easily accessible foods and good quality, healthy but more expensive food.

The processed food industry receives millions of pounds each year in subsidies. For example, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy subsidies has been the sugar multinational Tate & Lyle.

Then there are the indirect subsidies. The taxpayer foots the bill for the cost of cleaning up the pollution and other environmental damage “bad” food creators produce, as well as paying through our taxes for the NHS treatments for the problems their unhealthy products cause.

The majority of the poor are not avoiding healthy food because they prefer to eat “crap”. It is because this uneven contest between “bad” and “good” food often puts the latter beyond their budget.

It is possible, with political will and imagination, to alter the balance. If the cost of unhealthy foods reflected the true environmental cost of its production and the true health costs of its consumption, then it would become more expensive. And if the bloated subsidies given to the processed food industry were used instead to subsidise healthy, organic foods, I have no doubt that all consumers would change their eating and purchasing habits for the better.

On to the recipe.

Salads should not be a treat confined to the summer months. Throughout the year there are always seasonal ingredients that can be used together to make a delicious and nutritious salad.

The ingredients in this example may not seem an obvious grouping at first, but together they provide a fine example of culinary synergy: the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

beetroot, avocado and pink grapefruit salad

Ingredients

1 medium sized beetroot
1 avocado, sliced
1 pink grapefruit
100 g watercress

for the dressing

100 ml extra virgin olive oil
25 g cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, very finely chopped

Method

1. Peel the grapefruit with a sharp knife, carefully removing both the peel and the white pith underneath. Next, slice into the grapefruit just inside the membranes to release each segment. It is best to do this over a bowl to catch any juice that is released.

2. Peel, then grate or spiralize the beetroot. Peel, halve and stone the avocado, then slice. Wash and rinse the watercress, removing any tough stems.

3. For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, cider vinegar, chopped rosemary, mustard and garlic until emulsified.

4. To serve, arrange the salad ingredients artistically on each plate. Drizzle over a generous amount of the dressing.

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Categories: dairy free, gluten free, raw, vegan

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16 replies

  1. This sounds divine! In Step 4, you wrote “Drizzle over a generous amount of the grapefruit and rosemary dressing.” which made me wonder if the dressing would be even more delicious by substituting the cider vinegar with an equal portion of released grapefruit juice? I may have to find out for myself, and soon! Thank you!

    • Hi Pam, and thank you for your kind comments. Many of my recipes on this blog go through a few iterations and tweaks until I am happy to publish them. In an earlier version of this recipe I’d used grapefruit juice in the dressing, but I later decided that it needed something a little sharper, hence the cider vinegar. Thank you for spotting the continuity error! I have now amended the recipe. Steve 🙂

  2. I love salads. They are part of my menu every day.

  3. Pink grapefruit are a nice colorful touch

  4. I just listened to a Podcast about this very subject, the unleveled playing field between the (subsidized) processed foods and healthier whole foods, particularly fruits and veggies. Thoughtful piece here, and delicious combos for a late winter salad.

    PS – Texas is known for its sweet and juicy Ruby Red grapefruit. Our avocado, fortunately, come from Mexico, our close southern neighbor. Rosemary and beet root? My backyard!

  5. Tgus would be So delicious and refreshing.

  6. Have always liked the guts and gumption and hard work and talent of Jamie Oliver . . . since he himself was born into a hardworking publican’s family, I am somewhat surprised at his attitude. In other ways he has a point at which he has only veiled and which would take the philosophies of a much bigger group than us and a lot more time we have to discuss. The salad is brilliant in colour and health properties and will be made as soon as I can get to the shops . .

  7. Oh la la! That looks divine and I would snaffle a bowlful any day.

    In terms of the the important points you raise in the article, may I thank you. I was a single mother to four daughters with no financial support from their father. Until the youngest was 5 I lived on Income Support, once she was at school I went to work and did everything I could to ensure the children (and if I was lucky, I – by the way, people used to ask how I stayed so slim 😯) were fed and clothed and warm. Our budget was tiny but I am fortunate to be well educated. To be frank, if I had not been so well-educated I would have struggled not to feed them a highly processed diet. When you have a family to feed you do whatever you can to ensure they have full bellies – anything else is a luxury. As it happens, I made do and succeeded and all my daughters are now able cooks who can take fridge pickings and make a fine meal. But for the many who live under the poverty line and who are literally keeping their noses above water if they are lucky how are they to turn down the cheap alternatives if it means the children are fed. This issue lies with our politicians and it is for us to keep banging on the door until they listen to sense. After all it is the health service that ultimately picks up the bill and we all know how well that is going …. I write, of course, from France but I reared all my children to adulthood in Britain.

    • Great comments, thank you Osyth. It sounds like you’ve done a brilliant job of raising your daughters in such challenging circumstances. Steve

      • I actually consider myself fortunate with hindsight …. what I want is to help others understand what is possible. I enjoyed Jack Monroe’s blog very much when she first came on the scene and all my daughters have copies of her books. I know that some were cynical and unkind about her (and more interested in her sexual orientation which baffles me) but she did a great deal of good. As has Jamie. His choice of words might not be quite so clever but the sentiments are bang on and his is a powerful voice.

  8. Sounds so deliciously simple! Can’t wait to try — thank you for sharing.

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