The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

spiced aubergine with chickpeas and wilted spinach


At last, some good news: last week the governments comprising the European Union (EU) voted to ban the agrochemical thiacloprid, which is produced and marketed by the global chemical company Bayer.

Thiacloprid is one of a group of neonicotinoid pesticides, all of which are strongly linked to the collapse in worldwide bee populations.

In reaching its decision the EU stated that it was also concerned that thiacloprid had now found its way into groundwater, a serious cause for alarm since it is toxic to humans.

France, which decided not to wait for the EU’s decision has already banned thiacloprid, along with four other neonictinoid pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and acetamiprid.

The EU’s decision is a small and painfully slow step in the right direction, but it – and the rest of the world – needs to follow France’s lead.

Neonicotinoids were developed in the early 1990s and it has taken nearly three decades for governments to begin to accept the danger they pose, despite a growing body of scientific evidence and many years of campaigning by environmentalists.

The lesson of DDT has simply not been learned. These chemicals should simply have no place in agriculture.

But while agrochemicals remain permissible, each of them should be subject to rigorous and exhaustive independent testing before it is allowed to be marketed for use in food production. It should not be left to environmentalists and the scientific community to gather evidence to prove a chemical is harmful after it has been released and after it has has found its way into the food chain.

The inspiration for this dish came from a recent visit to a friend in Bristol who was keen to take me to Bristol Sweet Mart in St Marks Road, Easton. And what a wonderful emporium it is, with a dazzling array of beautiful fresh exotic fruit and vegetables and a stunning range of spices.

I came out of the shop a bit lighter in pocket than when I went in. Amongst my purchases were some beautiful baby aubergines, which I used in creating this recipe. If you can’t source baby aubergines use 3-4 larger ones chopped into 3-4 cm chunks.

spiced aubergine with chickpeas and wilted spinach

Ingredients
16 baby aubergine
8 banana shallots, peeled and sliced into quarters lengthways
300 g organic spinach leaves
1 x 400 g can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
50 ml extra virgin olive oil

Method
1. Whisk together the olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika, chilli flakes, turmeric and sea salt. Cut the baby aubergines in half lengthways. Place them in a roasting dish with the quartered shallots. Pour over the spice mixture and toss to combine thoroughly. Leave to marinade for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4).

2. Put the roasting dish with the marinated vegetables into the pre-heated oven. Cook for thirty minutes, by which time the aubergine and shallot should be soft and golden. Take the roasting dish out of the oven and add the chickpeas. Stir thoroughly to coat them in the oil and return the dish to the oven for another ten minutes.

3. Remove the roasting dish from the oven and place on the cooker on the lowest possible setting. Add the spinach and stir for 4-5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Serve immediately, accompanied by basmati rice.

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Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

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10 replies

  1. Looks wonderful and as ever great photos. Will definitely be trying this

  2. Yet again France should be commended on its intelligent decision, this time regarding the agrochemicals. The European Union altogether seems to be far more open to contain and reverse matters dangerous to humans and the planet than the rest of the world. Wonder how Great Britain will act following Brexit ? Oh, love eggplants of all shapes and sizes: what an exciting recipe I cannot wait to make ! A glorious full meal with rice or any ancient grains @

    • Thanks for the kind comments, Eha. I am afraid the likely direction of travel for the UK post-Brexit will not be towards better regulation or higher food standards. As we are dependent on imports from other nations for around 45% of the food we eat we will not be in a strong position to insist on either. 🙁 Steve x

  3. It would have been difficult for you to find a dish containing this many of my favourite ingredients – looks absolutely delicious and as it arrived this Tuesday evening, I am looking forward to it next Monday for a meatfree meal.
    Thank you for the info on thiacloprid – about time too! 50 years ago I had two greenhouses of Cocoa plants in my charge in Kew Gardens for quarantine and we were practising biological pest control even then – easier in a greenhouse of course, but I would have hoped things would have progressed quicker than this. Great that you are one of the people drawing attention to this danger.

    • Hi Sonia, and thank you for your kind comments about the recipe. How exciting to have worked at Kew. Organic ways of controlling pests and disease have existed for centuries, yet we have jettisoned so many of those skills and natural wisdoms in just a couple of generations in our rush to embrace agrochemical “solutions”. Steve

  4. This recipe appeared in my in-box at just the right time. I was wondering what to do with the eggplant I had. Solved! This was tasty.

  5. Wow I’m craving this so much right now! Also ur pics are gorgeous 💜

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