The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

carrots and butter beans with carrot top pesto

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So, finally, at 11pm last night the UK officially left the European Union.

Half of this bitterly divided country rejoiced at this seminal moment whilst the rest of us looked on, bewildered by this celebration of what we see as an act of national self-harm.

At least Big Ben failed to “bong”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s crowdfunding effort failed to deliver this element of the celebration (how is it, incidentally that we have moved from being promised by Johnson that Brexit would deliver “£350 million per week for the National Health Service” to being asked by him to put our hands in our pockets to contribute to the £500,000 cost of ringing a bell?)

With no significant trade deals yet negotiated, the UK faces a number of challenges outside the EU, not least of which being how we feed ourselves in the long term. This challenge has been made more concerning by the recent suggestion by the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, that there will not be regulatory alignment with the EU post-Brexit.

Dismantling regulatory alliance will mean more border checks and procedures between the EU and the UK, increasing costs and simultaneously harming our meagre agricultural export trade.

But Mr Javid’s candid admission indicates something far worse. The EU has the highest food standards in the world. What Mr Javid was signalling is that the UK’s post-Brexit food quality will have to fall below those standards.

Boris Johnson’s maiden speech as Prime Minister further revealed the direction of travel when he said that he wanted “to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules”.

If we have to rely upon food-based trade deals with countries outside the EU, it will inevitably involve lowering our existing food standards.

The US government, for example, has already made clear that any US-UK trade deal would require the UK accepting previously banned US food imports – not only unlabelled genetically modified foods (GMOs) but also chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef. Yesterday the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that chlorinated chicken must be included in any UK/US food trade deal. Mr Pompeo also suggested that food safety concerns could be being used as “a ruse to try and protect a particular industry”.

Being forced to lower hard-won standards, which are in place to protect our health, does not square up to the false promise that Brexit would lead to us “being in control of our own destiny”, but when you produce much less food than you consume you really aren’t in a very strong negotiating position.

I am afraid there is only one direction in which the UK’s post-Brexit food standards are heading.

This recipe comprises several distinct stages, but each of them is relatively quick and simple. When they all come together you will have a glorious plate of flavours and textures which will make all the effort worthwhile.

carrots and butter beans with carrot top pesto

12 organic carrots, complete with green tops
1 tbsp herbes de Provence
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

for the crispy butter beans
400 g can organic butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp garlic powder
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

for the butter pean hummus
400 g can organic butter beans, drained, rinsed and dried on kitchen paper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
75 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tahini
juice of half a lemon
½ tsp sea salt

for the carrot top pesto
10 g green tops from the carrots
10 g basil leaves
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
15 g pine nuts
juice of half a lemon
75 ml extra virgin olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Remove most of the green tops from the carrots, leaving just a centimetre or so. Scrub or peel the carrots and place them in a roasting dish. Add the olive oil and herbes de Provence and toss so that the carrots are coated. Place in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes, turning occasionally or until the carrots have coloured and are tender.

2. For the crispy butter beans, put the rinsed and dried butter beans in a baking tray. Add the olive oil, herbes de Provence, lemon zest and sea salt. Toss to combine and add the rosemary sprigs. Place in the oven alongside the carrots. Cook for 20 minutes, tossing the beans every so often to get even roasting, by which time the beans will have started to crisp and colour.

3. While the carrots and crispy butter beans are in the oven make the butter bean hummus. Place the butter beans, olive oil, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and sea salt in a food processor and blend until smooth. Set to one side.

4. Next, make the pesto. Place the carrot tops, basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor or a pestle and mortar and blend to a paste. Set to one side.

5. To plate up, place a generous spoonful of the butter bean hummus on each plate. Top with the roast carrots and some crispy butter beans. Finally, spoon over some of the carrot top pesto.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

Tags: , ,

15 replies

  1. Such a beautiful recipe, thankyou. I’m with you on Brexit!!

  2. From here in the U.S., it sure looks as if half your country has lost its mind, same as here. I have no idea what went wrong in the brains of so many people (here and there). As if some big idiot with no shame is going to magically make our lives cheaper and easier, because wishful thinking. You know who I’m referring to on both sides of the pond.

    Great recipe. I love butter beans, and this sounds like one to try the next time I can find carrots with tops.

  3. Now I have something to do with the carrot tops–thank you! I love your blog (it’s the only food blog I read) because of the politics. As an American, I’m horrified by this. Then again, I’ve been in a state of either horror or extreme horror since November 9, 2016. Mike Pompeo(ass) is especially horrific, and forcing our crappy food on other people, not allowing other countries to decide what they want to eat or not, is unconscionable. But that’s what these people do – take advantage of others when they’re down.

    • Thanks so much for your great comments. I’m really happy to hear that you enjoy reading my blog.
      At the heart of this process of foisting bad food upon the world is a network of corrupt, hugely powerful global corporations, aided and abetted by the corrupt politicians they sponsor.
      The sense that Trump seems to be able to get clean away with his outrageous lies and other behaviour has echoes over here in the UK with Johnson. People vote for these figures in no small part because their powerful backers are so adept at denigrating and undermining their political opposition. The big food corporation have had plenty of practice at this, having for decades undermined any independent research that points an accusing finger in their direction.

      I don’t have any answers but I believe those of us who care about such things have no choice but to continue to champion truth and integrity. Keep the faith! Steve 🙂

      • I used to teach a food politics course at UC San Diego, and it was rewarding to watch undergraduates minds get blown as they learned about the corporate control of our food system, the revolving door between Monsanto and the Food and Drug Administration, the power of lobbyists, and the corporate influence on elections. I’d like to think that there are at least 80-100 people out there who are talking about these issues with their families and friends from that course. I’ll definitely point your blog out to my current batch of students in environmental sociology, many of whom are interested in food.

      • I’m so encouraged to learn that there are people like you teaching about such things. The ripples we help create have resonances we do not always see, but maybe, just maybe, they are helping sow the seeds of a better future.

  4. I cry for Great Britain on so many levels . . . how long will it take for the ‘other half’ to begin to understand what damage they have done to their own country ! And then, naturally, they will blame everyone but themselves ! Of all the negatives I most decry you losing the high food standards achieved in Europe ! If I remember from a previous post there were some 88 differences numerated !! Selfishly I also worry where this will leave Australia . . . there are but a few highly decried GMO crops here . . .at the moment the main advertising always states first that no GMO and definitely no hormones were used in the production of the food, crop or animal . . . and our very few feedlots of a far higher standard are well hidden away . . . quo vadis ? . . . Love both your hummus and pesto and shall definitely copy . . . !

    • Thank you Eha. In the midst of all this anger, sadness and sense of growing helplessness we must not forget where our own power lies.

      We do have choices.

      We can choose not to buy bad food – food that has come from half way across the world, food grown using agrochemicals, that entails animal cruelty or rainforest destruction, food that is pumped full of cheap bulking agents and additives, and so on. It is through those small daily food choices, those seemingly insignificant actions and decisions that we can show collectively what kind of a world we want to live in. Steve x

  5. Hi…. World is indeed at perils in hands of fools running it. No country is void of selfish politicians. It’s a sad state of life for everyone at present. On a lighter note, I love reading your blog. The pictures and recipes you share are delightful. Thank you for sharing the recipe. I have never used carrot greens before this recipe.

  6. Sounds interesting !!

  7. This sounds gorgeous.I’m actually considering making this.
    Thank you for sharing.

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