The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

smashed cucumber salad

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The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable”.

So said UN Secretary General António Guterres as the UN released its damning climate change report earlier this week.

Drawing on over 14,000 scientific studies, the United Nations IPCC report provides the most detailed and comprehensive picture of the imminent danger we are in because of man-made climate change and global warming.

It is clear now that global warming is happening at a faster pace that many of us had realised.

In 2019 levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were higher than at any time in the past two million years. Methane and nitrous oxide are higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years. We are seeing more and more examples of extreme temperatures, of flooding and of drought.

The UN report identifies intensive agriculture and the meat industry, through methane production, as key contributors to this escalating crisis and, amongst other measures, calls for a major reduction in meat eating to help stabilise the planet’s climate before it is too late.

Agriculture, and the meat industry in particular, is also a major driver of deforestation, which is exacerbating CO2 emissions.

The corrupt President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has deliberately turned a blind eye to illegal rainforest clearance in the Amazon, hardly surprising when you consider that agricultural and mining interests helped to bankroll his election campaign. Historically, the Amazon has acted as a huge carbon sink, helping to offset (or, rather, hide) the true extent of the climate crisis. But, thanks to Bolsonaro and his cronies, the Amazon is in danger of becoming a big part of the problem by capturing less CO2 as it shrinks whilst also releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere as that deforestation continues.

So we face an existential dilemma. We can act now and hope to avert our demise as a species (although it may yet be too late), or we can simply try to ignore our predicament and thereby contribute mindlessly to our eventual extinction.

Our diet is not the only issue we have to address if we are to try to avert disaster, but it is one we can all do something about.

Reducing or, better still, eliminating your meat intake is not as hard as you might think, plus you will be improving your own health as a consequence.

The alternative? Well, there is a saying that “you are what you eat”. If we fail to change our diet in the face of this climate crisis we will become as doomed as the animals routinely killed to put meat on our plates.

This is a delicious, quick and easy dish to make, and works well as an accompaniment to range of Chinese dishes, such as my Szechuan-style mushrooms with aubergine, Szechuan-style tofu with spring onion, Kung Pao cauliflower and stir-fried crispy tofu with peppers.

Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar) is available from Asian stores. It has a rich, earthy umami flavor, perfect for this dish. If you are unable to source it use mirin ( a mild rice wine, widely available) or Balsamic vinegar in its place.

smashed cucumber salad


2 cucumbers
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp chilli flakes
20 ml toasted sesame oil
10 ml groundnut oil
10 ml Chinese black vinegar
10 ml soy sauce
10 ml maple syrup
1 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted


1. Peel the cucumbers. Remove the ends and halve lengthways. Place the cut halves on a chopping board, cut side down. Using the heel of your palm, work your way along each cucumber half, pressing down firmly until you feel it give way.

2. Once the cucumber halves are “smashed” in this way, tear the smashed cucumber into roughly 3-4 cm pieces. Place these smashed cucumber pieces in a colander over a large bowl and scatter over the sea salt. Leave for 30 minutes. This will draw out excess moisture, which will drain into the bowl below.

3. Whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, black vinegar and chilli flakes. Give the colander a shake to get rid of any excess moisture from the cucumber, then place the drained smashed cucumber pieces in a serving bowl. Add the dressing and toss gently to combine. Scatter with the sesame seeds and serve.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, raw, vegan, vegetarian

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8 replies

  1. Fabulous recipe. I love cucumbers.

  2. Thank you Peggy. I think this must be my favourite way to eat them x

  3. Another winner from you. Personally, i work on a supermarket pizza and takeaway counter. I evidence of people being will to change their diet, especially cutting down on meat. Piles of meat is what they want. They cant all have missed the advice and warnings, just a lack of any willingness to take personal responsibility. It is starting to sicken me.

    • Thank you. I can see how demoralising that must be. On a more positive note, I have several friends who have recently either stopped eating meat or cut back drastically, so I think we just have to keep explaining and encouraging people to make changes. Every time we do, we create a little ripple, and the more of those ripples that we can collectively send out, the further we will reach. 🙂 Steve

  4. Writing from Australia all I can say is that I am bitterly ashamed at the ‘used car salesman’ approach this country is taking as far as global warming is concerned. Supposedly we are on track to fulfilling our meagre promises and jobs are far more important than arguable occasional weather patterns . . . and since but 26 million souls live on this vast land mass we cannot possibly be guilty . . . ???? Love your cucumber recipe . . . different to my Nordic ones – shall certainly try !

    • Thank you Eha. I have to agree, the Australian government’s response has been woeful, especially since it is one of the world’s biggest per capita greenhouse gas emitters. Steve x

    • Per capita is a term tossed out a lot, but as of 2016, it’s China, US, India and Russia who are the largest emitters. Tiny little Australia is meeting its commitments while attempting not to damage the economy. The focus needs to be on China who is building large numbers of coal-fired power plants to drive its post-pandemic economy. The government has promised a CO2 emissions peak by 2030, but the new coal binge jeopardises both China’s decarbonisation plans and global efforts to tackle climate change.

      • Hi Mary, thank you for your comments. I do understand the point you are making, although the fact is there are various figures available on greenhouse gas emissions, and all of them make grim reading.
        Although Australia is a comparatively smaller country, the figures I have seen (for 2018), do suggest that it produces more per capita greenhouse gas emissions than the USA, China or Russia.
        Be that as it may and whichever figures one relies upon, all of the world’s developed countries are failing to take the decisive actions needed to address the climate emergency, and thus we continue recklessly to propel ourselves towards extinction. Steve

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