The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

sweetcorn ribs

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The publication last month of the UK’s independent National Food Strategy was somewhat overshadowed by the United Nations “code red” report on climate change.

That is a shame, because there is a lot of positive proposals in the food strategy document. These include using taxation to reduce our salt and sugar intake, maintaining high food standards, improving school education on diet, improving access to good food for the poorest in our society and incentivising better, and more sustainable, land use by farmers.

It is, of course, down to the government to decide whether to implement the recommendations in the food strategy document. If it implements them all, then it would undoubtedly help improve our collective health and begin to address food inequalities in our society. These inequalities have been widened over recent years not only by the COVID-19 pandemic but also through government policy, particularly austerity, and of course the availability of cheap bad food. Increased food bank usage over the past decade is a clear indicator of this growing food inequality.

The document rightly identifies that our current food system is not only harming our health it is also harming our planet. However, it fails to address properly one area which the UN climate change report highlighted: the impact of our meat-heavy diet on both our health and upon the planet.

Although the report recognises but we have to reduce our overall meat consumption (the report puts a figure of 30% on the required reduction), it gives little detail on how such a reduction in a meat consumption could be achieved other than by rearing fewer cattle and providing less meat-based school dinners.

Excessive meat consumption not only contributes to a variety of health disorders it also, as the UN report recognises, contributes significantly to the global climate emergency.

A carbon tax applied to all meat products, to reflect the true environmental cost of production, would really help achieve a reduction in consumption. The value of taxation in influencing behaviour is rightly seen by the food strategy review as a means to reduce the salt and sugar content of our diet, so why not apply the same principle to reduce our reliance on meat and meat products?

Whilst the food strategy report is a very welcome and positive first step – and I hope we will see the UK government adopting all its recommendations – it is a shame it did not go even further.

This is my favourite way to enjoy sweetcorn. If you haven’t tried sweetcorn ribs before, trust me, they are well worth the effort. Just be very careful when cutting the corn cob into ribs!

In this version, the corn ribs are smothered in a delicious mixture of oil and smoky spices before roasting in a hot oven, but weather permitting they are a perfect vegan option for the barbecue.

Dried chipotle imparts a rich, smoky flavour but it is also quite hot. If you cannot source it, use chilli flakes instead or omit altogether.

sweetcorn ribs

2 sweetcorn cobs
30 ml extra virgin olive oil
25 ml gluten free soy sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dried chipotle
½ tsp sea salt


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4).

2. Peel the corn cobs. Slice about 1cm off the tips. Using a very sharp knife, carefully slice each cob lengthways along the spine. I did this by standing them upright on their bases. Next, slice each half into three lengthways to make a total of six “ribs” per cob.

3. Whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, dried chipotle, smoked paprika, garlic powder and sea salt. Place the corn ribs in a large baking tray. Pour over the spiced oil and gently rub into the ribs with your hands. Place the ribs in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until they have browned and have started to char around the edges. Give the tray a gentle shake part way through the cooking time to prevent the ribs sticking to the tray. Serve immediately.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

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8 replies

  1. I will certainly give those a go. I always thought the cobs would just fall out 😀

  2. Great idea. I have six ears of corn.

  3. Never seen this before, how clever!

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