Enjoying Food During Cancer Treatment

Welcome to our monthly recipe blog from Ryan Riley at Life Kitchen

Ryan Riley is an author, cook and food stylist. He is a co-founder of Life Kitchen, an organisation that provides free cookery classes, events and resources for people with cancer.

One of the lesser-known side-effects of treatment for cancer is a dulling or loss of taste. This can have a huge impact on the lives of people living with the disease, not only physically but also psychologically, leading to feelings of isolation and disconnection from those closest to them.

After losing his mother to lung cancer, and experiencing the impacts her change in taste had, Ryan decided to do something radical to improve the lives of people in a similar situation and this led to the creation of Life kitchen.

Life Kitchen is North-East based, their flagship cookery school is in Mowbray Park Sunderland, Ryan’s home city. However, they take classes all over the UK collaborating with charities and organisations that work with people living with cancer.

Sharing a meal with those closest to us is something often taken for granted. Many of our guests talk to us about feeling as though they are not able to join in or appreciate what someone has made for them. Working with Professor Barry Smith (founding director of the Centre for the Study of the Senses) Ryan uses the science behind taste loss and offers some twists to recipes that can achieve amazing results.

Here Ryan shares some of his tried-and-tested recipes for simple, but delicious dishes which aim to help people living with cancer find enjoyment during tough times and reconnect with the simple pleasure that good food shared can bring.


As the weather gets colder, I tend to turn to comfort food and this month’s dish is my absolute favourite from our latest recipe collection “Essential Flavour”. This dish is quick and easy to prepare but brings that perfect combination of feelings of well-being and nostalgia. The ingredients for my fried chicken sandwich with miso spring onion mayo cost around £1 per person, and yet it feels like you’ve made yourself something really special.

At Life Kitchen one of the considerations we take when developing recipes is how to build in texture into a dish, to make food more interesting and enjoyable.

Eating is not all about taste and flavour, the feel of food in our mouths can make a big difference to how acceptable or desirable foods are to us. Do you like your eggs runny or firm? Your tea piping hot or lukewarm? We make these decisions based largely on the touch of food to our tongue and in our mouths.

Texture is particularly important for people suffering a complete loss of taste as it adds a new sensory dimension to what they experience in the mouth, making eating feel less of a chore and more of an experience. A difference in texture is often the key to making a successful dish.

Our fried chicken sandwich recipe is a great example of how we use texture – tender chicken breast, wrapped in a crunchy coat and served on soft bread with a silky dressing. The spring onions and the crisp lettuce add yet another textural dimension, and of course our signature umami-ness is there in the miso within the mayo dressing.

Essential Flavour includes 15 great budget-friendly recipes for people experiencing changes to taste and smell as a result of cancer or cancer treatment. We produced this collection of recipes in response to research showing that almost 30% of people living with cancer were more worried about the crisis than their cancer, and 55% said they would struggle to pay for food last winter.

Fried Chicken sandwich with miso spring onion mayo

Serves 2

2 x chicken breasts
50ml milk
1 x 85g sage and onion stuffing mix
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp miso
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 slices of white bread
4 lettuce leaves.

Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of baking paper and bash them flat with a rolling pin.

Dip the flattened chicken breasts in milk until fully coated.

Sprinkle the sage and onion stuffing mix on a tray or plate, then press the chicken breasts into the stuffing mix until evenly coated on all sides.

Heat the oil in a medium pan over a medium heat and shallow fry the prepared chicken for 3-4 mins each side until golden brown and cooked all the way through.

Remove from the pan and leave to rest for 3 minutes, then slice into 1 – 2 cm strips.

Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the mayonnaise, miso and spring onion.

Spread the mayo mixture on two slices of the bread, top with lettuce leaves, the cooked chicken and a second slice of bread.


Download the recipe

Download the free Essential Flavour recipe booklet

Read more about Life Kitchen