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.


Is it safe to mention the ‘C’ word yet? Obviously, I’m talking about ‘Christmas’! We are well into December now and so it’s on lots of people’s minds. So much of the celebration is centred around food – for many the festive season is an excuse to splash out on luxury foods, and to eat and drink too much – so it seems right to talk about it here.

If you’re living with cancer, occasions such as Christmas can feel very precious but at the same time the pressure to create the perfect Christmas food experience can feel particularly acute, and a challenge.

At Life Kitchen we are aware of how important it may feel to get the seasonal food right, with minimum stress or pressure, and give everyone the best chance of enjoying it to the max. That is why we wrote a Christmas recipe collection, to show you that what you put on the table doesn’t need to be a worry and to give you some simple and effective tips, as well as some splashes of creativity and sneaky shortcuts, and of course a whole lot of flavour!

The recipe I’m sharing this month is from More: A Life Kitchen Christmas which is available to download for free from our website (lifekitchen.co.uk) as a little gift from me to you! For those of you who have been lucky enough to try my frozen berries with miso white chocolate sauce, you’ll be very happy to try this Christmassy twist on the concept. As I have explained hundreds of times I’ve made my miso white chocolate for people with altered taste, miso is the magic in this dish – it’s saltiness perfectly balances out the sweetness of the white chocolate, creating an intense and satisfying flavour, and it’s rich in umami making all the other tastes work extra hard.

My mince pie tarts with miso white chocolate ganache combine a traditional fruity classic with a more modern flavour profile akin to salted caramel. They are little parcels bursting with texture and flavour – crisp pastry wrapping a soft and fruity spiced filling with a delectable sweet-salty topping and finished with the sharpness of fresh, fragrant orange zest.

The use of ready-made pastry cases makes this dish simple and straightforward to put together – though no less indulgent, creating a perfect little seasonal treat that everyone can enjoy.

Merry Christmas from me and the team at Life Kitchen, we hope it’s a memorable and enjoyable one for all.

Mince pie tarts with miso white chocolate ganache

Makes 12

12 ready-made individual tart cases
1 x 400g jar of mincemeat
75ml double cream
2 teaspoons of miso paste
150g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
Zest of an orange, finely grated

Place the tart cases in a single layer on a tray.

Fill each case with enough mincemeat to line the bottom but be careful not to overfill. (You’ll have enough mincemeat left over for another batch.)

Pour the cream into a small saucepan on a low heat and bring to a gentle simmer.

Once simmering gently, whisk in the miso until fully incorporated.

Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour over the hot miso cream and leave for 5 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted.

Once the chocolate has melted, stir to fully combine.

Slowly pour the white chocolate ganache into each case over the mincemeat, being careful not to let it overflow.

Sprinkle over the orange zest, then refrigerate the tarts until set.

Once set, eat all the tarts yourself!

Download the recipe

Download a free copy of More: A Life Kitchen Christmas

Read more about Life Kitchen