Enjoying Food During Cancer Treatment


Welcome to our new 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.

“Life Kitchen’s founding principle was quite simple. I wanted to give people easy to create recipes that have strong, layered flavours and focus on ingredients which are rich in umami (“savouriness”) and trigeminal stimulants. My aim was to help as many people as possible fall back in love with food and eating, at one of the most challenging times of their lives.

“I will talk in more detail about these principles over the coming months, but for now I’m kicking off with a Life Kitchen classic and one of my signature dishes – “Pineapple tacos”

“This recipe is from my first book, the bestselling “Life Kitchen: Recipes to revive the joy of taste & flavour” and is always a hit with our Life Kitchen cookery class guests. One of our very first guests, Mike – a 75-year-old who hadn’t tasted anything for a very long time as a result of his treatment – found this recipe an absolute revelation!

“Fresh pineapple is a great way to improve saliva production for those with a dry mouth, for many people it also helps to eliminate the metallic taste they may experience as a result of treatment.

“This really is a classic Life Kitchen recipe: a few ingredients put together well to create a simple yet exciting dish. If you don’t eat fish switch out the prawns for crumbled feta and add some roasted red peppers (from a jar!)”

Pineapple Tacos
with prawns, chilli and lime


100g cooked cold-water prawns
1 red chilli, chopped
2 limes, zest and juice
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 pineapple, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
Handful fresh coriander, chopped


In a medium-sized bowl, mix the cooked prawns with the chilli and the zest and juice of 1 lime.

Add the spring onion to the bowl and toss everything together.

Place the pineapple rounds on a serving plate and add roughly a tablespoon of the prawn mix in a line across the centre of each one, folding the pineapple in half to form a ‘taco’ shell

Sprinkle over the coriander and finish with a final squeeze of lime.


Download the recipe 

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