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‘You don’t want to eat chicken soup and ice cream on Christmas day’ - new series of recipes provides culinary inspiration for people with cancer

PUBLISHED: 17:38 14 December 2018

Greene King chefs serving up dishes. Picture: Adam Smyth

Greene King chefs serving up dishes. Picture: Adam Smyth

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Festive food is a big part of what Christmas is all about, but when you are receiving treatment for cancer, the last thing you want to do is tuck into the turkey and mince pies.

Liz O’Riordan, a breast cancer surgeon who lives in Elmswell, struggled to work out what to eat when she was undergoing chemotherapy for stage three breast cancer three years ago, and then again when the cancer returned in May.

“My husband was ready to divorce me because he just didn’t know what to cook for me!” recalls the 43 year-old. “It’s hard for partners because they want to cook for you and can see you are struggling.

“My taste buds really changed during chemotherapy, my mouth became really sore and I had lots of ulcers.

“I wanted strong tastes, like chilli or Marmite, because that meant at least I was tasting something.

Liz O'RiordanLiz O'Riordan

I lost my sense of smell, and I couldn’t stand anything sharp. There is also the nausea - I lost three kilos a week because I just didn’t want to eat. It was really hard knowing what to eat on special occasions.”

This Christmas, Greene King, the pub company and brewer, has joined forces with its national charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support to produce a series of recipes for people living with cancer.

The collection of ten easy-to-follow recipes were created by Greene King’s food development team and Macmillan nutritionists and tested by people living with cancer and their families at Greene King’s food development kitchen.

The recipes aim to provide solutions at Christmas time when food and cooking is so important to people.

Thai Massaman curry with leftover turkey and potatoes. Picture: Adam SmythThai Massaman curry with leftover turkey and potatoes. Picture: Adam Smyth

Liz recalls how when she was undergoing nine months of radiation treatment, a mastectomy and radiotherapy, then three more months of treatment this year, she lived on “chicken soup, bread with the crusts taken off, ice cream, and soggy Weetabix soaked in milk”. She used maple syrup instead of sugar on her Weetabix, because she found it too painful to eat sugar granules.

“But you don’t want to eat chicken soup and ice cream on Christmas day,” she says.

“This collection of recipes is great - you’ve got creamy mash recipes too there for a liquid diet. It’s fantastic that Greene King have got involved.”

Greene King has been working in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support since 2012, raising more than £4m to fund specialists like the dietitian Jo Pain, who worked closely on the project.

Greene King/Macmillan recipe for butternut squash and cranberry bake. Picture: Adam SmythGreene King/Macmillan recipe for butternut squash and cranberry bake. Picture: Adam Smyth

“Retaining a sense of normality can help people cope with cancer and being unable to celebrate Christmas can be really upsetting,” says Jo. “As a consequence of their treatment, some people with cancer may experience a dry and sore mouth, or have difficulty swallowing, so we have created delicious soft options and soups.

“Others may not have much of an appetite, so we’ve designed small dishes high in vital nutrients. We know many people with cancer have low energy, so we’ve also ensured these recipes are simple to prepare and cook too.”

The new recipes are available alongside tips and advice, at www.macmillan.org.uk/christmasrecipes.

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