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Book review: 'A Life Kitchen Christmas' by Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke

17 December 2020 by

Nearly 1,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK. For their families the act of celebrating Christmas can be an incredibly precious time, but the typical stresses of the season have a tendency to interfere with the holiday spirit. Enter Ryan Riley's latest cookbook, which he is providing free to those suffering with cancer.

Riley is the founder of Life Kitchen, which provides free cookery lessons around the UK for people living with cancer. Set up after losing his mother to small cell lung cancer in 2013, his noble endeavour to create recipes for patients who often struggle with loss of taste and appetite has resulted in a number of supporters from the likes of the River Cottage, the Jamie Oliver Cookery School and Nigella Lawson.

His debut cookbook was published in the spring and, less than a year later, he and his best friend and chef Kimberley Duke have launched a free limited-edition Christmas cookbook. Supported by hummus and dip brand Moorish, there are 7,000 copies available for free (bar the £2.95 fee for postage).

While this book is clearly aimed at the home cook, Riley and Duke's dishes create layers of strong flavours that capture a struggling palate. Their techniques to create recipes that stimulate the trigeminal nerve (located between the eyes, nose and mouth), using flavours such as mint or horseradish, are worth noting.

Each recipe is simple and thoughtful, but Riley and Duke's creativity results in umami-packed dishes, including ‘Ryan's famous roasties' with fried porcini mushrooms and sage leaves, as well as sweet-and-sour sprouts and mince pie tarts with miso white chocolate ganache. A reflective nod to Riley's mother, who passed away aged only 47, is ‘Mam's (cauliflower cheese) jackets', which are crammed with Camembert, Cheddar, miso and pesto, a flavourful way to use up the remains of the cheeseboard.

As we come to the end of 2020, Riley and Duke's charitable effort is the little bit of Christmas joy that we all need right now.

A Life Kitchen Christmas by Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke (Hardback Books. Free for those living with cancer, plus £2.95 postage)

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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