A cookbook for Covid-19 suffers who have lost their sense of taste and smell has been released. The authors of Taste and Flavour, Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke, had to base their recipes around 'safe food' like potatoes, pasta and rice as many with long Covid would find other ingredients revolting.
As the founder of Life Kitchen, the UK's first cancer cookery school, Riley has a background in adapting recipes for people experiencing taste and smell loss from cancer. Certain cancers and some forms of cancer treatment can bring about changes to taste, smell, and oral sensations. Help now comes in the form of Taste and Flavour, a free book with 18 recipes for people experiencing taste and smell changes as a result of long COVID. You can download a free digital copy of the book online. The book is split into three sections — Snacks, Substantial, and Sweets.
"We spent years working on taste and smell loss for cancer so everyone kind of assumed, naturally, we'd be the right people for this. And so did I in many ways, but actually, it's been a completely different process to what we thought it would be," says Riley. When Life Kitchen co-founder Kimberly Duke and Riley set to work, they discovered that COVID taste and smell loss has key differences to what they usually work with. "With COVID, there's three different groups that people fit into," explains Riley. "There's people who just lose their sense of taste for the first two weeks that they have it, there's the people who lose their sense of taste or sense of smell, which is 'anosmia'. And then there's 'parosmia', which is a distorted sense of smell. Quite a lot of people who have COVID find garlic, onions, eggs, roasted meats really repulsive and that's because they've got a distorted sense of smell," says Riley. They've had to develop recipes that don't include those ingredients.
But in removing those trigger foods like garlic and onion from recipes, another issue comes up: how do you build flavour? "I've been a cookery writer now for four years, we're told to build a recipe's flavour with garlic and onion, we've had to flip the idea of cookery, and what we know about recipe writing on its head," says Riley. "So, we've eliminated all of those trigger foods from the recipes to make them what is known as safe food. To write the book, we rounded up a group of 20 people with long COVID and we sent them the recipes, and we got them to try it," says Riley. "We sort of had to go down the middle and take on board people's critiques and reviews while trying to ensure that we stick to a level of science that we knew and understood and can back up," says Riley. They ended up testing around 150 to 200 recipes in the development phase, and whittled it down to 18 recipes for the book.
The feedback they got from people with long COVID proved indispensable. One of the mistakes they made was not looking at the added ingredients in a sauce, Riley admits. "As I mentioned, garlic and onions are trigger ingredients. But it's not often that you look at added ingredients and what's in them," says Riley. At Life Kitchen, Riley uses five elements: aroma, umami, texture, layering, and trigeminal food sensations (the tingling, burning, and cooling feeling you get from spices). They used these five basic tastes when creating recipes for Taste and Flavour. "Umami is what we see as the most important," says Riley. "Your umami is the savoriness you get in soy sauce, cheese, mushrooms, and miso. So we've looked at adding all of those different umami rich flavours in the recipes, to add that deep, rich, savory comfort."
Following COVID, food may taste "bland, salty, sweet, or metallic," according to the National Health Service. The NHS recommends adding spices, herbs, and sauces to food to improve flavour. Riley says spice and heat will always help, but it's that umami that's key. "Bringing in that deep rich savoriness when you have umami-rich ingredients, they stimulate all of the all of taste buds and your palate," says Riley. "So I would always say try and get as much of umami into your food, try to add a tablespoon of miso, a tablespoon of soy sauce, grate some parmesan over that pasta, try to really push the flavours as high and as powerfully as you can."
The most popular recipes in the new book are pineapple tacos, miso butter potatoes and spicy tomato soup and 5,000 copies of the physical cookbook are available on the website: https://lifekitchen.co.uk/product/taste-flavour-digital-book/ Taste & Flavour Digital Book - Life Kitchen with just the £3.00 postage fee to be paid. Once those copies are gone, the book will be available to download for free as an ebook from the website.
Thanks to Rachel Thompson and MashableUK for the interview.