These recipes have been developed, or options given, for those who are having trouble chewing. Many recipes that you already may be familiar with can be adapted for easier handling in the mouth just by chopping foods very finely and/or using a hand/stick blender to smooth the texture of some of the chewier cooked ingredients. These three web pages from the Livestrong Foundation website give excellent practical information for those who have had oral surgery, or who have undergone radiotherapy to the head and neck area:
And this page on cancercompass.com is also useful, especially to any Americans who may be reading this: cancercompass.com
Here are some of my ideas. Please also explore the other recipes on food to glow as quite a number are tagged as ‘soft food’ and may be suitable, depending on your needs. I am adding new recipes every week so it may be worth checking in occasionally. Or better yet, subscribing. For more tailored help in the UK – and a growing number of international centres, contact your nearest Maggie’s Centre (maggiescentres.org for addresses and phone numbers).
Savoury Bread Pudding with Lots of Veg
This is a great dish for not only those with difficulty chewing and swallowing, but also for anyone who just wants a bit of comfort food – with a healthy streak. If you are trying to gain weight please use full fat versions of the dairy products mentioned, and perhaps add in more cheese too. Try this with ketchup, brown sauce or even your favourite hot sauce.
oil or oil spray, for greasing your dish
150 g (approximately) day-old bread, crusts removed & cut into cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion (red or brown), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red or green pepper, deseeded and chopped finely
100 g shiitake or chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced, or well minced if you have trouble swallowing (or you could use porcini mushrooms for a really earthy taste)
75 g shredded and finely chopped kale or similar dark green vegetable
2 heaped tsp dried mixed herbs (Provencal style is great)
4 eggs, beaten
250 ml skimmed milk
50 ml low-fat crème fraiche/sour cream
2 tbsps fresh chives, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
50 g strong cheddar cheese, shredded
Spray or paint a one litre baking dish (approximately 27×18) with a little oil. Preheat the oven to 180C. Pop the bread cubes into the oiled baking dish and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Gently sauté the onions until soft, then add the remaining vegetables and the dried herbs. Cook on a medium heat for about five minutes, until all are starting to soften. Add a dash of stock or water to help the vegetables soften (although the mushroom and kale may release enough liquid). Decant the cooked vegetables in to the baking dish. If you need to, whiz in a blender or food processor.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the milk, crème fraiche, chives and the eggs, adding about 1 tsp of salt and a large pinch of pepper. Pour this mixture over the vegetable topped bread cubes. Gently press the mixture into the bread and allow to soak up for about five minutes. Sprinkle over the cheese and bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving warm with a simple green salad or some cooked peas. Pass the ketchup! Need more calories? Add another tablespoon of oil, and use full-fat dairy. Serves 2 generously
I’ve made this protein-packed recipe lower-fat but if you need to keep your weight up sauté the vegetables in 3 tablespoons of oil, or serve with buttery mash. This recipe makes a lot but leftovers keep well for up to three days in the fridge and individual slices can be frozen and reheated.
1 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 ½, tsp dried thyme
1 ½ tsp ‘chicken seasoning’ or 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp ground pepper
2 rounded tbsp tomato puree
500 g turkey mince
100 g porridge oats
2 eggs, beaten
60 ml vegetable or chicken stock
10 g parsley, chopped
100 ml tomato ketchup OR barbecue sauce
In a frying pan, over a medium-hot heat, sauté the onions in the oil for about five minutes. Add the garlic and carrots to the pan and cook for a further eight minutes, or until the carrots begin to soften. Add the next five ingredients and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Blend the cooked vegetables if you are having trouble chewing.
Put the turkey mince and porridge oats into a large bowl and mix together. Add in the cooled vegetable mixture, beaten eggs, stock and parsley. Mix well; it will look quite sloppy. Pat the meatloaf mixture into an oiled rectangular baking tin (approximately 28 x 18 cm) and cover with the ketchup or barbecue sauce. You can also form the mixture into a rectangular shape – about 10 cm/4 in high- on a well-oiled baking sheet. I tend to put it in the fridge for half an hour to firm up, but this is not necessary if you are putting the mix into a baking tin. Bake at 170 C for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a meat thermometer registers 70C. If you don’t have a thermometer, ensure that the loaf is starting to pull away from the sides, or cut into the middle and see if steam escapes.
Serve 3-4 cm thick slices of the turkey meatloaf with mashed potato and celeriac, steamed dark greens (such as purple sprouting broccoli) and carrots, or red pepper strips.Serves 6-8 PS This was one of my first recipes on food to glow and photos are available on it.
Frittata, or Spanish Omelette
The basic frittata recipe consists of eggs, onions, potatoes and olive oil. These can be jazzed up according to whatever else you have in the cupboard or fridge. Leftover boiled potatoes are perfect for this recipe. This is a super speedy and yummy supper.
For one large frying-pan size frittata:
6 large organic eggs, well-beaten and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper
a few glugs of olive oil (approx 2 tbsp)
approx 2 sweet potatoes, boiled, and sliced (peeled if desired) to 1/2 cm or so
1 large Spanish or other mild onion (or two red onions), peeled and finely diced
1 large bag of fresh spinach, wilted, squeezed and chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds OR 1 tsp nigella seeds (optional)
large nonstick frying pan
In the frying pan, heat the oil over a medium to low heat. Add onions and saute for a few minutes, then push aside and gently fry the sliced potatoes for a few minutes. Spoon in your preferred seeds, if using. Reorganise the onion and potatoes (i.e. even them out a bit). Add the chopped spinach to the pan and beat the turmeric into the eggs. If you have trouble chewing, perhaps breakdown the potatoes a bit with a fork and make sure your onions and spinach are well-chopped or blended.
Pour the seasoned eggs into the pan, making sure they are well-distributed. Let mixture semi-set over a low heat. I usually cover the pan for most of the time. Finish off under a hot grill or, if you are brave invert the frying pan onto a plate and slide the undercooked side back into the pan to finish. The undermost side will probably by quite golden brown with ‘caught’ oniony bits. This is the way it should be – you haven’t burned it! If you have trouble chewing flip the frittata over before it gets brown and continue cooking until just cooked through. Let it cool to almost room temperature (it doesn’t taste nearly as nice straight from the pan.). This also tastes fab cold and is perfect for picnics. Serves 4
Melanzane Parmagiana (Aubergine Parmesan)
This is a low-fat version of an Italian favourite, but you can easily make it higher fat and higher calorie. Use either a quality bought sauce (I like Seeds of Change basil and tomato, or roasted pepper and tomato – the large bottle) or bubble up the easy sauce suggested below. Either way, it is delicious and very simple to make; it also freezes well (just give it 15 minutes more time). Even simpler – but without the nutritional boost of the vegetables – would be a ‘sauce’ with a jar of good quality passata (sieved tomatoes) to which you add sautéed garlic piece or garlic and onion powders.
Extra virgin olive oil
2 large aubergines/eggplants
125g baby spinach, wilted and squeezed dry (about ½ bag)
Tomato Sauce (see below)
1 ball fresh mozzarella, torn (lower fat is fine) OR full-fat ricotta
25 gm Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (optional)
25 gm fresh soft breadcrumbs (optional)
Slick two baking trays with olive oil. Slice the aubergines 1 cm thick and lay on the oiled trays. Brush the aubergines with a little more oil. Bake the aubergine at 200 C for about 20 minutes, or until very soft and looking golden brown. Remove the aubergines from the oven. For those with difficulty chewing perhaps remove the skin before slicing. You could also shallow-fry these until golden, but use more oil.
Lower the oven temperature to 180 C. In a 8 by 12-inch pan (approximate size) place the largest slices in a single layer. Top each with some sauce, a thin layer of spinach and some torn basil. Continue layering up until all aubergines are used. Top with last of the sauce, lay on the mozzarella or dollop on ricotta, sprinkle over the Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered until the cheese melts and the crumbs are browned – about 25 minutes.
Sauce: 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 onion, diced, 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, 3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tbsp dried, 1 medium carrot and 1 stalk celery – minced, 2 bay leaves, 2 x 454 gm tins best quality chopped tomatoes (Cirio are my favourite), salt to taste, sugar to taste (if tomatoes are a bit bitter).
Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pan (not aluminium). Add the onion and sauté gently until onion is soft; add the garlic, thyme, carrot, bay and celery and continue cooking for 15 minutes, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes with their juice and bring to the boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until as thick as porridge; season with salt, and maybe a pinch of sugar. Cool slightly, remove the bay leaves and whiz with a hand blender .You can keep this sauce in the fridge for one week or freeze in an appropriate container for 3 months. Serves 4-6. This is also on the blog, from way back.
Steamed Fish with Puy Lentils and Salsa Verde
This is a smart, restaurant-style dish that is guaranteed to elicit a few aahs ‘round the table. It is, however, very easy and relatively quick. Make it quicker by preparing the lentils the day before and reheating them gently with a splash of hot stock while you get on with the salsa and fish. Don’t be tempted to use any other type of lentils as the texture and unique taste are integral to the success of this dish. I’m not usually such a stickler, but trust me on this one.
A note on the choice of fish: cod is the most obvious choice for this dish but as stocks are low perhaps take the opportunity to experiment with other firm white fish, such as hake. Ask your fishmonger for a good substitute for cod, telling him or her that you want something that will remain intact after steaming. Check your country’s marine conservation site (UK: http://www.seafish.org) for further information and guidance.
200 g Puy lentils, washed and drained
1 bay leaf
1 small onion, peeled and halved
salt and pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley (about 40 g)
6 basil leaves
20 mint leaves
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
½ tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 gherkin or 2 cornichon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets (optional but authentic)
4 x 150 g firm, white fish fillets
Simmer the lentils, uncovered, with the bay leaf and onion in 500 ml of cold water for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (have a nibble; they should taste ‘done’ but will look quite firm). Drain, plucking out the bay leaf and onion. Return the lentils to the pan and season. Coat the lentils with the olive oil; cover and keep warm. Mash the lentils with some of the cooking water and olive oil if you have trouble chewing and swallowing.
While the lentils are simmering, prepare the salsa. Some people pop everything into a food processor and blitz for a smooth sauce. Others mash everything with a pestle and mortar for a more rustic dressing. Either is fine, although the latter is spectacularly messy if you are not practised. I tend to chop everything up on a board, scrape it into a mini chopper and give it a quick pulse for a chunky, yet amalgamated texture. When serving this to children I also tend to add a teaspoon or two of water to the blending stage as this makes it less sharp.
Sort the fish just before serving. If you have a steamer just place the fish on the perforated tray and steam for five minutes, or as recommended by the manufacturer. For those of you like me who have a less modern approach there are two recommended methods. If you have a pressure cooker use the trivet and basket that comes with it (but not locking the lid) and steam the fish for five minutes over simmering water. Alternatively pour hot water in a large frying pan, place an upended heat-proof flat-bottomed ramekin (or similar) in the centre and top with a plate that accommodates the fish and fits, with a bit of steaming room, in the pan. Cover and steam for five minutes. If all that sounds a tremendous faff, poach in acidulated water (ie, add the juice of one lemon to enough lightly salted boiling water to just cover the fish) – turn off the heat when the water returns to the boil and leave for five minutes. Drain and carry on with the dish.
Regardless of the fish method used, place a generous spoonful of lentils on each plate, top with a piece of fish and drizzle over some salsa. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4
This type of sandwich spread is common in the US deep south and it is called pimienta cheese. Nearly everyone over there just buys it ready made from the shops, but it is so easy to whiz up that it’s a shame that more people over there don’t make it. It’s certainly not for slimmers but if you need to keep the weight on, or if you are looking for something to liven up a prescribed low-fibre or easy-to-swallow diet, this tasty spread smeared on white bread might just fit the bill. In the States it is mainly a sandwich filler, but it would be nice as a dip with vegetables or breadsticks too.
100g roasted peppers in oil, drained
50 g sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
50 g low fat soft cheese (or regular)
2 tbsp quality mayonnaise
¼ tsp garlic powder
pinch of pepper
Whizz everything up in a food processor and allow to ‘come together’ for 20 minutes before eating. Much tastier than the ingredients might suggest! Enough for 6 rolls
This is perfect on its own if you want quickly made, easily eaten calories with taste. Otherwise, it is a great accompaniment to slow-cooked, falling-apart meats. A wonderful recipe for those bored with the normal soft diet fare of mashed potatoes and rice. Adapted from a Mark Hix recipe.
750 ml full-fat milk
1 small clove of garlic, lightly crushed and intact
1 small bay leaf
salt and white pepper
a pinch of nutmeg
75g quick-cook polenta
100ml double cream/heavy cream/ crème fraiche
75g freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese (NOT the stuff in a can!)
Bring the milk to the boil and then add in the garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper and nutmeg. Simmer for five minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bay leaf and garlic. Slowly whisk in the polenta (pour it in in a steady stream, whisk all the time). Cook the polenta on a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring so that it doesn’t stick (which it really wants to do!). Add in the cream and cheese, cooking for a further 2-3 minutes. Eat warm with a big spoon.
Sardine Pate ‘Provencale’
I didn’t think I liked tinned sardines until I made up this quick pate for one of my nutrition classes. In truth I was going to make something else but didn’t have enough of one of the ingredients so raided my husband’s tinned sardine stash instead. It was in place of frozen artichoke hearts: quite a leap of faith/common sense. I reluctantly had a wee taste and was extremely surprised that I liked it – a lot. I hope you do too. If your food processor isn’t that great, try and get boneless tinned sardines. Otherwise do get the ones with bones in as they are one of our only dietary sources of essential Vitamin D. Just be sure to blend, blend, blend.
2 tins of natural sardine fillets – no brine or tomato sauce
125g soft cheese, light or full-fat according to need
juice and zest of one small lemon
small handful of parsley
pinch of mixed herbs/herbes de Provence
10 green pitted olives
Blend in a food processor until very smooth. Have with bread, or even wrapped in soft lettuce leaves with some thin strips of cucumber. Store in the refrigerator and use within three days.
100g salmon fillet
200g fresh haddock fillet (or similar)
100g undyed smoked haddock fillet (or similar)
100 ml double cream/heavy cream
2 large eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
lemon juice plus lemon wedges
Oil 4 ramekins and sprinkle very lightly with paprika.
Cut the salmon fillet into thin strips and divide between the ramekins, laying them neatly as this side will be uppermost when served.
Blend the smoked fish in a food processor, add one-third of the beaten egg mixture and one-third of the cream, blending until smooth. Set aside for now.
Blend together the fresh haddock and the remaining eggs and cream, adding a good pinch of salt and pepper, a teaspoon or so of lemon juice and a good pinch of paprika.
Put a tablespoon of the smoked fish mixture in each ramekin, then top with the fresh haddock mixture, press lightly to smooth.
Put the ramekins into a roasting tray; pour some boiling water into the tray so that it comes up about two-thirds the way, and bake in an oven preheated to 200C/400F for 30 minutes. OR microwave for eight minutes.
To serve, turn upside down on plate and garnish with soft lettuce (like salade mache) and a lemon wedge. Recipe adapted from one eaten at La Cuisine d’Odile, French Institute, Edinburgh in the 1990s (!).
This is simplicity itself and oh so tasty. You may need to get the miso – which is a thick paste made of fermented rice or barley plus soybeans – at the health food store. Much tastier than it sounds, I promise. Once opened it keeps really well in the fridge and can be used to perk up all kinds of things such as noodles and spread over halved and baked aubergine (flash under a grill, then eat the flesh only; see below). I’ve not stipulated the fish type as different types of fish are used in different countries. In the UK try haddock, gurnard, hake or coley rather than endangered cod. Regardless of where you are what you are wanting is a firm white fish. Serve with rice and well-cooked pak choi (bok choy) if you can tolerate it, or even vegetable stock-braised lettuce with a splash of mild vinegar for extra flavour.
2 x 150-175g/5-6 oz firm, white fish (skinned), washed and patted dry
2 tbsp white/blonde or yellow miso
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp mirin, dry sherry or fresh lime juice
Mix together the glaze ingredients until the brown sugar has completely dissolved. Brush most of the glaze on both sides of the fish and leave to marinate for half an hour.
Preheat your grill/broiler and place the fish on a baking tray, then pop under the heat until the tops are starting to brown and the glaze caramelizes – watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn – about three minutes. Take the fish from the grill/broiler, brush with the remaining glaze. Now either turn the heat to 180C/375C, or lightly cover the fish with foil (not touching the fish) and put on a lower rack, and cook until the fish is cooked through but still moist – about five minutes. This glaze is also superb on baked aubergine/eggplant: slice an aubergine in half lengthways slash a diamond pattern into the flesh (not cutting the skin), oil and bake in a medium-hot oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread over the miso glaze; place under a hot grill/broiler until bubbly. Scoop out the tender flesh with a spoon and enjoy!
Pear and Cocoa Pudding
This is a quick and extremely yummy pudding for the whole family. This recipe can easily be halved but the whole recipe makes fine leftovers and can even be served cold, with a splash of cream.
2 x 400g (approx weight) tins pear halves or quarters in juice
150g self-raising flour OR 150g plain flour + 1 tsp baking powder and ¼ tsp fine salt
25g cocoa powder
125g caster/fine sugar
150g butter or Earth Balance-type spread, plus extra for dish
2 medium eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract or ½ tsp vanilla paste/powder
Drain the pears and lay in a pie dish or other ovenproof dish (e.g. 22cm square; I use an oval Le Creuset-type dish)
Pop the remaining ingredients in a food processor (or mix vigourously by hand) and whiz until it is completely smooth.
Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the pears and, with a wet spoon, carefully spread over the pears.
Bake in a 200C/400F oven for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes (if you can bear it!) before serving.
Other food ideas:
A ‘wet’ risotto made with finely chopped onions with soft, cooked butternut squash or sweet potato cubes, sage and finely grated cheese added. For extra calories stir in some marscapone cheese.
Macaroni cheese with added cooked ground meat or chopped hard-boiled egg for extra protein. Enrich the milk with dried skimmed milk to add more protein too.
Homemade or packet cheese sauce to pour over cooked and shredded or minced meat or chicken, or poured over well-cooked vegetables
Baked fruit with a sieved fruit compote plus some custard or rice pudding
Pancakes with creamed mushrooms and finely minced herbs
Pancakes with Nutella and banana
Rice cooked in stock with added lightly mashed cooked pinto or cannellini beans (if allowed) + favourite seasoning and well-cooked broccoli, cauliflower florets or other favourite vegetables.
Cooked rice plus cream of mushroom soup, well-cooked broccoli and Cheddar cheese – heat through or bake in oven.
PLESE WRITE IN WITH YOUR IDEAS! I WOULD LOVE TO SHARE THEM WITH OTHERS.
Hopefully these will spark your own ideas and make soft food eating a little more interesting and nutritious. Visit your nearest Maggies Cancer Caring Centre, or click on their website/on-line community, for personal support.
Kellie Anderson, Health Educationist for Maggie’s Centres, February 2012