Used to developing recipes for tastebuds impacted by cancer, the pair behind a not-for-profit cookery school hope their new free cookbook will improve taste for Covid patients
“Extremely repulsive, like rotting sewage.” As food reviews go, it’s scathing. But according to food writer Ryan Riley, that’s how meat, garlic and onions can taste to people affected by long Covid. He hopes his latest cookbook provides ample inspiration for better-tasting alternatives.
Co-written with Kimberley Duke, Taste & Flavour is for people who are experiencing changes in taste and smell as a result of the virus, which, one study suggests, could be as many as 41 per cent of all cases.
“Taste & Flavour had to be different because of Covid,” said Riley. “We had to flip what we knew about writing recipes on its head.”
As cofounders of Life Kitchen, a not-for-profit cookery school for people whose taste has been affected by cancer treatment, Riley and Duke have been experimenting with food flavours since 2018.
However, parosmia (a distorted sense of smell) is a symptom of Covid-19 and can make everyday foodstuffs like vegetables and coffee taste disgusting. So Riley had to rethink the recipes from scratch.
“That’s what makes this book so unique,” he said. “We’re not just relying on garlic and onions, and all of the typical flavour profiles.”
In search of alternatives, they consulted food scientists, who suggested combining the five flavour elements – aroma, umami, texture, layering, and trigeminal food sensations (the tingling sensation from spices) – to create their meals.
The results include dishes ranging from fiery tomato soup with sesame seed butter toast, to veggie pineapple tacos with red peppers and feta.
Gillian Dixon, who caught Covid-19 in January, was one of the first people to try the book. She has been experiencing anosmia (a loss of smell) for almost a year.
“The recipes are absolutely brilliant,” said Dixon, who has so far turned her hand to the cherry and almond tarts, and the preserved lemon, feta and za’atar twists from the book. “They really stimulate your tastebuds.”
Taste & Flavour can be downloaded for free here.
Main image: Craig Robertson/Life Kitchen