Fighting cancer in the kitchen

Fighting cancer in the kitchen

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In the second part of our series, to mark National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we speak to Professor Mohammed Keshtgar, a consultant breast cancer specialist at London’s Royal Free hospital…

Professor Mohammed Keshtgar

It might be one of the less talked about elements of breast cancer, but with treatments often causing side-effects like exhaustion, reduced appetite, mouth soreness and stomach upsets, mealtimes can be a minefield.

And conflicting reports in the media about which foods might cause cancer and which might prevent it don’t do much to help.

Sensing the understandable confusion among his patients, Professor Keshtgar set to work on The Breast Cancer Cookbook, a collection of scientifically-informed, nutritious and enjoyable recipes, which he promises are ‘simple, easy to cook and easy to understand’.

“We advise things like cool smoothies and avoiding spicy or sour foods that can irritate ulcers,” adds Keshtgar. “We also advise plenty of fluids during this period [of treatment] and food with stronger flavour, so while [patients might] have issues with the taste sensation, they can still enjoy their food as much as possible.”

The book clears up some common misconceptions.

“A lot of people stop taking dairy when they’re diagnosed with breast cancer,” says the professor. “We think that’s not right. We don’t think dairy can cause or promote breast cancer.

“Dairy is a very important source of calcium, especially for patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer; the tablets given to them can sometimes cause weakness of the bones.”

Generally speaking, he recommends eating more pulses and soy, whose structure ‘resembles the structure of oestrogen without any of the hormonal values’, and is thought to help offer a protective effect against breast cancer by ‘preventing cancer cell growth’.

But the recipes aren’t solely aimed at people who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer; they could be part of anybody’s healthy lifestyle and so, Keshgtar hopes, aid in the prevention of the disease.

On this front, he notes that eating plenty of fibre is important, as well as ‘being physically active’.
“The recommendations are quite simple,” says Keshgtar. “What we emphasise is that people should be taking in balanced diets.

“We hope the book will go a long way for patients and give them another resource to refer to.”

“The effects of diet and lifestyle are long-standing; it doesn’t happen within days and months. But if one changes the habit over a long period of time, it’s another factor that we can at least use in the prevention of development of cancer.”


Vietnamese Chicken Soup

(Serves 4-6)
For the broth:
2 onions, peeled and halved
4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
1tsp black peppercorns
3 star anise
1 oven-ready medium chicken (about 1.5kg)
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1.5L good quality, low-salt chicken stock (preferably fresh) For the soup:
1 Chinese cabbage, shredded
1tbsp fi sh sauce
2tsp maple syrup
6 spring onions, sliced
100g beansprouts
A handful each of mint, coriander and basil leaves
1 red chilli, sliced (optional)
To serve: Lime wedges

Preheat the grill to high. Lay the onions and ginger out on a grill tray and grill for four to fi ve minutes, turning occasionally, until tinged with brown.

Transfer the onion and ginger to a large stockpot or flameproof casserole dish (large enough to hold a whole chicken) and add the cinnamon, peppercorns and star anise.

Place the chicken in the pot and tuck the carrot and celery around it. Pour over the stock and top up with enough water to just cover the chicken. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil.

Turn the heat down slightly and simmer very gently for 50 minutes to one hour, or until the chicken is completely cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool slightly. Reduce the stock down by boiling if necessary, until you have 1.2L. Strain.

Peel off and discard the skin from the chicken, then remove the meat from the bone and shred into bite-sized pieces. Return the stock to the heat and add the Chinese cabbage, fi sh sauce and maple syrup. Simmer for one minute.

Ladle the soup into warm bowls, add a portion of chicken meat to each bowl, then scatter over the spring onions, beansprouts, herbs and chilli, if using. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

Chocolate Mousse With Raspberries

(Serves 4)
100g dark chocolate, minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids 100ml coconut milk
1 very ripe avocado
4 pitted medjool dates, roughly chopped
1tsp vanilla extract
200g raspberries

Finely chop the chocolate and put into a heatproof bowl with the coconut milk. Place over a pan of just-boiled water, ensuring that the base of the bowl is not in direct contact with the water. Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally.

Once the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the pan and set aside to cool for ten minutes.
Meanwhile, halve the avocado, remove the stone and scoop the fl esh into a food processor. Add the dates and blend, scraping down the sides occasionally, until smooth and creamy; this should take two to three minutes.

Scrape the melted chocolate mixture into the food processor, add the vanilla extract and blend again for a couple of minutes, until smooth. Divide equally between four serving dishes.

These mousses can be eaten straight away or chilled for a couple of hours before serving. When ready to serve, roughly crush the raspberries in a bowl with the back of a fork. Serve the chocolate mousses topped with the crushed raspberries.


Products supporting National Breast Cancer Awareness Month:

Godiva mousse meringue, £16 for nine-piece box, £23 for 16-piece box (godivachocolates.
With ten per cent of sales going to Breast Cancer Now, you can feel good about treating yourself to these luxury dark, milk and white Belgian chocolates.

Alpro simply plain yogurt tickled pink edition, £1.35 for 500g, exclusively at Asda

To support the cause, a 16p donation will be made for each pink-stickered version of this Alpro favourite, which goes wonderfully with muesli, cereals and fruit, whether you’re dairy-free or not.

Mission Deli original tortilla wraps, £1.70 for eight, available at supermarkets nationwide

Give your fajitas a charitable twist with these Mission Deli wraps. The brand is pledging to donate £50,000 to Breast Cancer Care from the sale of the pink packs.


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