When I was asked to review this book, if I’m honest my initial reaction was ‘not another self help health book’. Social media is crammed with the latest diets, fads and self-diagnoses of intolerances and I thought this was another ploy to jump on the bandwagon. As someone who has been clinically diagnosed with various intolerances I was interested how I might expand my own understanding and even upon opening the first page I understood how this might just be different.
With a foreword from Albert Roux OBE, I was intrigued. A chef of his stature had endorsed the book and the recipes must have some interest. Indeed, the following pages highlight the sheer number of contributors with academic standing such as Dietary Consultants, Gastroenterologists, Nutritionists and Health Coaches. What appealed more was that all proceeds from the sales of the book are devoted to funding workshops for children and teenagers suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases at a Paediatric Inflammatory Bowel Centre in Jerusalem. Surely, this was not another money making scheme resting on the back of self-diagnosed social media addicts?
The book opens with a chapter on how to use the book. Rather than a regular cookbook It is aimed more as a tool to facilitate life with diseases such as Lactose Intolerance, Coeliac Disease and Crohn’s Disease to name but a few. There are extensive tables which highlight a few clinical conditions and foods which should or should not be consumed to alleviate the symptoms. Whilst on this matter I must state that it is made clear that the book is not intended as a substitute for tests, diagnoses and medical dietary indications which can only be provided by accredited professionals.
There are seven clinical conditions which the book deals with and each is given its own colour code. Each recipe clearly states which conditions should consume or avoid the dish using an easy to read cross or tick system. Personally, I found this a little frustrating as I had to keep referring back to the initial table to check which condition referred to which colour.
The recipes are divided into categories: Light Bites, Sauces, Soups & Spreads, Fish Dishes, Meat Dishes and Desserts, Cakes & Cookies. On the whole they covered a wide range of cuisines showing influences from Europe, the Middle East and beyond. The one thing that struck me was the limitations the recipe devisors were under, where I would throw in numerous spices to accentuate the flavour, these can aggravate the gut so even garlic is kept to a minimum. This gives rise to a very different set of recipes from those I am used to reading. Once I understood this, I could see where flavour was added, be it from fresh herbs, sesame oil, coconut or lemon juice. Given the restrictions the recipes are generally appealing and easy to make. Dishes such as ‘Pan Seared Sea Bass With Avocado & Citrus Dressing’ screamed freshness and simplicity.
However, a few of the recipes fell flat for me. Dishes such as ‘Egg In a Nest’ (which was literally a potato with a hole cut out and an egg in the centre) didn’t really inspire. That said, a positive was that the ingredients list for recipes were generally short and the method concise which is perfect for a home cook.
What I did like was the addition of ‘Notes’ at the end of some recipes. These gave loosely related hints and tips such as how to check the freshness of an egg or the best way to cook with aluminium foil.
The food photography throughout the book is simple yet makes a statement. There is nowhere to hide behind fancy props or styling and it shows the food for what it is. This was actually a breath of fresh air from some of the more ‘restaurant’ cookbooks I am used to.
To summarise, I enjoyed reading this book, and, from a medical point of view I found many of the ‘do’s and don’t’s’ very interesting. I can see how this could be an ideal tool for someone who struggles with their diagnosis and how to create an appealing variety of dishes for themselves and their families. However, from a chef’s point of view, it was a little uninspiring but that is to be understood given the restrictions placed. All in all, an eye opening read.