Essentially there are three principles that help to keep in mind when you’re cooking for people with digestive issues:
Keep it simple
Some dieticians and nutritionists recommended an elimination diet for people with digestive problems or IBS. From a cooking perspective, this means that you pare your diet back to the least allergenic foods such as white fish, lamb, cabbage, leafy green vegetables and then reintroduce one new food at a time to find out which could make someone’s gut health worse.
When you’re re-introducing foods, steer clear of highly processed foods and stick to plenty of vegetables to supplement the main course.
Get to know FODMAP foods
Some dietitians recommend a low FODMAP diet for people with digestive issues, especially those with IBS. The acronym stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccarides Monosaccharides and Polyols (Phew!). Some people have found that avoiding high FODMAP foods can be more gentle on digestions, some high FODMAP foods that might upset people’s tummies include: onions, garlics, leeks, animal milks, dairy desserts, mushrooms and raw cauliflower and broccoli. Find a FODMAP food list here and we also suggest you seek out a registered dietician for a specific approach.
Use prebiotic foods
Most of us know about probiotic foods such as live yoghurts and fermented foods such as sauerkraut that help proliferate the gut with beneficial bacteria. But what many people don’t understand is the importance of prebiotic foods, which are a family of foods that help feed the good bacteria. Prebiotics act as the ‘fertiliser’ for the good bacteria and encourage it to proliferate and in time counter the effects of more harmful bacteria in the gut [that can be caused by stress, highly processed foods, and taking lots of antibiotics]. Good prebiotics include Jerusalem artichokes and chicory.
Stock up on fermented foods
Like prebiotics, naturally fermented foods are a great addition to your fridge or store cupboard as they can help with your digestive health. This is because they’re super-rich in the healthy gut bacteria that your body needs for good digestive health. So long as you are not lactose intolerant, natural yoghurt is great as a dessert, a topping or in dressings. We also suggest using miso, a paste made from fermented soya beans and popular in Japanese cuisines. It can be used as marinade for fish or meat, or even as a dressing. Try buying an unpasteurised version if you can. You might also want to consider using a raw organic unpasteurised apple cider vinegar in salad dressing as it too is fermented. Other fermented foods to consider are kimchi, fermented vegetables originating in Korea, kombucha, a fermented tea drink and sauerkraut, fermented cabbage.
Sticky vegan spiced chocolate, date and linseed cake with kombucha poached pears and whipped coconut cream
This cake is ridiculously good. Utterly delicious, dairy free and you could almost say it was good for you. It’s certainly good for the soul, and this one feeds a crowd.
- 8 small firm pears, peeled
- 200g caster sugar
- 500ml kombucha
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 star anise
- 6 cloves
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 orange zest
- 250g pitted dates
- 2 tbsp linseeds
- 300ml unsweetened almond milk
- 200ml cold pressed rapeseed oil, plus extra for greasing
- 175g dark muscovado sugar
- 160g spelt flour
- 40g cacao powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 180°. Prepare the pears by cutting off the bottom (and retain) so they will sit flat in the pan, remove the pips (an apple corer or melon baller works well) then gently poach the whole pears first, in a syrup made from the caster sugar, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and citrus zest. Top up the poaching syrup with the kobucha, a complex Asian fermented tea available in supermarkets, and cover the pears for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile chop the flesh from pear bottoms you have removed, and put them to the side for now.
The cake sponge is not quite traditional. Start by cooking the dates and linseeds in almond milk for a few minutes until the dates have softened. Chuck in a blender and blitz it until it’s smooth and creamy, then add the oil and blend again
Now, combine all the remaining dry ingredients together in a bowl and fold in the almond milk, linseed and date puree. Throw in the chopped up pear bottoms.
Place the whole poached pears along the bottom of a baking tin lined with greaseproof paper. You want the tin to be around 25cm square. Pour the mixture evenly around the pears and get it in the oven for about half an hour to 40 minutes. Use a cake tester or a skewer to check if it’s cooked – it should come out clean when you poke it into the middle of the sponge mixture.
Whilst it’s in the oven, reduce the pear syrup down until it’s sticky and pour it all over the cooked cake when it comes out the oven.
If Christmas is all about indulgence, this cake is certainly it. It’s a bit more work to get it made, but if there is any time to do so, this is it.
Suitable for: Vegetarians, vegans and those with a lactose. Replace spelt flour with a gluten free alternative if gluten intolerant. Replace almond milk with soya milk if you have a nut allergy
Honey and cinnamon candied almonds
‘I love these either as they are here, served with fruit as part of a dessert, or with a cold beer or a glass of red. They really are addictive.’
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons of muscavado sugar
11/2 teaspoons salt
Warm everything except the almonds in a pan, on a low heat, then add the almonds and give them a good stir to coat them before pouring onto a greaseproof lined baking tray. Cook at 180° for about 12-15 minutes. Give them a stir as they cool to stop them sticking together.
Suitable for: Vegetarians, vegans and those with a lactose or gluten intolerance. Avoid if you have a nut allergy
Whipped coconut cream
Too simple to be true, a creamy, coconutty concoction that hits the spot when whipped cream just isn’t right for you.
1 tin coconut cream
50g caster sugar
Simply chill the tin of coconut cream in the fridge before opening, then drain off the liquid and place the coconut solids into a mixing bowl. Start to whip it gently before speeding up to incorporate more air. Add the sugar, though you may want to taste it first as coconut is naturally sweet. A dollop on the side to go with cake makes it the perfect accompaniment.
Suitable for: Vegetarians, vegans and those with a lactose or gluten intolerance.
Recipe courtesy of executive chef Josh Posner.