A Touch of Warmth

Time sure flies when living with chemo. It only seems like yesterday that it was Blue Monday and I was nervously anticipating the next day, butterflies tickling my stomach lining, their gentle strokes continually reminding me that soon Marge’s period of treatment would officially begin.

I guess now you can say we are starting to get into the swing of it. After the first week, Marge felt progressively better and was back to her strong and lively self after about a week or so. Life got back to normal, or as normal as it can do when someone you love is going through cancer treatment. But of course all of this was leading up to session number two and playing in the back of everyone’s mind was the worry and fear about how ill Marge would feel next time round.

We have been warned by numerous people that the side-effects tend to get worse with each session, the chemicals inside her body building, and her body’s strength waning as the treatment continues. This was a worry, but at least it replaced and didn’t combine with the worry of the unknown. We now (mostly) know what to expect and how we can counter any malicious side-effects that will try and spoil Marge’s strength, both physical and mental.

Small things, like ensuring her bed has nice, fresh bedding and purchasing silk pillows, will make days when she feels drained of strength and is confined under her duvet much more bearable. She can lie in luxury rather than sprawl in sorrow. The meals planned for the next few days have also taken her post-chemo cravings into account. Soft, comforting food (made healthy where possible) is in; strong, punchy flavours are out.

With this mind, I wanted to give Marge one last flavour fiesta before we rewound the culinary timeline. A curry seemed like the perfect option and when browsing the brilliant blog Naturally Ella, I came across a recipe for African Curry with Cauliflower. I, nor my Mum, had ever made an African curry before so I thought this was the perfect way to spice up her diet before the monotony of chemo began again. It also gave me the opportunity to add some additional veg that needed using up in my fridge, although the recipe was already packed full of delicious and nutrient-rich ingredients.

One final, significant reason that I chose to cook this recipe was because, towards the end of week three, Marge had started noticeably shedding her hair. Her beautiful mane of golden locks has always been such a core, defining part of her identity – so much so that my siblings and I used to look out for her hair in the school playground when we were trying to spot her amongst the sea of smiling parents. Losing this unique attribute was a harsh reminder of the fact that Marge, at the moment, was not her ‘normal’ self; life was not ‘normal’ life. It would make it all the more difficult to continue daily routines as before. So this recipe contains lots of delicious ingredients that are thought to help promote hair and scalp health, such as brown rice, chickpeas, peppers and cauliflower. There was never any doubt that she would lose some hair – but if I could help her body maintain one thread of normality there was no doubt that I would try it.

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Healing Ingredients

Turmeric’s main healthy constituent is curcumin, which not only gives turmeric its vibrant colour but is a well-known as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, helping fight free-radical damage and prevent and cure arthritis, cardiovascular health, diabetes and even neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin is also thought to stop the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Chickpeas are not only high in fibre, helping to reduce levels of ‘unhealthy’ cholesterol, but are rich in manganese, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which are all vital bone-healthy minerals. They also contain zinc, poor levels of which have been associated with health loss.

Recipe: African Curry with Cauliflower

Serves 4.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • 150g mushrooms
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 2 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp table currypowder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 300g brown rice, quinoa, or millet, to serve
  • Handful of choppped, fresh coriander, to garnish

Method.

  1. Heat a large pan over medium heat, add 1 olive oil.
  2. Add onions, sautéing until onions are soft, about five minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms and courgettes and continue to cook until cauliflower starts to brown. Add in the garlic and cook for one minute more.
  4. Next add all the spices to the pot with cauliflower. Stir and let toast for a minute.
  5. Finally, add in the chickpeas, apricots, and the vegetable stock.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring and tasting occasionally – the sauce will thicken as it cooks.
  7. Taste and season to taste. Serve over desired grain with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.
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