We have a booklet full of recipes especially for people with cancer.  Each recipe is designed to be appetising and to encourage you to eat even when you don’t feel like it. We wanted to make sure that they were up to scratch so we put a few of them to the test.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be posting a series of three blogs covering starters, mains and deserts. We hope you find our thoughts helpful – but we want to hear from you too. If you have any recipes of your own that you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.

We’ve added the following symbols to the recipes, so you can quickly spot the ones that may suit you. These are a guideline only and you should talk to your doctor about which foods are suitable for you.

Illustration of symbols relating to the recipes: suitable for people with a dry or sore mouth; suitable for people with loss of weight or appetite;  suitable for people with problems chewing or swallowing;  suitable for people with loss of taste or smell


You can order a copy or download our booklet Recipes for people affected by cancer by visiting www.be.macmillan.org.uk 

Watercress and leek soup

Preparation 10 minutes

Cooking 35 minutes

Serves 4 to 6 people

Photo of the watercress and leek soup before cooking             

Leeks (450g/1lb), washed and chopped

2 handfuls of watercress, destalked and chopped

2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and chopped

Butter (55g/2oz)

Vegetable stock (840ml/1.5 pint)

Double cream (140ml/0.25 pint)

Salt and black pepper

Watercress leaves to garnish


Laura, one of our Editors, had a go at the watercress and leek soup. 

‘I was really surprised with how tasty this turned out. The ingredients (though easy to find) sounded a bit on the plain side, but the soup was packed full of flavour. And if you can make it before you need it, so much the better – the flavour improved even more after standing overnight.

The preparation was simple. It’s just a case of some rough chopping and simmering everything together in vegetable stock. The soup can then be blended until it’s really smooth. So it’s a great option if you have a dry or sore mouth, or problems chewing. And spending time being exact with measures isn’t necessary. Perfect if you need a low-effort meal or if, like me, you’re just averse to instructions!

I will definitely make this again – it was warm, filling and the watercress gave it lovely peppery kick.’

Photo of the watercress and leek soup after cooking


Top tips:

  • If you’re losing weight or need to increase your energy and protein intake, you could also try adding some chopped cooked meat like ham.
  • Leaving it in the fridge overnight really did improve the flavours.

 Recipe is suitable for people with a dry sore mouth and problems with chewing or swallowing

Smoked fish chowder (contributed by the Oesophageal Patients Association)

Preparation 15 minutes

Cooking 30 minutes

Serves 4 people

Photo of the Smoked fish chowder served in a bowl                    

Smoked haddock fillet (450g/1lb)

Butter (55g/2oz)

2 medium onions, finely chopped

Flour (2 level tbsp)

Potatoes (225g/8oz), peeled and finely chopped

Carrots (170g/6oz), peeled and finely chopped

Single cream (140ml/0.25 pint)

Salt and black pepper


Imogen, one of our Editorial Assistants, cooked the smoked fish chowder.

‘The ingredients for this chowder weren’t hard to find and (although I’m possibly the world’s laziest cook) the recipe was easy to follow. The first step of finely dicing the potatoes and veg was simple. As long as they’re small enough to be blended, it doesn’t have to be exact. And once the fish was cooked, the flakes came away easily. Then it’s just a case of adding everything to the pot!

If you’re fatigued, lifting the pots around to drain the fish and continually stirring the soup might be too much. I also used a work-top blender for the final step, which meant lifting a fairly heavy jug of the mixture into place – but a hand-held blender would have done the job and saved me the extra effort.

All in all, it made really tasty chowder – it was even a hit with my cat! As a fan of seafood, I loved it. It would be good for anyone with a dry or sore mouth, or with problems chewing, because it can be blended until completely smooth. But for someone who’s feeling nauseous, the combination of fish and cream might be off-putting.

I’d definitely try it again!’

Picture of Imogen's cat enjoying the smoked fish chowder

Top tip:

  • Instead of haddock, use a fish-pie mix for variety and ease of preparation.
  • If you don’t have problems chewing or swallowing, you could leave the soup chunky by not blending it.

 Recipe is suitable for people with a dry sore mouth, problems with chewing or swallowing, people with a loss of taste or smell and loss of weight or appetite

Parsnip and coconut soup (contributed by the Oesophageal Patients Association)

Preparation 15 minutes

Cooking 45 minutes

Serves 4 to 6 people

Photo of the Parsnip and coconut soup in a bowl      

Olive oil (2 tbsp)

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Fresh ginger (25mm/1 inch), peeled and chopped

Garam masala (1 tbsp)

6 parsnips (about 600g/1lb 5oz), roughly chopped

Full fat coconut milk (500ml/1 pint)

Vegetable stock (1 ltr/1.75 pints)

Salt and black pepper


Our Editorial Manager Selina tried her hand at this recipe. She had high hopes for the soup because she loves both the main ingredients. Here’s her feedback as she finds out whether parsnips and coconut mix well!

'The ingredients were easy to find and the prep was pretty quick and easy. The parsnips seemed to take a long time to cook but it wasn't difficult or tiring.'

The soup was very sweet. It wasn’t for me, but it got very much nicer when I put a lot of fresh coriander into it.’

Top tips:

  • To lower the fat content, use reduced-fat coconut milk.
  • Use a hand blender to make it easier to swallow.

Recipe is suitable for people with a dry sore mouth, problems with chewing or swallowing and people with a loss of taste or smell.

Let us know what you think about these recipes and remember to leave a comment with your own soups and starters.

There are lots of other snacks and starters in the new edition of our recipe book including: sweet potato crab cakes, sardine bruschetta and lazy lentil soup. Download or order a copy and give them a try!


To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

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The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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