Food & Drink

Recipe for Success

Celebrity chef Ryan Riley is the founder of Life Kitchen, a not-for-profit cookery school. Created in 2019 in partnership with childhood friend Kimberly Duke, in memory of his mother Krista Riley who passed away from cancer six years earlier, the school provides free cookery lessons for anyone living with a loss of taste or smell as a result of cancer or Covid.

After the runaway success of last year’s Christmas cookbook, the chef and best-selling author has launched an updated, free edition titled More: A Life Kitchen Christmas, which includes the original recipes from the first edition, plus eight new showstoppers.

“All of the recipes you’ll see in this cookbook are backed by science and we’ve created them, as we do with all Life Kitchen dishes, to have strongly layered flavours, focusing on ingredients rich in umami – things like aged cheese, soy sauce and mushroom – or those that stimulate the trigeminal nerve between the eyes, nose and mouth, such as mint or horseradish, which are great for those living with a loss of taste and just as amazing for those who aren’t,” says Riley.

Here are two delectable dishes from the book to get you started – for festive feasting or for rustling up well into the New Year:

5-Spice and Clementine Duck Legs with Mulled Wine Plum Sauce

This recipe is the ultimate Christmas warmer. The combination of spices and citrus is designed to stimulate the palette and nose, giving not only flavour but sensation and a connection to the dish.

Serves 4

4 duck legs, skin on, bone in
A large pinch of sea salt
1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 
2 clementines, each halved around the middle
4 plums, pitted and halved
3–4 cinnamon sticks
3 cloves
6 whole peppercorns
3 tbsp light brown, soft sugar
300ml red wine
A small handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped, to serve
A few tablespoons pomegranate seeds, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/Gas 3. Rub the skin of the duck legs with the salt and 5 Spice. 

Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add the duck legs. Cook for 10 minutes, turning halfway through, until browned and crispy.

Remove the duck legs from the pan and set them aside on a plate. Add the onion to the pan and fry for just 1 minute, then add the garlic and fry for a further 1 minute to soften. Sit the clementines on top of the onion mixture and then sit the duck legs on top of that. Arrange the plum halves around the legs and scatter with the cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns and sugar and pour in the red wine. Cover tightly with foil and place the pan in the oven for about 1 hour, until the meat is soft and falls from the bone.

Remove the duck legs from the pan and set them aside on a plate, covered with foil. Remove the clementines and discard them, then mash the plums into the sauce in the pan – you don’t have to get it smooth. Return the legs to the sauce and scatter with the parsley and the pomegranate seeds (if using). 

Smashed New Potatoes Wreath with Camembert and Pickles 

This tangy, smash hit of a dish is the perfect sharing snack. Its deep, umami-rich savouriness from the potatoes and cheese is lifted and enchanted by the pickles and vinegar.

Serves 4

300g new potatoes 
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large camembert round (in its box)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 x 260g jar of pickled red onions, including vinegar 
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped 
Sea salt

Fill a medium saucepan with salted water and place it over a medium heat. Bring the water to the boil and add the potatoes. Boil for about 15 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife, then drain.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6. Spread your potatoes over the base of a baking tray and use the base of a bowl to squash the potatoes down into flattish discs. Drizzle over the oil, season with salt and roast for about 20 minutes, until golden.

Meanwhile, score the top of your camembert with a knife (don’t worry about a pattern), and drizzle it with maple syrup. Bake it in the oven with the potatoes for 20 minutes, until warm and gooey. 

When the potatoes are golden, remove them from the oven, and drizzle them heavily with the pickled-onion vinegar (be bold – don’t be afraid to use most of the vinegar in the jar, if you fancy it). Season with sea salt. Arrange them in a ring on a serving platter and place the baked camembert in the middle. Top with a liberal sprinkling of pickled red onions and scatter over the parsley. Give everyone a fork to pick up some potatoes and dip them into the melty cheese.

More: A Life Kitchen Christmas is available to download for free via