Food blogger James Wythe discusses his journey with ME, how cooking helped his recovery and shares a recipe from his new cookbook.
When James Wythe started his blog and Instagram page Healthy Living James in 2016, he envisioned sharing his recipes with friends and family in an easy way. James discovered a love of cooking after receiving a diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Now, with more than 198,000 followers on Instagram, James has released his debut cookbook.
Could you tell me a bit about your journey with ME?
I had finished university in the summer of 2010 and around three months later I suddenly fell ill: I was 21 and became bed bound for two years. Six months after falling ill I received my diagnosis. Back then things like CFS were still not believed in a way so I was mostly left to my own devices.
I was staying with my parents with my mum as my carer. She got a nutritionist to come and visit me who recommended I start taking a few supplements. Over time I slowly started to see an improvement in my energy levels. My recovery has continued to progress steadily, it’s been a long but powerful journey.
When did cooking become important to your recovery?
I moved in with Luise, who is now my wife, and she was working to try to keep us going so I was at home on my own. I would have a chair in the kitchen and would spend 10 minutes a few times a day teaching myself recipes. I would batch cook things so that I had meals ready for my worse days and I gradually kept improving.
I started to build a passion for it and people would ask for my recipes so I decided to create a blog and set up Instagram. It just took off and I’ve turned up every day since. Cooking became my whole focus: it gave me a real sense of achievement.
What was it like creating your debut cookbook?
I’ve always dreamt about walking past a book shop and seeing my own cookbook in the window. I’m always quite a spontaneous person so the planning side was quite tough but I really got stuck in to the practical bits. It’s been so nice to see it all come together over the last year.
Why was it important for each recipe to include an FAQ section?
Over the last two years I’ve been doing this FAQ section at the bottom of all my recipes, I just felt like it was like the best way to guide someone. I thought why not do that in a book? It just helps it be accessible for as many people as possible.
That’s always what I’ve wanted from my recipes: there’s no judgement and I don’t want any barriers. Even though the recipes are gluten and dairy free I’ve made it so flexible that you can use normal flour or dairy milk if you want to. I’ve just tried to make it open to everyone no matter what.
Healthy Living James: Over 80 delicious gluten-free and dairy-free recipes ready in minutes by James Wythe (£20.00, Headline) is out now.
Recipe: Chickpea and avocado smash burgers
2 × 400g tins chickpeas
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ tsp garlic granules or powder
2 tbsp tomato purée
juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp olive oil
Your choice of buns
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7.
2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, add to a large bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher or fork.
3. Add the spices, garlic granules, tomato purée, juice of 1 of the limes, olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper and mix.
4. Shape into 4 patties, place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, peel the avocado and add to a bowl along with the juice of the other lime and
a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mash together with a fork.
6. Remove the burgers from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes (this helps them to firm up).
7. Serve in buns (gluten-free if you want) with a spreading of vegan mayo, some lettuce and the avocado smash.
Any swap for the chickpeas? James recommends trying a white bean such as butter beans.
Can I make it oil free? Yes, just add water instead of the olive oil.
Can I freeze them? Sure, freeze once cooked and cooled.