Ready, Steady, Grip: How one arthritis sufferer conquered the kitchen in spite of her crippling condition

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UPDATED:

21:29 GMT, 22 September 2012

Keen cooks may aspire to chop raw ingredients with the same speed and precision as Britain’s most famous TV chefs, but for many arthritis sufferers, doing so at less than half a professional’s pace can be a gruelling challenge.

Arthritis, affecting more than ten million Britons, causes joints to become sore and inflamed, which can make the simplest tasks – from slicing an onion to cracking an egg – extremely difficult.

The discomfort involved in cooking fresh meals can further compromise health, with many forced to rely on ready meals that can be high in salt and fat but low in nutrients.

Cutting edge: Kate Lawson has tips to make cooking with arthritis easier with her blog

Cutting edge: Kate Lawson has tips to make cooking with arthritis easier with her blog

It was this dilemma that led arthritis suffer Kate Lawson, 29, from Richmond, Surrey, to create a blog called Cooking With Arthur, packed with her own advice to make life in the kitchen easier for those with damaged joints.

‘I love cooking,’ says Kate, who was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis three years ago. It affects the skin and the joints. ‘So I was determined not to let my illness take away my favourite hobby.’

Kate, a civil servant, experienced pains when she was only 19. Doctors blamed exertion and said there was nothing to worry about.

But the discomfort worsened, firstly in her hips and then other joints, before she was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 26. After many drug regimes, her condition is stable, but she still suffers stiff and swollen joints.

‘If you don’t have arthritis, you can’t appreciate how difficult normal tasks are,’ she says. ‘My advice is not to worry when things go wrong in the kitchen. The important thing is to have a go.’

Here are some useful, practical tips from her guide, created in conjunction with Arthritis Research UK.

larthritisresearchuk.org; 0300 790 0444. cookingwitharthur.blogspot.co.uk

CHOPPING

Mezzaluna

Sore hands can struggle to hold bulky
vegetables, so get someone to hammer rust-proof nails into a chopping
board so that you can spear veg first.

Or buy a chopping board with
built-in spikes. Waterproof chopping board with spikes, from 59.99,
solentmobility.co.uk.

Raw
vegetables that are tough to chop can be pre-cooked. Microwave or bake
them until they are soft enough to cut.

For example, pierce the skin of a
butternut squash in a couple of places and bake for 45 minutes before
chopping.

Buy a mezzaluna,
above, a half-moon-shaped blade that you rock from side to side with
both hands to chop herbs. ProCook Mezzaluna, 8, procook.co.uk.

Normal
graters can be difficult to hold, so invest in a rotary one that lets
you do the job by twisting a handle. Try the Marks & Spencer rotary
grater, 12, marksandspencer.com.

During
pain-free periods, take the opportunity to chop and freeze raw
vegetables in preparation for your next flare-up. Carrots, squash and
leeks freeze well.

COOKING

Colander

If your grip is poor, don’t empty hot
water from pans. Use a draining spoon to lift vegetables out, then let
the water cool. Melamine draining spoon, 1.99, butlers-online.co.uk.

Love your microwave – it can be safely used for everything from steaming fish and cooking porridge to making hot drinks.

Use
a colander that stands alone in the sink or hooks over it. Try the
Ultra Colander with legs and two handles from Buckingham at 11.69,
buckingham-cookware.co.uk.

Choose
pans that are light and double-handed. Or Eazigrip saucepans, which
have specially designed handles. Eazigrip saucepan set, 71.99,
the-saucepan.co.uk.

When you’re making sandwiches, soften the butter and blend with the filling – it halves the spreading.

Make twice as much of your favourite dish as you need and freeze for another time.

BAKING

Silicone cookware

Place a cloth under a mixing bowl to stop it slipping so you can use both hands to mix with your spoon.

Use
silicone bakeware – it’s lighter than tins and easier to clean. Try the
Ready Steady Cook Silicone Bakeware Set, below, 19.91, tesco.com.

Keep
baking essentials in lightweight canisters with easy-to-open tops, and
don’t store on a high shelf in case you lose your grip.

Beat eggs or cream with a light
electric milk frother if a whisk or hand blender is tricky. Bodum
Schumia milk frother, 10.16, thecooks kitchen.com.