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Crohn’s, Cooking and Me: Getting out of a sticky situation and finding solace in Spanish pil pil prawns

Debbie shares her prawn pil pil recipe in this month's column.

Dark nights and cold winter weather are upon us and I have to say I quite like it. I love the changing of the seasons, regardless of the time of year.

It creates a sense of calm knowing that regardless of what is going on in the world or your personal life the change will still happen.

Health-wise things have been a bit of a mixed bag after finishing my steroids, but this was expected as my body readjusted itself after being on them for so long.

It has only really been this week that I have started to feel the balance returning to my body as my symptoms have settled and I have begun to trust my digestive system again.

Coming face to face with her fears

I did find myself unfortunately in a situation recently whilst my body was readjusting after the steroids where I needed to find a toilet urgently. This is something about this condition that I still struggle with, I find it hugely embarrassing and it can at times cause me huge amounts of anxiety.

I had met my mum for lunch and we were going for some shopping afterwards – apparently that was a big mistake.

Debbie was shopping with her mum when panic began to set in.

While in a large department store the need to use the bathroom happened so quickly that I had to leave my shopping with my mum to rush off to find the disabled toilets.

Unfortunately, no disabled toilet or any other toilet was available as the part of the store where they were located was being refurbished. Staff then directed me to the nearest shopping centre where the closest disabled toilet was located.

So, off I ran searching for the toilet. When I arrived and unlocked the door it was in the most horrendous condition that there was no way I could use it. I tried to look for a member of staff to help but no one was around. The main public toilet required money to use them, and I had left everything back in the other store with my mum.

At this point I was really beginning to panic, and I was close to tears. This having been my biggest fear since being diagnosed with this condition and here it was going to come to fruition in the middle of this shopping centre.

Debbie couldn’t find a disabled toilet to use.

I ran back to my mum told her I had to go home, to leave my shopping in the store and I would call her when I got home.

Bearing in mind I had a 30-minute car journey to get home after I walked the 10 minutes to the car park, things were not looking good. Thankfully a member of staff saw that I was needing help and once my mum explained the situation, she whisked me through the store into the staff lift and got me a bathroom, thankfully.

At this point I was so relieved, but I was also embarrassed, completely humiliated and my dignity was left with my shopping, and I burst into tears, more humiliation.

I never thought too much about access to disabled toilets before my diagnosis, ashamedly I even used them in bars if there was a queue at the normal toilets.

But now I have to be aware of where the toilets are located, especially the disabled toilet if the need should ever arrive.

I also worry about others judging me for using them. I am not living with a visible disability, but living with Crohn’s is living with a hidden disability and sometimes this is something I struggle to admit.

Arbroath Smokie Trail

I was invited to take part in an exciting opportunity this month in a collaboration with Appetite For Angus, Visit Angus and the Angus Tourism Co-operative where I presented a short promotional video for The Arbroath Smokie Trail.

We filmed in some locations around the town finishing off in Hospitalfield House where the head chef cooked the most amazing meal using the smoked fish. I was able to watch him prepare and cook the dish and was privileged to be the first to try it.

Debbie tucks into an Arbroath smokie.

My cooking over the past month has been limited due to my health not being too great after the steroids. I have, as always, been utilising our amazing local food producers wherever possible.

We have an abundance of fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables on our doorstep and as a massive lover of our local produce I try to incorporate that into my meals as much as possible.

Last month I have enjoyed creating a beautiful slow roasted lamb, sourced from my local butcher. You can really taste the quality of the meat. I am always mindful of how the animal is raised as it will ultimately affect the finished product, so for me an animal that is raised outdoors, eating a natural diet free from chemicals and pesticides results in a healthier end product for the consumer.

Soup season is upon us and a large pot of it never lasts long in my house. Kale, Scotch broth, potato and leek to name but a few are always available.

My son has been asking for a pot of pea and ham soup so that is the next on the agenda this weekend.

I have ventured into the world of TikTok and shared my first video, garlic baked cod. This dish is my go-to when feeling a little poorly. I got the most amazing, biggest piece of cod and baked it in the oven with plenty of butter and Boursin. The combination makes the most amazing sauce.


#fypage #foodtiktok #food

♬ Big Fish – Ace Hood

But my favourite dish this month had to be my prawn pil pil. It took me back to holidays in Spain sitting in the sunshine drinking Sangria.

Enjoy this dish of sumptuous prawns with your favourite crusty bread dipped into the flavoursome oil.

You don’t want to waste a drop of it the flavours are just too good.

Please note: you will need an oven proof tapas dish for it.

Pil pil prawns

Serves 2

Ingredients (per dish)

  • 100ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • A half to 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes (depending on how spicy you would like it)
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced finely
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 150g raw tiger prawns


  1. Add the oil to your dish along with the paprika, chilli, garlic slices and salt and pepper and stir to combine then bake in the oven  at for 10 minutes at 200C Fan/220C/425F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Remove your dish from the oven where upon your garlic slices should be starting to turn the palest gold colour and be sizzling in the oil.
  3. Now add the prawns, gently stirring to coat them in the oil then return to the oven for a further 7 minutes.
  4. The prawns should be sizzling in the oil when you remove them from the oven, that’s when you know they are perfectly ready.
  5. Serve with your favourite crusty bread and a glass of chilled white wine and enjoy.

For more from Debbie…