Cooking for the Sensitive Gut

Broccoli with harissa, cumin and preserved lemon

We always advise people to eat as varied a diet as they can. This is because the more variety there is in your diet to more likely you are to get all the nutrients you need to stay fit and healthy. One group of foods which people with a sensitive gut (or IBS) tend to struggle with is vegetables – which ones to eat and in what quantity.

Nutritional guidelines recommend eating  a mixture of 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables a day. This guidance applies to people with IBS too. Avoiding fresh vegetables is counterproductive for the gut because they play an important role in keeping the gut and the microbiome healthy.

One good source of information on which vegetables to eat and in what quantity is the MONASH university LowFODMAP diet app, which is available on the App store and can be downloaded to phones and tablets.

I use this app all the time when I am developing my recipes. When I was devising the recipe that follows I looked at what it said about broccoli with keen interest.

Broccoli is classified as ‘green’ meaning that in the portion recommended (50g) it should not trigger symptoms in most people with a sensitive gut. There is a caveat though as an upper limit of a 50g portion size is set for broccoli.

This means that for some, but not all, eating more than this amount can trigger symptoms.  Broccoli contains fructans and sorbitol and at portions sizes above 50g it has the potential to trigger symptoms.

For most vegetables with a ‘green’ rating, indicated by the MONASH app, there is no upper limit because even at larger portions they do not ‘stack up’ to become high in FODMAPs. This means you can eat vegetables with a ‘green’ rating in larger amounts.

The recipe below is delicious. It is nutritious full of flavour and would be really lovely with some poached fish and some home made oven baked  potato crisps. A recipe for those crispy, little darlings will follow in the next blog.


Broccoli with harissa, cumin and preserved lemon

Home made harissa is one of the tastiest sauces I know but the recipe needs to be adapted very slightly to be suitable for a sensitive gut. It will still taste great. Basically it is important to use garlic oil* rather than raw garlic to flavour this sauce. Also avoid using chilli if it causes you problems. The combination of roasted red pepper, lime, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika is lovely. It is a very strong flavoured sauce so a little bit goes a very long way. It is delicious drizzled over, steamed fish, grilled lamb, roasted carrots and parsnips too.

Serves 4


  • 200 g broccoli, steamed until tender (10 minutes)
  • 1 tsp preserved lemon rind, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted for a couple of minutes in a frying pan

For the harissa dressing

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds freshly roasted and ground
  • juice from half lime
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander (reserve a little for sprinkling over at the end)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or garlic oil*
  • 1 roasted pepper skinned, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

*to make garlic oil – slice a glove of garlic and fry in a little olive oil. When the garlic is golden brown remove the slices of garlic from the oil. Use the flavoured garlic oil in recipes where you need the flavour of garlic. Garlic oil made in this way is low in FODMAPs.


Place all the ingredients  for the harissa dressing in a food processor and blitz until smooth.  Adjust the flavour and the consistency of the sauce with lime juice and seasonings, to suit your taste.

To assemble the dish

Arrange the steamed broccoli in a bowl and drizzle over a little of the harissa dressing. Scatter the chopped preserved lemon, roasted cumin seeds and coriander. Toss together and serve with some home made potato crisps and steamed white fish.

If you would like to read more about how to manage your IBS and Sensitive Gut have a look at Dr Nick Read’s really informative blog The Sensitive Gut.

This entry was written by Joan Ransley and published on January 15, 2017 at 7:56 pm. It’s filed under Dinner, Sauce, Side dish, Side dish and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “Broccoli with harissa, cumin and preserved lemon

  1. Looks so tasty!!!! I always do Brocoli with cashew sauce, never tried it this way 🙂

  2. Hello,
    I would love to make the harissa sauce but it looks like there is an ingredient missing, chopped something on the 4th line? Also, you mention garlic oil in the beginning of the post but it is not included in the recipe. I’d appreciate some clarification. Thank you!

    • Hello Alyssa, many apologies for these editorial errors. They are now corrected. I love this recipe and I hope you enjoy making it. Best of luck with it and thank you for contacting me. Joan

      • Thank you so much, Joan! It sounds so yummy – I’m looking forward to trying this and your other wonderful recipes!

  3. My pleasure Alyssa. I hope you enjoy cooking the recipe. If you see any other editorial glitches do let me know…Best wishes Joan

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