The end of the crisis, and a new recipe…

Am I good to you or what?

The recent crisis, I’m happy to report, is over, though I’m deeply aggrieved that I should be pushed to the brink of suicide by excruciating, unremitting, pain, before my bastard GPs will listen to me.

Initially, I was given Zomorph, sustained-release morphine 10 to 20mg, twice a day. That did nothing so a few days later a different GP added Gabapentin, 900mg twice a day. That dose proved too high and caused problems, including an almost catastrophic blackout. I came to just in time to get a hand down, dislocating a finger, otherwise I’d have hit a concrete floor face first. I popped the finger back before it swelled and locked up and, while it’s still sore, I’m otherwise OK.

When they were almost gone, I faxed the same GP asking for more, but suggesting that because of the problems he might want to consider a different dose or even a different drug.** I also said I urgently needed a “fast-acting liquid opiate,” as getting out of bed in the morning was agonisingly painful. The problem is that during the night the fluid drains from my elevated legs and, as soon as I get out of bed, rushes back again, which is excruciating.

**He went for 600mg every 8 hours – same total intake but without the problems. Initially it made me very sleepy, which is normal, but that’s passed off and I’m only slightly dozy now, which should also pass.***

***It didn’t, and I’m so heavily drugged I can barely function most days, hence the absurdly long delay in publishing this. Still, if it’s that or having the pain back, I know what I prefer, but I am going to have to try and reduce the drug burden somehow.

Earlier, I’d already asked for Oramorph (liquid morphine), and been told to sod off, so I thought being non-specific in my second request would get me something (though I didn’t even know if there was an alternative available). It got me Oramorph! Dose 2.5mg or 5ml – the lower dose is fine, leaving me leeway should I need to tackle breakthrough pain later in the day, a temptation I’ve managed to resist so far, preferring to rely on Tramadol.

Also asked for a referral to the Lymphoedema Clinic as I’m currently going nowhere. Nurses have done all they can do (pretty much limited to keeping things clean and changing dressings), and I do need specialised help.

Right, that’s it healthwise, and for about a couple of weeks I’ve been promising a recipe for braised soya burgers, as I’m returning to vegetarianism because of the contamination of the meat food chain. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but what I do eat tends to be beef in various forms, and that’s where the problem is.

The delay is also because, even though this is an old standby from the 90s, in my original veggie phase, I never wrote it down. It meant that I had to wait for a good day so I could make it and make notes as I went along. Even then it took three days instead of one as I was so crappy (and being drugged to the eyebrows didn’t help), so I made the decision to make and freeze them as complete ready-meals by adding boiled new potatoes, thus getting maximum results for the effort. Worked well too, so now we have, as the next project:-

Braised Soya Burgers in onion gravy with peas and Exquisa Potatoes.

***

I make these only with Tesco Meat Free Burgers which are made from soya protein, aka TVP or soya mince. I’ve tried other brands, especially Sainsbury’s, but they don’t work so well. There’s something about Tesco’s burgers that allows them to absorb liquid, and thus flavours, and plump up nicely, getting away from their normal fried beer-mat state. So, you need:-

All spoons are measuring spoons. Except spoonie spoons, which are notional.

1 box Tesco Meat Free Burgers (8 burgers, yields 4 substantial meals)

3 medium carrots

4 medium onions

2 Kallo organic veg stock cubes

2 teaspoons Marigold stock powder

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon ground coriander

About 225g frozen peas, the amount isn’t critical – I like plenty. These go in at the end.

1 teaspoon dried basil (nothing like fresh, but a good basic herb flavour)

A squirt of HP sauce (or, if yours is in a glass bottle, a good dessert-spoon full)

Olive oil (you could use corn or rapeseed oil, but I have a built-in objection to ingredients that don’t contribute to the flavour of the finished dish)

Black pepper and sea salt to adjust seasoning at the end

And for later, 1.5kg new potatoes. I used Tesco Exquisa, which I’d advise  against – the skins are terrible and there’s a lot of damage from harvesting; both need removing.

***

First, peel and slice your veggies, keeping them separate.

Put a good slug of oil in a large pan – I use a 3 litre stainless steel casserole which is just big enough, very spoonie-friendly in weight, and no long handles to snag the brain- or pain-fogged – add the onions, stir, and sweat gently over a low heat until soft. Do not, as if often suggested, add salt to speed up the process. All this does is extract water from the onions, causing them to stew, which is not what you want.

Once the onions are soft and a little golden (it doesn’t matter if some are browned), stir in the paprika and coriander, and cook off over the same heat for a few minutes – you’ll probably have to add more oil at this point.

If you’ve never tried sweet paprika I urge you to do so. It’s quite a gentle flavour, sometimes with a little heat (and I do mean a little), but in company with coriander, it really gives a boost to otherwise quite basic dishes like, well, this one. Note: Read the container carefully – at first glance the sweet and smoked versions look identical and, in my view, the smoked version is dire, tending to dominate any dish in which you include it. I buy mine online.

Dissolve the stock cubes and Marigold powder in hot water, stir in the HP and add to the pan. Add the carrots and basil. Stir well, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are soft.

In the meantime, fry the burgers in oil until very lightly browned on both sides.  When you do the second side, beads of brown liquid will appear on the top side – try not to let this escape as you remove them from the pan. Remove to a plate and set aside – no need to keep warm.

When cool enough to handle, cut them in half. Do that on the plate, to retain any juices, and use a sharp knife. Set aside again.

As soon as the carrots are getting soft add the burgers and the peas. The burgers tend to float at this stage. Treat them gently, they’re quite fragile. Add sufficient boiling water to ensure everything is covered – as I said earlier, this will fill my 3 litre casserole.

Bring back to the boil – the frozen peas will really lower the temperature – then simmer for half an hour. Remove to somewhere cool and leave overnight. This is important not just because all stews and soups benefit from being left so that the flavours can snuggle up to each other – in this case it allows the burgers to absorb flavour from the stock.

The next day – and you might have to do this in stages if you only have one large pan – tip the contents of the burger pan gently into a colander set over another large pan, and leave to drain for a couple of hours, then remove the burgers from the veg – get your hands in there, it’s the easiest way and – Oh, you guessed! – set aside.

Leave the veg in the colander, on a plate to collect any late dribbles, and whisk 2 good tablespoons of plain flour into the stock (I use bread flour, which amalgamates very easily). Re-heat over a medium heat, whisking continuously so that I doesn’t stick as it slowly thickens. If you don’t have a whisk – and why not? – use a spatula (the traditional wooden spoon is entirely the wrong shape).

Once it’s thickened, taste it for seasoning and adjust (if you taste it before thickening, you’ll just get a spoonful of paprika-flavoured oil). I found the flavour a little strong, and let it down a tad with hot water (bear in mind that spending time in the freezer will exaggerate any tendency towards saltiness, no idea why).

Now then, freezing it could be problematic. I use foil dishes and lids from Lakeland, but they’re discontinuing them and, so far, I haven’t found an alternative supplier, though I did buy a hundred small ones (actually the second size, and just big enough for a simple, but complete, meal). If you use them, get to Lakeland and stock up before they’re gone. In fact, Lakeland simply changed supplier – it would have been nice if they’d mentioned that!

OK, return the veg to the gravy, stir well to break up any clumps, and while hot put a layer of the gravy and veg on the bottom of the foil dish – no a lot, just enough to prevent freezer burn on the burgers which go in next. Put the sp…

Oops – forgot the spuds. OK, you don’t need me to tell you how to boil spuds , just do it far enough in advance that they’re cool by now.

Now then, I made the mistake of leaving the spuds whole when putting them in the foil containers. They would have been far easier to handle cut into thick slices. So, put equal quantities of spuds, whole or sliced, in each tray – don’t worry if the protrude a little, they can be squashed down when you put the lid on. Fill all the containers equally – more or less – then divide the gravy between them (this is why you need the gravy hot, so it gets into all the nooks and crannies). If you’ve got it right you should have just enough gravy.** Put on the lid, write on the contents and the date, then put in the fridge to chill. Once cold, you can freeze them.

**If you come up short, make up a little Bisto Roasted Winter Vegetable gravy mix

In my experience home-frozen food – in a freezer, not an ice box – will keep in good condition for 6 months, after which it will deteriorate. Making small batches like this is one way to ensure they’re gone before the 6 months is up.

Spoonie rating:

spoonie spoon spoonie spoon

It would have been one spoon as it’s very simple, were it not for the whisking. Try to delegate that!

You’ll have spuds left over – I made a potato salad with mine, adding cooked frozen peas, finely chopped red onion, and lots of mayo. Needs seasoning more than you might think.

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