The end of seasoning?

I am not allowed salt.

This is a crime against nature – everyone needs salt.

It’s particularly cruel as many of us with Addison’s Disease crave salt more than usual. What hasn’t been explained is whether this craving is driven by an actual need – I must find out. (I did, see*** at the end.)

In hospital last week, in the heart ward while the pulmonology tossers tried to claim me and the heart people – in whose hands my recovery resided and in whose ward I was – just quietly got on with their thing (I’d have preferred a more hands-on approach, like consulting me before prescribing a drug, Ramipril, I can’t take).

That my heart really is a serious problem is reflected in the fact that the pulmo pillocks have screwed up my meds while announcing no further treatment or support is needed, while the heart people have consigned me to the care of the Heart Failure Nurse service, who are scheduled to put in their first appearance on Thursday. I have no idea how this works yet – whether they will routinely visit to monitor me, in much the same way as the Community Nurses, or whether I call them at need (though, really, if I do need help I need to be in hospital).

The downside of being on a heart ward was that every morsel of food served up was utterly devoid of salt – and that isn’t just disgusting, it’s a crime against food. That food has deteriorated substantially over the past year – I know this because I was there to experience it personally last year, and watched the quality plummet as the portion size diminished – and to then serve it without seasoning was the last straw – I didn’t eat for three days.

Then, rummaging in my bag, I found a jar of Harissa and a small salt-cellar from my backpacking kit (in a former life), and lo! – I could eat again. There’s no salt in my Harissa beyond the little contained in the celery salt, but there is a huge amount of flavour which enhances pretty much anything dusted with it. A thought – as my diet contains almost no processed food, other than an occasional quiche or pie, I have almost total control over what goes into it. I thought I’d mention that before someone gets the urge to lecture me about the evils of processed food! It’s also worth including my usual disclaimer – I simply cannot cook every day. I’m doing well if I can cook once a week, and when I can I batch-cook for the freezer. That OK with you, DWP?

The problem was that the stuff in my hospital bag was an early attempt at creating a Harissa I could live with, as commercial versions are just too high in Cayenne pepper for my tastes – I’ve done far better since then and my current iteration is a aromatic masterpiece – isn’t that right, Fi? Winking smile

So, today I’m going to make a fresh batch, based on the following, which is the version referred to above:-

My Harissa:-

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons ground coriander

1 tablespoon dried coriander leaf

2 tablespoons dried mint

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons fine black pepper

½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons celery salt

2 teaspoons Garlic granules

***

The celery salt will be replaced with a version much higher in the ground seeds and lower in salt (the salt being Maldon, though I might try adding some LoSalt at some point – that needs care as the potassium can complicate my Addison’s), and I might add a little dried basil – totally inauthentic, that, but I don’t care – the trick is getting the balance right so that no single ingredient overwhelms the rest.

I’m also going to make a more pungent version with Aleppo chilli in place of Cayenne (the latter just adds heat, the former adds flavour, too), replace the coriander with cumin and the coriander leaf with dried rosemary. In fact I might make that first.

There is, though, something else to consider regarding salt. Most people eat three meals a day, at least two of which. lunch and dinner, are likely to involve salt (I suspect salt on a cooked breakfast is a rarity these days).

I, on the other hand, eat just one meal a day, dinner, so I have to be very careful not to let my salt intake get too low, which is probably more of a danger for me than too high. Salt is essential to life on this planet – we came from the primal ocean, and we carry our own sea within us – even wild animals know this, and will seek out naturally-occurring salt deposits (or, in countries like the UK, places where winter gritting salt can still be found in roadside deposits throughout much of the year).

So I need to allow myself a little salt, just not too much. This will be put to good use in my spice mill, helping to grind the Aleppo chilli to suitable fineness.

Right now I’m eating this soup . I have no idea why, but it quite definitely improves my breathing. I reduced the amount of salt, and added lots of lemon zest and a little Aleppo chilli. The soup has Judion de la Granja Spanish butter beans, which are very good but horribly expensive at about £8 a kilo, so I’m going to cook some ordinary butter beans in the way in which I cook though (6-8 hours in the slow cooker with onion and carrot), to see if I can get close to the flavour or the texture – both would be nice, but unlikely.

First, though, I’m going to give a kilo of dried soya beans the same treatment. I confess, after last week, to still being scared, but I can’t let fear control my life or, as in this case, get in the way of what will be a multi-day process – 1 day to soak, 8 hours or so to cook, and another 8 hours to cool in the cooking liquor. This last step is essential as it allows the beans to re-absorb the flavour they’ve given off in cooking, as well as to absorb be flavour of any veg or herbs I include (a few parsley stalks maybe, or a sprig of rosemary). Interestingly, when used in a subsequent dish, the beans retain those flavours, which was unexpected. Perhaps being frozen until needed somehow locks in the flavour? I honestly don’t know (but I do know that this is making me hungry!).

Watch this space…

***

***I have found out and, yes, salt can be essential in Addison’s, so finding out whether that applies to me is a priority – there’s little point in not eating salt to protect my heart if it’s going to pose a health threat elsewhere. To say I’m seriously pissed off with the half-arsed, mind-numbingly incompetent, way my Addison’s has been handled by Arrowe Park Hospital doesn’t even get close to how fucking angry I am. And being angry, right now, is seriously bad for me.

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