Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Of deep cuts and stitches

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The above picture should indicate that this is by no means a normal food/recipes article. Instead of a picture of my kitchen counter, this is a picture of my bathroom counter at the moment. This is not normal for a food blog but I feel that it is important information that should be shared.

I now know exactly what is meant by the phrase 'a gaping wound'. I sliced my left thumb open while preparing dinner a few days ago. To be honest, I was terrified. I knew it was a very bad cut as soon as the knife went in because I could feel how deep and forceful it was. I didn't need the horrifying sight of the gaping wound (while rinsing under the tap) to tell me that I needed immediate medical attention. To cut a long story short, I now have 5 stitches on my left thumb and have been resting at home for a few days, doing most thing one handed.

As cooks, most of us are familiar with the occasional nicks and pokes with knives, scissors, skewers or other sharp objects. Usually, a rinse under the tap and a Band-Aid would do and we would just carry on. But accidents so happen and in the event that you or anyone you know should cut themselves badly, it helps to know what to do and what you should have at hand in your first-aid kit. These are some pointers that I want to share from my experience and based on advice from my doctor and pharmacist. Of course, you should always seek personal advice from your local medical practitioner if you have a deep cut, puncture wound or serious burn (from steam or water).

* Rinse the wound immediately under running tap water or bottled water, no matter how much it hurts. This cleans the wound and will reduce risk of infection.

* To stop bleeding, press several pieces of gauze over the wound and apply firm pressure. Elevate the wound above your heart and keep it raised. Any cut should stop bleeding with firm pressure after 5 minutes.

* If the wound should bleed through the gauze, do not remove the gauze. Place another piece of gauze over it and continue to press firmly. Removing the gauze will disturb the clotting process and cause the wound to bleed again. Gauze is best as it does not stick to wounds or leave fibres. Packets of sterile gauze are good things to have in your first-aid kit. But if you don't have any gauze, a clean towel or kitchen paper towels will do.

* Go to your nearest GP, medical centre or hospital for medical attention. Avoid the hospital if you have access to a nearby clinic that can do minor surgeries like stitches (which most do). You are likely to wait a few hours at a hospital and the chance of infection increases the longer you wait (not to mention panicking...).

* The doctor or nurse will clean the wound and decided whether you needs stitches. You will be given local anaesthetic to numb the area before stitching. You should also get a tetanus shot if you cannot remember when your last one was or if it was longer than 5 years ago.

* After stitches, a dressing or Band-Aid may be applied to keep the wound clean, reduce risk of infection and avoid accidental disturbance of the stitched area. For the next 24 hours, you should keep your hand or arm raised. Do not have your arm or hand dangling down in its normal position as that encourage blood flow to the wound and may cause further bleeding. This is less of a concern when sleeping as your body will be in a horizontal position.

* It is normal to have a little bleeding for the first 24-48 hours. Apply a piece of gauze over the wound and press firmly for 5 minutes, the bleeding should stop. A little clear liquid from the wound is also normal. If the wound will not stop bleeding after compression, see a doctor immediately.

* Change the dressing every day or as advised by your doctor, or if the wound bleeds. Moisten a sterile piece of gauze with saline solution (0.9% sodium chloride) and clean the wound and surrounding area gently. Make sure that it is dry before covering the area with a new Band-Aid or dressing. Never re-use gauze or Band-Aid.

* Sterile saline solution is the best thing to use for cleaning wounds. You don't want to use alcohol because it burns. Hydrogen peroxide is popularly used to clean wounds as it kills germs and bacteria and does not sting. However, many doctors and pharmacists advise against using antiseptic washes like hydrogen peroxide as it kills both new healthy tissues as well as bacteria, which will slow down the healing process.

* Keep the stitches clean and dry to aid healing and reduce infection. You can shower or bathe as long as you keep the wound dry. I showered with a plastic bag over my hand.

* The area around the stitches and the points of injection for local anaesthetic may become bruised or slightly swollen. As the wound heals, it will feel itchy. Avoid scratching at all cost.

* The wound may be painful for a few days. You can take regular paracetamol or ibuprofen (Panadol, Tylenol or Advil) as indicated on the box or bottle.

* Do not take aspirin unless prescribed by your doctor for other treatment. Also avoid alcohol for a few days. Both aspirin and alcohol thins the blood and can interfere with clotting.

* A little redness or swelling around the wound is normal. If the wound is very swollen and painful, with yellowish liquid or pus, red streaks on the skin around the wound, or if you have a fever, see a doctor immediately as the wound may be infected.

* Stitches are generally removed 7 to 10 days later by your doctor. Do not attempt to remove them yourself. Your doctor or nurse is trained to remove the stitches with minimal risk of infection or disturbing the healing wound. He or she will also assess the wound to see if the stitches should stay in for longer.

I certainly hope none of you reading this will need the above advice. But if you should cut yourself badly enough to require stitches, I hope the above pointers will give you a better idea what to do. In closing, I would strongly recommend that you have at least the following in your home first-aid kit/cupboard:

- sterile saline (0.9% sodium chloride), in small sealed bottles or vials
- sterile gauze in individual packets
- Band-Aid in assorted sizes

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Monday, 11 May 2009

Rice bento

I don't always take photos of my bento lunches these days. Sometimes I just don't have the time or inclination, and sometimes they don't look all that different from the ones I have posted before. But here are some rice-based bento that I made recently:

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Mushroom rice, steamed gai lan and carrots (tossed in sesame oil and light soy sauce), and a small container of kimchi (spicy Korean pickled vegetables).


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The warmer weather brought on a craving for simpler and cooler food like sushi and onigiri. This was a very simple bento made last week, with onigiri, little beef patties and edamame.

I made the onigiri with rice and a bonito and nori furikake mix, which eliminated the need for soy sauce (although that meant no cute sauce containers). I used to make onigiri at night, wrap them in cling film, pack them in containers and keep in the fridge overnight, I think I might just make them in the morning from now on. Although the cling wrap help, some bits of the rice do tend to harden a little and the texture doesn't taste as good as freshly made.

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What I did was place the leftover rice from dinner in a container and place in the fridge. In the morning, I reheated the rice in the microwave for about 45 seconds so that it got nice and hot, mixed in the furikake and made the onigiri with moulds. It was pretty quick and meant no cling wrap and fresher tasting onigiri for lunch with no refrigeration.

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Another simple soboro bento for lunch, with pork, red peppers and green bean over rice. This was packed the night before and kept in the fridge, and then reheated in a microwave at lunch time. I need to chop the red peppers more finely next time so that the pieces look more even for the bento as a whole. I do like how the colours turned out in this. Spinach is often used for soboro but I find it can get a bit wet over time and it is not good to have moisture gathering with other ingredients in the fridge overnight (food safety), so I chose green beans for this instead.

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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Buffalo steak

I have had kangaroo steak a couple of times at a restaurant, and also had the chance to cook ostrich steaks at home a few times. Buffalo, however, was one meat that neither the husband nor myself have tried. A few months ago, we were at our local butcher's and were rather bemused at overhearing a woman who came in and asked, "Do you have any buffalo today?" Certainly not what we were used to hearing in England! And then I spotted some buffalo steaks at a local supermaket and decided to give it a try.

Buffalo steak I

Like ostrich, buffalo is very lean. Unlike ostrich, however, which has a less beefy taste, buffalo tastes richer and darker than beef. Due to its very low fat content, it is important not to overcook buffalo whether as a roast or steak. Cooking time has to be reduced and heat turned down. Marinating the meat also helps to tenderise it. Buffalo is best cooked rare or medium at the most, to avoid drying out the meat.

For the steaks, I marinated them in the morning with a bit of olive oil and steak rub and placed them in the fridge through the day. I kept the griddle pan on medium instead of medium-high for regular steaks, and shortened the cooking time by about 1/3.

Buffalo steak II

The verdict? The husband liked it and enjoyed the richer flavour. It was pretty good but I found the meat just a little too dark for my liking. It is certainly a meat worth trying. Buffalo is lean and healthy and seems to cost the same as beef here. Just remember not to overcook it!

Ingredients (serve 2):

2 buffalo steaks, about 150g each (3/4 to 1 inch thick)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Freshly grounded salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Commercial steak rub or seasoning (optional)

1. Marinate the steaks with all the ingredients, rubbing in the seasoning well. Place in the fridge overnight or first thing in the morning.

2. Heat a griddle or frying pan until hot, with a drizzle of oil (since the buffalo steaks have little on their own). Grill the steaks over medium heat. For rare, cook for 2 minutes on each side. For medium, cook for 4 minutes on each side.

3. Remove to a warm plate and let the steaks rest for a few minutes. This allows the tense muscles to relax and a more juicy flavour. Serve with vegetables and other side dishes.

Buffalo steak III

You may also enjoy reading:
How to cook steak
Sirloin steak with mashed potatoes with mushroom and onion topping and broccoli

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