London Riots

Salam alaykum, I’ve been a bit slow in posting up what we’ve been eating over the last few days just simply because I have been watching television. I, like may others, have been shocked and outraged at the levels of wanton violence that mobs have been using to attack shops and homes. It is beyond disgusting.

For those of you not in the UK, one of the many justifications that is being put about by various people is that the voice of the youth is not being heard, that they are deprived, that they are fed up of a life without prospects, that they have no youth clubs, that they have no where to hang out and that they have no choice but to hang around on street corners!

The truth is that besides leaving a wake of broken shops, burnt out homes and ruined livelihoods, there are another group of people who have suffered even more because of these yobs…the people who are starving because of the drought. Only the day before the riots began there was a story of a little baby boy who was about five months old and after spending two weeks in the refugee camps and being intensively fed, he had gone from a ghost of a baby made of skin, bone and hollowed eyes to what a baby should look like: bright eyed, smiling, happy mash’Allah! Since the riots began these stories have totally disappeared. Somalia and the other countries don’t seem to feature anywhere. They need us, they need our prayers and they need our actual help to help them.

The looters in my area attacked a sports shop and mobile phone shops. These aren’t shops that sell the basics of life, they sell the luxuries of life. They also attacked a petrol pump and threatened to blow that up too. There is no justification for this. Some may try and say that these are similar to riots that led to revolutions, there is no revolution because there is no ideology. Ideology has a purpose. This has no purpose. The objective here is to loot, to damage, to harm, to injure and now to kill. In three short days one man has been shot in London, one Malaysian student badly injured and then robbed, and now three men have been killed in Birmingham while standing outside a mosque trying to protect it.

We need normality back. We need sense back. We need parents to take responsibility. We need calm. Most of all we need the real people who have NEEDS back as the headline of the news.

First Fast

Alhumdulilah last night we completed the first fast of the blessed month of Ramadan insh‘Allah all our fasts and prayers will be accepted.

Yesterday suddenly seemed very hot, in fact so much hotter than normal. Each time I was outside, I would come back in feeling burnt. It felt so strange that it was actually both hot in the morning and in the late afternoon. If it wasn’t Ramadan I doubt I would have been so aware of the heat. Without a doubt I would have gone and bought myself a few ice cold drinks to cool me down.

Alhumdulilah we are so fortunate to go for a day without food or drink knowing what we will eat in the evening, knowing that we can choose what we want. My heart aches when I think about the people starving right now. The stories of the people in the Horn of Africa are dire, may we keep them in our duas and may Allah(swt) rain his mercy down on them, send them rain, food and shelter. Until then insh’Allah please give generously.

Its all about breakfast

This year things are obviously going to get a whole lot harder for a whole generation of people living in the UK. Gone are the days of the 15:58 magrib (sunset) instead magrib will be at approximately 20:49 and with sehri (breakfast) being at some thing like 2 or 3 am it is going to be tough! Breakfast is supposed to be the meal that sets you up for the day and frankly, as a coeliac, even on a non fasting day I find it hard one. My ideal sehri would one that was a) filling for the whole day b) nutritious c) require little thought at 4am and d) have variety (I get so bored eating the same food).

Last year I was lucky enough to have an appointment with my hospital Coeliac Dietician during Ramadan who suggested oats were my way forward, as they are whole grain and take longer to break down in the body (for coeliacs oats need to be pure oats ie they are not contaminated during the milling process so not regular shop ones). I do however get very bored of eating the same thing again and again and so I experimented a little with oats in muffins (now they were good) and since then I have become more confident of using oats in things which aren’t porridge.

So this year I propose oats for sehri. I’m not sure what I will be doing with mine just yet. But a simple search on porridge opens up a whole new world. There are so many topping ideas from sweet eg dark chocolate and banana to the savoury hard boiled eggs or fried fish and vegetables!

So for the moment I leave you with this thought: Oats + liquid = endless possibilities

Unexpected but very welcome guests

The other morning I received a phone call from my husband (he was at work) after the usual pleasantries he said, “ oh I spoke to A,” he began, “ …yes they are going to come for iftari this evening” my immediate reaction was how fantastic! The last time we saw A and his wife was Ramadan last year when they came to offer their condolences to us neither of us were great company that day. My second reaction was what do I cook? Followed by a moment of blind panic! My husband being concerned about snacks (Why??? We’re fasting!), decided to take charge of what he felt was important, crisps. However my concern was to cook something which was tasty, and secondly that it was plentiful. There really is nothing worse than opening a fast with a meal which is either unappetising or a meal which is appetising but there is clearly not enough. Having used up some of my squirreled supplies earlier on in the week, it was clear that kaufteh were not going to be on the menu. I knew that risotto was not going to cut it.

Despite going shopping on Sunday and placing random items into my trolley, we hadn’t really been shopping this week so preparing for the equivalent of a dinner party with limited time, ingredients and ability to think would normally have been challenging. Armed with minced beef, 4 chicken drumsticks and rice I began to think of my options. Nothing OTT or labour intensive but it had to be good, really good. I played with a few ideas in my head and after momentarily thinking of some form of chicken in rice (seeing as neither my husband or I like chicken in rice) I quickly dropped the idea. Fortunately the easiest option presented itself; the minced beef became keema and with baby potatoes, the chicken was marinated with yoghurt and spices and then cooked in the marinade along with aubergines and courgettes. The rice was fried and then steamed. I found an almond cake in the freezer. Suddenly it became very easy.

A, his wife and adorable toddler came round we ate, we laughed, we prayed, we enjoyed the company of our guests and we waved them off into the night. Wandering back to the kitchen I began to wonder the prescribed role of the host, religiously, and here lies the answer:

It was narrated that Abu Shurayh al-‘Adawi said: I heard with my own two ears and I saw with my own two eyes when the Prophet (pbuh) spoke and said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honour his neighbour; whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honour his guest as he is entitled.” It was said, ‘What is his entitlement, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “[The best treatment] for one day and one night; and hospitality is for three days, and anything after that is charity bestowed upon him. And whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him, speak good words or else remain silent.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5560; Muslim, 69. This version was narrated by al-Bukhaari.

Shopping while fasting is always a bad idea

On Sunday, my husband and I both decided be wanted very different things for iftari, my husband wanted pizza and fresh chip shop chips. I had other ideas. I wanted a thai fish curry. No problems there, being sensible I knew I had to buy three things: thai curry paste, coconut milk and fish. Quite simple I thought.

I headed off to the local supermarket and I don’t know how or when it happened but in the short time that I was in the shop I had amassed so many things in my trolley it was beyond belief! I think my first fault was that I decided to push a trolley rather than collect things in a basket. I think the second aspect of blame should go to the supermarket or rather the hordes of people who decided that shopping on a Sunday morning was the time to do a weekly shop…somehow this induced my shopping desire! Ok, ok I am definitely skating on very thin ice here, but this all affected my senses to the extent that I ended up purchasing double the amount of fish that I had intended to buy (monkfish AND prawns) one type would have been more than sufficient, double the coconut milk (I don’t really use it for anything else) AND all the other things I picked. Half of the things didn’t even go well together: a ready made frittata, marinated artichokes but actually I picked up the one with olives so a thirst inducing item, almond chocolate, goats cheese, gluten free bread rolls, corn flakes, avocados. Honestly I got them home and just had to ask myself one question: why?

An interesting thing happens when a person is fasting, despite constantly saying “its not about the food” it invariably does become about the food. You find that you are constantly thinking about food and what you would like to have. An example being that someone walks past you eating a bar of chocolate and suddenly you think “I must go and buy some chocolate because I will need to have some this evening”. There is no ‘need’ involved, it is all about want. You also realise how acutely sensitive your senses become, while previously smells around you blended into the atmosphere now each individual smell is as sharp as a knife. A person comes back from a coffee break and you ‘know’ that they have had a cappuccino with shot of hazelnut syrup! Suddenly all you crave is a cappuccino with a shot of hazelnut syrup. I can’t tell you the number of times in my fasting life I’ve gone off and bought something I have seen or smelt someone have during the day. I even go so far as buying a specific hot chocolate and taken it home on the tube and then reheated it for iftari!! Needless to say, going into a supermarket while fasting is not a brilliant idea however it is something that all of us will have to do!

Whats at your Iftari?

Dates. No matter where you go in the world and it comes to the moment of iftari you can be sure that we (muslims) will open our fasts with dates. Most people know that the prophet (pbuh) would Anas bin Malik narrates that:

“ The Prophet (pbuh) performed Iftaar with fresh dates, if there weren’t any then with dried dates and if there weren’t any then with water” (Abu Dawud)

Dates are therefore nearly always present at any iftari. In fact, I am ashamed to say, that I have only ever heard, first hand, of one instance in my life where a person had no dates to open his fast with and only water. It makes me realise how fortunate I have been to never have experienced hunger and to never have fasted not knowing what I will have for my iftari. If anything Ramadan for those fortunate to have plenty (and I include myself in this) turns into a daily wish list – soon to be fulfilled- of what we would like to eat that evening.

For some people iftari is about dates and getting a sugar rush, for others it is all about the crunch of fried things, anything golden brown and for others like myself, the moments post iftari are spent in a state of self imposed restraint desperate not to put on weight that I have spent nearly a year losing!

After the first couple of days gobbling caramel super sweet dates after iftari I realised that I could not go on like this after all twenty six days remain. I cannot possibly eat as if I am attending my last feast on earth every day for a month. When each date contains approximately between 112 and 250 calories each depending on which counter you use the calories soon stack up! I have tried to benefit from the fact that it is summer and that there is an abundance of fruit in the shops. Now I try and limit my date in take to two. I plate up small fruits along with the dates so that they are there in front of me once the fast is opened and I have something low calorific to eat and fill me. Only then will I eat my meal. Fruit is really important to a person fasting as it helps to rehydrate the body. Similarly raw vegetables are also really helpful. Cucumbers and celery contain a high water content and mineral balance which means that they hydrate the body while providing low calorie food. All of which assist the weight conscious faster.

I try and shy away from food elements which are laden with things that I just wouldn’t eat on a daily basis. I recently read on a message board about a dish which involved buying date puree with added sugar, frying it in ghee and spread that on toast for sehri. If that recipe had been in my family we would most certainly have added cream after it was fried! I have no doubt in my mind that it would taste delicious but if I eat like that for a month I will have undone my 8 month’s worth of hard work. So for the moment less is more, I tell myself. I try and restrain myself every day which is hard as invariably once the hunger hits in, like everyone all I can think about is food. However the fasting day is about restraint. Yes we don’t eat, but it is for our eyes, our ears and mouths to fast too. Jaabir bin Abdullah used to say:

“When you fast your hearing, sight and tongue should also fast from lies and sins” (Gaaya tul Ihsaan)

If we are able to restrain ourselves through out the day fasting in all senses then shouldn’t it be easy to show restraint at iftari and eat conscious that our bodies do not need excessive amounts of rich food. We should eat conscious that so many of our muslim brothers and sisters through out the world have nothing on their plates and will unfortunately have nothing more than water to drink this iftari. Inshallah Allah(swt) will make Ramadan easy for those who have nothing, inshallah Allah(swt) will fill their plates with and inshallah Allah(swt) will answer our prayers ameen.

Sehri = breakfast = actually means start fast

Twice today I was asked about the act of sehri. One question was from my (non muslim) mother in law who when asking what time the fast started went on to very confidently point out that,“ …you wouldn’t really get up at 3am and eat though…” needless to say she was very shocked to hear that YES we do get up and actually have a breakfast! Yes, I am sure we have had this very same conversation with her before!

It is very important for us to remember that time and time again, the prophet (pbuh) taught us, through his actions, to eat sehri. Syeduna Anas narrated that the Prophet (swt) said:

“Perform Sehri for verily there is barakah (blessing) in Sehri” (Muslim, book of Siyaam)

Further more the prophet (pbuh) said:

“Perform sehri, even if one sip if water for surely Allah(swt) and His angels send mercy upon those who perform Sehri” (Musnad Ahmad)

With such blessings bestowed upon the fasting person how can we not awake from the depth of sleep for sehri and begin our fast?