Saturday, 13 June 2020

Joy in Every Moment

These last few weeks have been heavy and busy – all of the children at home, trying to get them to do schoolwork, prayers, their chores. Trying to keep up with housework. Always wondering what to make for the next meal for fussy kids whilst working from home.

My work revolves around community development, equality and diversity and youth participation. In recent months I have been working on our local authority’s corona virus response, including looking at how Black and Asian people are disproportionately affected by the illness and thinking about how we can help the most vulnerable parts of our community as we face a massive economic recession.

So the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Movement has meant that my diversity work moves into a very busy, but uncertain and uncomfortable space, where I am trying to support others, but uncertain I am doing the right things myself and questioning whether I am doing enough.

All of these things have been overwhelming at times, depressing at times and exhausting at many points. I found myself asking what the point of it all was – children, family, work, community, this world. All of it seemed like such hard work and such thankless work. I seemed to be trying to do everything as best as I could, but none of it as well as I would have liked. Over the weeks, this feeling of running as fast as I can, but never being able to keep up, started to feel like it is burying me under a heavy grey cloud.

More and more I have turned to prayer. I am trying hard to hold onto some of the feeling and good habits of Ramadan. On days it feels so hard, but I am not willing to let go, constantly asking Allah to help me hold onto his worship and remembrance. 

Last night I asked Allah SWT to help me rise out of this funk, to find peace and contentment, to be grateful for his countless blessings.  I sat with the way I was feeling and agreed with myself to stop pushing, but to go through my prayer slowly, to take my time with each part and not think beyond it.


I ended up meditating on joy. I know I am a joyful person; it is my natural state and default. I see the good in people, things, and the world. I love beauty and pleasure (perhaps too much, but it is how I am). I let the small bubble of joy well up. I reflected on how blessed we are to be in this ummah, that one truth on it’s own blows my mind when I reflect on it – Allah’s SWT blessing and favour that we take for granted every day.

I reminded myself that no one can take away my joy. It lives in me and it is who I am. It lives in each of the moments of my life, if I can just see it. This morning I woke up feeling good. Hubby came back from a night shift and I just enjoyed my hand on his arm as he talked about his night. The girls woke up and I enjoyed their morning chatter and cheerfulness. I started to fret about what to make for lunch, and thought sod it, I just got paid, I’ll treat the kids to takeaway. I can use the time to clean my house and rest (and blog). There’s no need to overthink beyond the moment and make myself miserable before the day has started. I am enjoying the beauty of the day – sunshine and a fresh breeze after days of rain. I am enjoying the banter and laughter of my children as they sit on my bed distracting me. I am enjoying the feel of cool cotton on my new kurta and the cool floor under my bare feet.

No one can take away your joy.
It’s there in every moment.
It’s there inside you.


Sunday, 31 May 2020

Lamb Pilau Recipe

My mum is one of those cooks whose technique has been hones through forty years of cooking and complaints from a fussy husband and picky kids. All of us siblings and out spouses savour her cooking, and especially on Eid when we all gather to have lunch together and she makes her lamb pilau.

This year there was no gathering on Eid and the prospect of no lamb pilau, so I thought I’s try it myself for the first time. In the past I had made plain, pea, veg, chickpea and chicken pilau, but was a little intimidated at the idea of making lamb pilau.

I ended up reading a few recipes and then asking my mum her process and adjusting slightly. Thankfully it came out well and was enjoyed by everyone.


Ingredients
For the broth:
1kg lamb - I use lamb chops or lamb shoulder chops
Half of a garlic bulb – cloves peeled.
1 inch of ginger root, peeled and sliced
1 peeled and onion quartered
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2-3 bay leaf
2 green cardamoms
3 black cardamoms
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon of salt

For cooking the pilau:
6 cups of rice
2-3 tablespoons cooking oil (I usually use sunflower for rice)
3 medium onions – diced
5 tomatoes – pureed
2 teaspoons of zeera (cumin seeds)
2 teaspoons garam masala powder
2-3 tablespoons of salt

Method
When measuring out the rice, water for the broth and the broth itself, make sure you use the same cup (or same size cup).

Put the lamb, and all of the broth ingredients in a pan with eight cups of water and allow to cook until the lamb is tender (but not too soft), this should take approximately 45 minutes to an hour. 



The smell should be amazing, and sometimes my mum used to take a cup out for me to drink as a kind of bone broth. Once cooked, strain the broth and keep to one side, separate the meat from the other ingredients and put to one side, discarding the rest (onions, garlic, ginger and whole spices).





Next take the rice and rinse using cold water a few times until the water runs fairly clear. Then leave to soak in cold water while you prepare the masala/base for the rice.
In a large pan, add your oil and allow to heat, next add your three diced onions and two teaspoons of zeera and sauté until the onions are quite brown. The colour of the onions determines the colour of the rice, so you want them to cook to a good deep colour, but without burning.


Next take the rice and rinse using cold water a few times until the water runs fairly clear. Then leave to soak in cold water while you prepare the masala/base for the rice.

In a large pan, add your oil and allow to heat, next add your three diced onions and two teaspoons of zeera and sauté until the onions are quite brown. The colour of the onions determines the colour of the rice, so you want them to cook to a good deep colour, but without burning.


Next you need to measure out the broth. For every cup of rice, I use one and a half cup of broth. So, for the six cups of rice, I used just under nine cups of broth. If you are a little short of broth, you can add water to make up the required amount.

Add the nine cups of broth to the cooking put with the onions and tomatoes and raise the heat. Once the broth starts to simmer, drain the rice and add along with two tablespoons of salt.  Taste the salt, it should taste a bit too salty rather than just right. If the salt tastes right, add another spoon. Allow to cook on medium heat until water reduces/gets absorbed by the rice and there is very little left – enough that the mixture is still slightly soupy/wet, but the water does not sit above the level of the rice.




Add the nine cups of broth to the cooking put with the onions and tomatoes and raise the heat. Once the broth starts to simmer, drain the rice and add along with two tablespoons of salt.  Taste the salt, it should taste a bit too salty rather than just right. If the salt tastes right, add another spoon. Allow to cook on medium heat until water reduces/gets absorbed by the rice and there is very little left – enough that the mixture is still slightly soupy/wet, but the water does not sit above the level of the rice.




This is definitely a dish I will be making again. I also found some other recipes that looked interesting:



Do let us know in the comments if you made the recipe above or any of the recipes at the link. Or do you have your own version that turns out really tasty?


For the latest updates and stories (including what we have been cooking) please do follow me on my Instagram account and Insta-stories. Also let me know if you are on Instagram, so I can follow readers there insh’Allah.

Quarantine Diaries: Felixstowe

Happening to be in Ipswich and having some time to kill, we decided to see if we could find somewhere quiet and near a river or the sea to walk. Looking at the map, it was a toss up between Harwich and Felixstowe, so we ended up going to Felixstowe.

We got there and manged to find free parking easily. It’s a clean, well-cared for beach front with good toilets and lots of clean green space along the length of the beach to picnic on.  Once we were there, we did find plenty of families there, if nowhere near as busy as places like Southend on Sea seem to have been recently.





We walked along the promenade for a bit and watched the ships coming into the sea port at a distance. We didn’t really want to add to the busyness or get in people’s way, so we decided to head over to the port area and see if it was quieter there.






It was about five minutes’ drive away and down a quiet, easy to miss, path past the port office. At it’s end we again found free parking and a small number of people sitting watching the enormous ships getting loaded with containers and others closer to the water fishing.


I wondered why this flower was familiar, then realised it was a poppy, but in a less common bright yellow colour.





There was a nice long walk parallel to the beach, in some parts paved, in others more rugged, or uneven and rocky that we followed. This part of the beach was very much quieter and secluded.




On one side of the path was the beach, on the other side a grassy space stretched out, which turned out to be the Landguard NatureReserve. I was tempted to explore, but we ended up carrying on along the path.




We stopped for a while and sat on these steps with the sun on our faces and with the breeze cooling us. We chatted, he tried cheesy chat up lines and watched the fisherman not catch very much.






It was a sweet afternoon: refreshing, restful, restorative alhamdulillah. Hope to visit again some time after quarantine ends insh’Allah.


For the latest updates and stories please do follow me on my Instagram account and Insta-stories. Also let me know if you are on Instagram, so I can follow readers there insh’Allah.

Quarantine Diaries: Ipswich Town

My husband had a small delivery in Ipswich and asked if I wanted to come along. I am never one to say no to either going out or spending time with just the two of us, so I agreed.

He dropped off his delivery and we parked up and sauntered around the mostly deserted town for an hour. It’s such a pretty town with so many historical buildings, we find quite a few secluded places to sit and rest and look at the buildings and flowers. I’d like to come back with the girls after quarantine is over and perhaps enjoy a walk along the river.















For the latest updates and stories please do follow me on my Instagram account and Insta-stories. Also let me know if you are on Instagram, so I can follow readers there insh’Allah.

Friday, 29 May 2020

In My Mum's Garden

I can’t go and see my mum at the moment or go and sit on her swing chair in her garden and watch her flowers, so I am having to enjoy them vicariously through my dad and sisters pictures. Insh’Allah lockdown seems to be easing, so soon I’ll be going over and sitting with her and having a good long chat. 












Thursday, 28 May 2020

Eid ul Fitr 2020:1441 – Day Two Barbecues and Slushes

The second day of Eid was a quieter, calmer day. We wore nice clothes and mostly lazed around. 





Hubby sorted out food, with a barbecue 


I watched a silly action film with my oldest, started filling out my new Clever Fox planner and ate the barbecue he made.



I took all three girls out for a walk in the afternoon and bought them slushes:




We had a late dinner in the garden with leftovers. No cooking, family and food = pretty much the definition of a good day for me alhamdulillah.



How did you celebrate this Eid? Did you find ways to make it joyful despite the challenging times?

For the latest updates and stories (including what we got up to during Eid and what we have been cooking) please do follow me on my Instagram account and Insta-stories. Also let me know if you are on Instagram, so I can follow readers there insh’Allah.

Eid ul Fitr 2020:1441 – Day One Cakes, Sweets and Chocs

We have such a set pattern for our Eids: I cook in the morning, we get ready, we go to my mums for lunch, the whole family gather. We eat mum’s beautiful food, we joke and laugh, we exchange gifts and spent the afternoon taking photos, mostly of the gaggle of cheeky little girls we have between us.  I invite everyone over for dinner, sometimes my uncle will invite us all over for a barbecue in the evening.

This year, we decided to celebrate in our own homes and not meet. I decided it was a one off insh’Allah and we should make the most of it.

I woke in the morning to find my husband had made himself sevaiyan (vermicelli in milk and sugar) for breakfast. I think he must have used all the butter in the house 😊


I made simple cupcakes for breakfast and set them out with some other treats:



Then it was time for the serious cooking. I made lamb pilau for the first time. My mum makes this every Eid and it tastes amazing, so I followed he instructions (clearly I didn’t defrost the meat, I had washed and frozen it, so just chucked it in).




It turned out really nice (recipe to follow insh’Allah). 


My neighbour is an amazing cook and usually sends over her special breakfast on Eid morning, this year was no exception. Halwa, puri and channay:


The kids asked me to make them mojito moktail, or “mum’s lemonade” as they call it.
Lemon slices, lime slices, fresh mint leaves, fizzy lemonade type drink (we used R Whites lemonade,  but 7 Up, Sprite or similar should do the trick). I add Ice cubes not too long before serving, so they don’t melt and completely make it flat.






The girls wore dresses my mum bought them last year. I was grateful I didn’t have to shop. All of our clothes were either gifts or I had bought them earlier in the year and put them away. The only one who bought a new dress was my oldest, who managed to find a shop open and picked something pretty (they were all shut again the next day after the Council told them off for opening, so we got lucky).








Once everyone was dressed up, we had lunch, which went down well alhamdulillah. I think I may have asked everyone more than once how the pilau was 😊








I was a little sad that we would not be seeing our family, and was thinking to see my mum from her front garden later I the day. As it turned out, quite a few of the family came by one by one and dropped off gifts and sweets and stayed for a chat at the end of our front garden alhamdulillah.




Chocs from @everyphototunity, I can’t tell you how good these were. And it’ no good putting both of our names on, because I’m not sharing!


Kheer (rice pudding), mithai (Indian sweets) and Eid money from my mum:


Darling made me this colouring book and a rosette with a sweet inside:


More mithai and delicious cupcakes from my brother’s family – my little niece made the cakes for us herself.


My neighbour gave Baby these sweets, which I have since confiscated and hidden – the child is hyper and bounces off every surface even without the sugar


This was at the bottom of the gift bag wrapped in tissue paper and I assumed it was a balloon weight. Thankfully I double checked and opened it. I really like this and think it’s so thoughtful. It also keeps your drink warm for up to three hours, I take so long to drink my coffee that’s it cold long before I finish, so that’s a handy feature.


These came in the post, but were from @curlyfries, they are amazing. Again, I doubt any sharing will be going on.


My neighbour’s daughter sent over milk cake, brownies and cookies:


I also unpacked my gift to myself – a new clever fox planner. Review to follow and also how I chose this over some other options. But safe to say, very happy with this 


I loved Darling’s card to me – it clearly sets out all the things that mean Eid for her.



It was all too much and our bodies are still in Ramadan routine, so we were all taking naps in the afternoon. This one is very trusting, leaving all his Eid money lying around…


I asked the kids a few days earlier how we could make this Eid special even if we couldn’t see family, they said by ordering dessert.  So we did. They all wanted cookie dough.





I asked the kids a few days earlier how we could make this Eid special even if we couldn’t see family, they said by ordering dessert.  So we did. They all wanted cookie dough.

For the latest updates and stories (including what we got up to during Eid and what we have been cooking) please do follow me on my Instagram account and Insta-stories.