Sunday, 30 March 2014

Another Gem From Mum's Kitchen

When Mum and I make a pact on something, we usually tend to achieve it, Alhamdhulilah.
Today, we wanted to finish cooking lunch by a time way before we do on most Sundays.

And from this, I realised that what I thought to be a difficult, time consuming dish is actually not that challenging after all.

So, here's sharing a simple, and tasty dish to savour with your loved ones.

She had planned to make Nasi Lemak, a local rice dish cooked in coconut milk and accompanied of sides of your choice. (I am not going to where this dish originated from and all that, simply because I am not thoroughly sure.)

The sides in our house is usually plain omelette with fried fish (only this particular type) or fried chicken.

I have deliberately made the focus on the sambal because I believe that is the main component that will make or break the meal.

Getting It Done
The Sambal
1. Fry some ikan bilis (anchovies) and keep aside first.
2. Grind 2 onions and 3-4 garlic pieces together. (Do not add water when grinding.)
3. Saute oil with ground mixture, a piece of belachan *(shrimp paste - this IS the main ingredient) and add 8-10 tbsps of chilli paste. Add salt to taste.
4. Stir well, and add 5-6 tbsps of sugar. Leave the mixture to simmer in low heat for about 15 minutes.
5. Add in the fried anchovies and you are done.

The Coconut Rice
1. Extract 4.5 cups of coconut milk and leave it to boil with salt.
2. Add 2-3 pandan leaves into the water.
3. Once boiling, add in 3 cups of washed basmati briyani rice and let it cook.

Mum and I decided to share our recipes to share the joy of cooking with others. If you see something you like in our blog, go ahead and try for your loved ones. No obligations to share with us if it turns out well. But do keep us in your duas.

JazakAllah Khair.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Remembering Sara...

Source: Internet
I have been wanting to write about her ever since 8 March - the day we started celebrating International Women's Day.

There have been stories of powerful, compassionate and strong women featured all over newspapers, including a series of stories of women in my organisation that I had proposed in our publication.

Sara was one such woman I had met in my life.

I used to give tuition to children to earn some extra income to manage my university expenses till I graduated. Most of these kids lived around our area; so they would come home for lessons. As such, one of these kids told me that her tenant was keen in taking up English lessons from me. I was apprehensive at first; given her age and I was not sure if I could be of much help to her. That child came back the next few days and said that the new 'student' was really interested and would love a chance to meet me at least once.

I agreed. And that was the first time I met Sara. She was at our door with a notebook, looking very demure and sweet, in a long skirt and blouse. I had arranged specially for her session as I needed to find out how I could help her.

Sara, short for her full name, was working in the hospitality industry and she was from just across the Causeway. She probably just finished secondary school as her family situation drove her to take on a job shortly after. She was very close to her father, she shared; but Sara had lost both her parents. She had elder brothers back home, whom she would visit every now and then.

She was my age. Right from our first meeting, we cliqued. After day one, we were like friends who had known each other for many years; we could chat about everything. She was always bubbly and easily got along well with Mum and Dad too. 

We had a different childhood, different education, practised different religions (spoke the same language though), yet had so much to talk about. She would insist on addressing me the way my other family members would and I had no issues with that at all. Our first tuition session was in our living room, as with all other children. But with Sara, I didn't feel she was just another 'student'. From the second session, we held our learning sessions in my room, where our friendship grew. Alhamdhulilah.

She came to me with the intention to learn to speak and write English. She was doing fine with simple conversations at that time, but wanted to learn more to be able to take on a course, get a better job, upgrade and do better in life. This wonderful friend also had plans for marriage.

She had earlier attended courses at some centres but told me that they were too advanced for her and didn't really help her a lot. I tried my best to help her. Teaching Sara was really meaningful. She would say, ''Don't talk to me in Tamil during lessons, please. Speak in English. I really want to learn, improve and get better". Masha-Allah.

For these sessions that I had with my friend, she would diligently hand me my 'fees' every month. I would refuse but she still forced them into my hands or left them in between pages of my books on the table we we held our sessions. When I returned them to her when we next met, she would do an 'emotional blackmail' on me, saying she would not come for lessons anymore if I refused the fees.

She wasn't earning very much, from which she had to pay her rentals, manage transport and personal expenses for clothes, etc, send money to her family back home and still insisted on giving me some for teaching her.

This is what my friend was about.

She appreciated every minute that life had to offer her. She had good dress sense, definitely much better than mine. She was always smiling and had positive energy around her all the time. Whenever I found time to try out an elaborate dish or two, and when I knew Sara was off work, I would buzz her. She would readily come over too and be a genuine food critic, always full of constructive comments. Sara and I had planned to go out shopping sprees, but we didn't make it happen though, because she worked shifts and I was juggling my school classes with tuition sessions.

She was a person who could forgive. It didn't matter how much the  extent of pain the people in her life could have inflicted her with. She would cry over it, but still pick herself up, telling me that it was HIS will that it happened. And move on. I have seen her forgive them completely, and even think of their welfare, on ways to help them at times. Oh Sara...

Thinking of it, I do not even have a photograph of her. Back then, not all phones came with cameras. And both of us did not have such high-tech phones. Nevertheless, I remember my friend vividly.

Sara wanted to learn how to make chappathis. Very much. She would repeatedly tell Mum to teach her. Mum is always open to sharing her recipes and told her she could teach anytime Sara was able to make time to learn. But that never happened too.

We lost contact after she moved out from my student's flat. After many years, I saw Sara at a bus-stop while I was son the bus. We recognised each other at once and waved. She looked different, and had put on some weight and had become a little darker. She had fairer complexion before.

And that was the last time I saw her. After my marriage, I have mentioned about this friend of mine to AZ several times. I would recount everything on this post and more that I shared with her.  There are moments we laughed together, and at a time or two, cried together. I used to often tell AZ I really wished to bump into her somewhere, sometime.

Just a few months back, I met the student who introduced Sara to me. They have since moved to a different neighbourhood, it seems. She is now all grown up now, and it took a while for me to recognise her, while was was quick to say hello.

After exchanging greetings and enquiring about our family members and how she was doing with her studies, I asked about Sara. In complete hope of hearing she was married, with lots of kids as she always wanted or at least, landed in a better job. I wanted to hear she was happy with her life.

But what I heard was something I wished I had never known. My student told me she passed away the year before. My heart sank. Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilahi Rajioon.

At the time of passing, Sara was 29. She was battling with breast cancer, something that she discovered only at stage 4. Her treatments had made her put on weight and darkened her complexion, as  according to my student.

Even during her last few months, my student told me she had stayed with her family, and was always trying to be positive about herself. She wanted to be happy; my student's family kept her in good spirits, with her younger siblings attempting to make her laugh with their humour sense.

Unfortunately, my dear friend did not make it. She passed away back in her hometown. This news affected me in many ways. Sara was an aspiring young woman, who had many beautiful dreams. She never let her childhood, or lack of opportunities keep her spirits low. She was always chasing her dreams.

She had much less than me and many other girls of her age, and never complained and never liked anyone looking at her with pity. So much passion towards life, she had.

Every new day is a blessing from Allah (S.W.T) and everything that HE has given us is PLANNED by our Creator. SubhanAllah.

All of us should treasure every moment of ours in this Dunya, and invest those moments in preparing for Akhira.

Source: Internet

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Cooking With Our Hearts... And An Experiment

I enjoy cooking a lot, especially if the kitchen is mine for the day. Because whenever Mum is around in the kitchen watching me cook, she LOVES to contribute. Well, like adding two more spoons of her own masalas, or her own spices, or everything that she associates with the dish that she knows will make it better.

In my Mother’s eyes, till today, none of my dishes are perfect, that is, never with the correct amount of salt, chilli powder or masalas. Or my rice couls have cooked better or for a shorter time. (although the rest of us eating the meals will find everything in place) But aren’t all Mothers always hoping their daughters cook just like they do?

Many times when I am preparing meals for guests, or even my own family members, I tend to be worried if I am cooking enough for all of them. For some reason, at the back of my mind, I would think there may not be enough for everyone. But I am so wrong. Astaghfirullah.

Our beloved Prophet (S.A.W) is quoted as saying on the virtue of sharing food: Food for one (person) suffices two, and food for two (persons) suffices four persons and food for four persons suffices eight persons. (Sahih Muslim)

SubhanAllah. And this is, of course, true. At all times when we have guests, expected or unexpected, there is always ample food for all of us, and even some leftovers for the next day.

I also feel it is about the right niyyah – to be able to feed as many with our cooking. Starting with Bismillah and remembering HIM always.

Lately, AZ has encouraged me to listen to verses of the Quran as I do the cooking (looking at how anxious I can get when I realise I am taking a long time to complete my menu planned for the day, looking at hungry souls patiently waiting for meals.) More so because when I decide to cook for the day, I just can’t stop at two dishes. (This is exactly what Mum-in-Law does back home too.)

Alhamdhulilah, heeding AZ’s advice this time was really helpful. Albeit the same number of ambitious dishes I had set out to put on the table that day, I did just fine.

Considering that there was a new first-time dish and ghee rice (not something I make often), everything turned out well and more importantly, on time.

The ghee rice was nice. But the green chilli chicken curry was not what I expected. I picked it up from a food blog that I quite like. Mum said I should have ground the coconut for a longer time. That version I tried did not add coriander powder and cumin powder. I believe mutton and chicken curries are incomplete without them. So, I added my own proportions. We all felt it was a green variation of kurma, and still enjoyed it.

I don’t think I will make this again though, will try to perfect a ‘normal’ chicken curry with ghee rice next time, In-Sha-Allah.

Simple Recipe for Ghee Rice - A Gem From Mum's Kitchen
Get these ready:
3 cups of basmati briyani rice
2 pieces of cinnamon
3/4 tbsp of ginger and garlic paste (ground together)
2/3 pieces of aniseed
6 tbsps of ghee
2 serai (cut)
2 onions
2 tomatoes
2 red chillies
Mint leaves (for garnishing)
Salt to taste.
2tbsp of rose water
2 tbsp of evaporated milk.

And get started:
1. Saute onions with ghee and spices.
2. Once the onions turn a nice, brown colour, add in water proportionately (1 cup of rice: 1.5 cups of water).
3. Let water boil and add in washed rice and salt. Also add in tomatoes and and red chillies, with rose water and evaporated milk. Leave to cook. And enjoy with loved ones, In-Shaa-Allah.

Oh, and by the way, I had also made fried chicken and brinjal pachadi to go with these. These both were my usuals, and Alhamdhulilah, turned out well.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Our Grandmas...

I was cleaning up in the kitchen after lunch today when Father remembered our late Great - Grandma in his conversation with Mum.

I had a bitter-sweet relationship with this woman of a kind. In my teenage years, we used to have a lot of petty arguments. It could be over anything and everything, and yet at the end of the day, we would always have made peace with each other.

Like most grandmums I think, she too had a soft spot for her great-grandson, my Brother. (like taking his side of the argument when he and I squabbled over everything that siblings would)
But that never stopped her for caring for me in the same way that she did for him.

She was the woman we would call first when we were down with a fever. (She used to stay sometimes at Father's paternal uncle - her son's - house. And look after his daughters after their childbirths, etc). And even if we didn't, she would call us up and check, telling us that she dreamt that we were unwell. And would come home to nurse us as soon as possible.
I still regret that I did not have the opportunity to care for her and nurse her in her last years on this dunya.

I remember talking to her just before she passed away - the last few times we spoke, we didn't exchange any words. We only heard each other crying.

She always dreamt a lot about people she loved. When here, she has recounted several dreams of her chickens and goats that she used to rear in India - and would worry about whether they were okay.

It is impossible that any post that I write does justice for the care and love she showered on us. I miss everything about her. She had dark complexion and was very tall. She was always chewing on betel leaves, something that all of us discouraged but she never heeded our advice.

The one thing handy in the simple bags she carried was always a big bottle of medicated oil.  She didn't go anywhere without them. And this has rubbed off onto me too now.

She was one independant woman. She would take cabs all on her own (most woman her age are not able to manage that). She kept the two addresses - ours and her son's - in her purse and would just show it to the cab drivers.

Her favourite dishes were rasam and fried dried fish (sometimes she made the dried fish into a spicy sambal), and she cooked them the best too. I have not tasted anything that comes close to the way she made them.

She left to spend her remaining days in India when I was in my first year of university. I wish I could turn back the clock and be in that time space to be the decision-maker now. I would have never let her leave.

Relatives in India would write letters on her narration and we would too. We would call often too. One phonecall she made will always be unforgettable. The day after tsunami, she called home even before we could. She had heard the news that the waves had struck some parts of Malaysia and got worried about us here. This is what her love is about.

I still keep the ornamental piece she bought for our house safely. And also a black and white top she bought for me years back. I also keep some of her shawls, blouses and sarongs.

I tell AZ always that she would have showered lots of love on him too. And he recalls similar memories of his own grandmothers back home- both maternal and paternal. These two women also loved and cared for him with all their hearts.  He has been the apple of their eyes. In years their memories were fading as they aged, they both remembered him clearly and treated, recognised and loved him all the same.

Like me, he too did not have the opportunity to be at their sides at their last moments. Whenever we both talk about this, tears never fail to well up in our eyes and hearts.

The best thing we can do for them now is to make lots of duas that Allah (S.W.T) forgives them and gives them a place in Jannatul Firdaus. Ameen.

Source: Internet

Sunday, 23 March 2014

My Moments Before Prayer...

We had several restructuring exercises in our company last year. The culmination of the exercise brought my team back to be based at our headquarters, Alhamdhulilah.

There have been many other reasons that made all of us welcome this move. For me too.
Back to the office in the middle of the city (which comes with accessibility of public transport and a string of other perks). Better work directions. More diversified roles. Bigger team with dynamic work ethics. Oh yes, and a new office space with a view to a beautiful and green and 'private' balcony. 'Private' because not many folks in our organisation crash in. So this space that now is 'dedicated' to us makes a quiet, peaceful place for lunch-ins, doing phone interviews and some colleagues in my team also bring out their laptops  to write when the office gets sometimes noisy or when they just feel like doing so. Alhamdhulilah.

Beyond all these things that only became known to us after we moved, my heart jumped for joy when we heard we were moving back to the headquarters for one main reason. The gym.

No, I do not use the gym for exercise. I use it for my Zuhr and Asar prayers. Sometimes, when I have to work late, Maghrib prayers too.

I have a former colleague, Sister SB, who has now married and moved to London, to thank for sharing with me that other Muslim sisters in our organisation use the gym for their prayers, when I first joined on my job. May Allah (S.W.T) reward her abundantly. Ameen.

The gym we have is cosy and spacious. There is a room which houses a billiard table, and a few comfortable  chairs. It also becomes a 'Mummy's Room' whenever necessary. And we too use it for our prayers.

And on times when the room is locked, there is a huge multi-purpose hall where yoga and aerobics sessions are held, that we also pray at. Albeit an open area, it can still be as peaceful at non-peak exercise hours, like half-hour later than the usual lunch hours. Colleagues who walk in talking at loud voices will reduce their volume once they spot us performing our prayers.

Above all, what I have grown to appreciate most now about the gym are the shower facilities. For the ease of taking wudhu.

And I have my reasons. We had moved to a new office in the middle of the last year. The biggest hindrance I faced there was taking wudhu. Like most washrooms in office buildings, there were wash basins which allowed for washing up.

After becoming more and aware of making the floor wet, I tried my best to prevent the floor from becoming wet. Even then, there were some other ladies who walked in and stare at me and make remarks on the water on the floor. From these instances, I used to take my wudhu in a very rushed manner (literally with my heart beating very quickly) so that I could walk out before any other women walked in.

I made lots of duas and asked Allah (S.W.T) to make this easy for me. SubhanAllah, HE answered my prayers. We moved to HQ. With all the good things that this move brought, I appreciated the move most for being able to make wudhu with peace and pray in the gym. Alhamdhulilah.

Now, when I make wudhu, I remember my times at the old office, and reduce the water that flows out from the shower tap and try my best to save water. I pray Allah (S.W.T) rewards other Muslim brothers and sisters who have to pray amidst conditions similar to that in my old office and more difficult ones.

Talking about spaces for performing prayer, would like to share on an experience I had when I was invited to attend a press luncheon at Furama Riverfront. I was unusually early that day as I did not have to report to office earlier that morning. Hence, I took some time to head to the lobby to wait for my editor to arrive when I spotted a sign that read 'Muslim Prayer Room' (if I remember correctly). I walked in and what I saw really made my day! It was a complete prayer room - with a Quran, some perfume bottles as it is Sunnah to apply some fragrance before praying,  two prayer mats, a few sets of telokong and even an ablution area. All these were in that small area! Masha-Allah.

I felt so at peace in this space. It was early for Zuhr, yet I didn't have the heart to leave without praying. I made ablution and offered two voluntary rakats of prayer. I picked up the Quran and read a few of the short suras, and made duas for all the people who made the room possible.

I snapped some photos and sent them to AZ, sharing my joy, and he was equally thrilled. After the press briefing at lunch, I promptly came back and did my Zuhr prayers before heading to office. Alhamdhulilah.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Every Water Drop Is Precious...

Now that we get showers regularly, Alhamdulilah, the dry spell and the rain it did not bring us, also brought with it some good lessons... the importance of saving water.

While there were spurts of national initiatives to remind us on saving water, I thought it will be a good time to share on the responsibility that we as Muslims have in saving water. For me, I know I can go a long way more in being more conscious about how I use water. Alhamdhulilah for the blessings of Allah (S.W.T) for us living in this country - that drinkable water is just at the turn of the tap.

Here I some ways that we try to save water in our home (in fact for everyone else, these are auto-mode actions while I need the reminders! So by writing down and sharing, this is another form of reminder to me.)

  •  Turning off the tap while scrubbing dishes with soap when washing dishes

Something so simple like this as yet Mum and Brother, in fact, Father and AZ, too have to tell me when I don't.

  •  Using the water that rice was washed in to water our plants

Our plants basically do not require so much water but using this water brings the 'nutrients' from the rice to them. Our late great grandma used to say this.

  • Adapting to the aerator that was fixed to our kitchen tap by the public utilities agency here.

Aerators are small fittings that are screwed to the tip of the tap which ensure less water is consumed in every household. They had them fixed and I remember telling Father to ask the technician if we could request to opt out. The technician gave a point blank, No. Of course it was inconvenient at first, because we wash vegetables, meat, fruits and many other stuff under that water from that tap.
But as Father always says, 'We had to queue for water with water rationing in the kampongs those days'. Then, I better be happy with what I have now. Alhamdhulilah.
So now, I have learnt to live with that much water from that tap and everything still goes on.

  •  Additional water that we may end up with, like when filling up water for the water flask, water in utensils that we leave on top  of the pots when cooking rice varieties in big quantities, we use them to fill into our washing machine.

My first impulse is always to pour out the water into the sink. Astaghfirullah. Mum chides me a lot when she sees this. Among us, she really takes a lot of care in recycling and reusing things whenever possible. And at many times, Father and I will have to argue with her to convince her to discard items we perceive as 'old and unusable'. But somehow, she always wins the battle and will think of ways to use that particular item or give away to someone she knows. Just like mum-in-law! AZ says she packs items of all sorts (that sis-in-law and father-in-law coax her to put away) for giving to our folks in India. Her favourite line is, "We may not have any use for this but they may."
These two women in our lives are amazing, for the simple fact that they are Mothers.

  • When taking Wudhu (making ablution for prayers)

In Islam, Allah (S.W.T) has taught us the way of living through our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) and the Quran.
There are precise teachings on every deed we do, Masha-Allah, and we are accountable for our action.
The same with wudhu.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Do not waste water, even if you perform your ablution on the banks of an abundantly-flowing river.” [Ibn Majah], and he (pbuh) used to make ablution with one madd of water. [Bukhari and Muslim]

madd was a measurement used in those days. Madd literally means to stretch, and the measurement was called a madd because food sellers would fill both their hands with food and the person selling would stretch their hands out to the buyer with that measurement. So imagine that the Prophet (pbuh) would perform wudhu with that amount of water!

Source: Internet

Sunday, 16 March 2014

HE Shows Us Mercy Again!

Alhamdhulilah. The air today morning carried an earthy, natural fragrance again. This time stronger, fresher, sweeter.

Thank you, my Rabb, for your mercy through this blessing. I do not remember feeling inconvenienced when it rained, but will remind myself never to harbour such thoughts.

I remember anticipating rain on 31st January, as was forecasted, as I was on my way home after covering an event. But only Allah (S.W.T) knows best. It's been exactly a month and a half since we saw and felt rain. Something which we on this land take for granted. AZ has always told me that we are really blessed here to have rain and sunshine at all times.

Back home in India and in Jubail where AZ is from, he says the weather patterns can be extreme. Once again, this is a reminder for me to appreciate what we have here on this land.

Thank you so much, Ya Rabb.

Source: Internet

Today, the look of the trees from our windows was too irresistible to ignore a click on the phone. Here's how they smiled at us. 

Every minute thing on this earth and beyond is Allah's creations. I have read that there are 700 verses in the Quran that strongly encourage believers to reflect on nature.

One such verse in The Quran states: "And it is He who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm and (flowing) rivers; and fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two and two; He draweth the night as a veil over the Day. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who consider." (13:3) 

Showers Of Blessings!

It rained today! Alhamdhulilah.

It was really heartwarming to see rain falling after so many, many days. Mum and I were in the kitchen making lunch, and the moment we heard raindrops, we both cheered. AZ and Brother joined us in rejoicing very shortly after.

Albeit a brief shower it was, it was still sweet. Looking out of our windows, the flowers and leaves on the trees closest to us really seemed to be smiling. While half my mind prompted me to get a shot on my phone, the other half was therapeutic - it just told me to enjoy the moment. And I did.

And the smell of rain in the air was equally refreshing too.

Rain. In Islam, nature has a beautiful place. In fact, everything is beautiful about Islam. The hadith - teachings and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) - bring us some moving knowledge on rain. Just do a search on the Internet and there's an abundance of Islamic literature of what rain means for us. Masha-Allah.

For me, the first thing that comes to mind when it rains is to make lots of duas. It is narrated that Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) has said that among other times, the time of rain is also one when our duas will be accepted. Beautiful, isn't it?

Source: Internet

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Bismillah, In The Name Of Allah (S.W.T)

Assalamua'alaikum Warahmathulahi Wabarakathuhu,

May peace be upon you.

Writing has always been something that I love. A lot. I guess when you love books, reading, and books, the other love just tags along.

Maybe that is why Allah (S.W.T) has blessed with a career that is just that. Writing. Alhamdhulilah.

This blog is now in this space after much reflection and conversations, with Allah (S.W.T), myself and my dear husband.

And I do have some reasons. These are times when you turn to the Internet for a lot of answers, and with them, learning points. Of course, nothing beats searching for answers from people we know, we respect and trust. But they may not have all the answers. Nobody has, anyway.

Ever since I started reading blogs by other sisters, I have learnt so much useful, interesting and thought-provoking matters on Islam, as well as other stuff that will interest most women - raising kids; and yes, not forgetting tips for the home (especially the kitchen).

And there is also something really sweet about recording memories; be it in photos, journals, diaries, or anywhere else that makes the heart and soul happy.

I am not exactly a person who likes taking photos. But this is one of the things that my husband (whom I shall refer to as AZ from here) has changed about me. We really love photobooks now and also have a journal offline so that our children, In-Sha-Allah, will have a window into our lives before they came into this world. We hope to bind them into books every year. After all, a book will always be a book. There is no substitute for holding a book, flipping the pages, taking in that scent and feeling it. Literally.

So why this blog then?

In-Sha-Allah, this space will enable me to pen my journey as I yearn and learn to become a better Muslimah.

 I hope to share positivity, and save the 'low' moments for our personal journal.

I am still learning and can never assume the responsibility of the dawah that other sisters' whose blogs I have benefitted from, Subhanallah. May Allah (S.W.T) reward them abundantly. Ameen.
Source: Internet