Nothing better than a lovely bowl of soup to warm the soul on a chilly evening.
This was yet another culinary experiment. With a bit of help from google on how to make a soup out of my family’s standard dhal recipe, it was easy-peasy. Think of a cross between dhal and vegetable soup.
And best part, the four “guinea- pigs” who had the dhal soup for dinner, said it was tasty! Yay!
A couple of weeks ago I moved out of my on-campus studio room and in with my office-mate, Ayu, from Indonesia. *Damn yearly contracts!*
Ayu’s 80-something year old dad has been visiting Canberra for the past month. Ever so often Eyang (“Grandpa” in Javanese) would have a look of disbelief when he sees me having oats and fruit in the morning and other veggie stuff for dinner. “Is that enough? Are you sure you are not hungry???”
There’s also a look of curiosity when I’m cooking, and I’ve always been more than happy to serve some of my flexitarian meals to Eyang… All very new and “strange” to his tastebuds.
He seemed to really like my vegetarian Chinese style crispy noodles (first time I cooked it for at least 3 people!) and had seconds.
Today, he seemed enthralled with the aroma of dhal that I was cooking — i.e. the smell of dried chilli, garlic and bit of butter tossed in a pan before adding it to the boiling lentils.
I think I’m getting better at this. Definitely upping those domestic skills. And if I don’t survive PhD, at least I know I’ve earned brownie points on the marriage meter! Haha!
The power of the pot will prevail.
Anyway, here’s wishing one and all a prosperous Year of the Snake. GONG XI FA CAI!!
So I felt like I wanted to jazz up my usual breakfast oatmeal. I’ve been a bit experimental these days in trying to use existing food items in my pantry. One of those items is cocoa powder. So I typed in cocoa powder and oats in google and stumbled on several web pages on Chocolate Oatmeal, such as this one and this one.
The recipes tend to include banana as one of the ingredients. I guess that’s understandable to sweeten the neutralise the bitter cocoa powder taste. No bananas in my kitchen, but I have dates and honey! Milk gives a creamier texture to the oatmeal, but personally I find it fine with water, especially after its been cooking on the stove for a while.
So in short …
1) Mix 1/2 cup rolled Oats + 1/2 to 2/3 cups water + 1/2 tsp cocoa powder + couple of dates (chopped or just break them up with your fingers) and cook them on the stove until oats have absorb most of the water (consistency totally up to you).
2) Place in your usual breakfast bowl, topped with your favourite berries and a slight drizzle of honey
3) [Optional] Take a picture of it and post it on Facebook/Twitter/Wordpress/Instagram/Path/Tumblr/etc…
An afterthought… how about using Milo as a substitute for the cocoa powder and dates? Hmmm…..
A sample of quick and nutritious post-graduate student meals.
Breakfast (top left): Oats with soy milk, kiwi, blueberries and a dash of honey. I tried substituting the soy milk and honey with hazelnut milk and dates today, and it was just as awesome.
Lunch (top right): Idiot-proof savoury oats (i.e. Oats + olive oil + salt + cracked pepper) under a layer of veggies of your choice (in this case, asparagus, broccolini and tomato tossed with some olive oil and black pepper), topped with a poached egg and chilli cheddar cheese.
Dinner (bottom): Stir-fry soba noodles with veggies of your choice, garlic, onions, soy sauce and pepper/chilli.
Me: “I’m having a Green Iftar on National Day, and you’re welcome to come. We’ll be breaking our fast with all things vegetarian.”
Cousin:”Huh?! Where’s the meat? No meat, sure pengsan (faint), lah!”
Well, no we didn’t pengsan.
I’m glad that I finally got a chance to do a little green iftar with a few environmentalists on Singapore’s 47th Birthday. While it was just a small group of girls (the boys couldn’t make it!), it was perfect way of testing out a new initiative with some heart-to-heart conversations on various topics related to the environment, as well as our faiths and cultures.
But… Why a Green Iftar?
1) Less consumption, more health
Simply put: To walk the sustainability talk.
Similar to other efforts by Green Muslims worldwide, we incoporated sustainable practices in our iftar. In a bid to reduce waste and carbon footprint, no disposable utensils were used during the event, and guests were encouraged to bring spare tupperwares to take home any leftovers. We even opted for using the fans instead of the air-con!
To make our iftar more personal and meaningful, each person was to bring a vegetarian dish to share. It was wonderful to have home-made nutritious dishes (some of which took quite a bit of effort) and just gain a greater appreciation for vegetarian food.
From vegetarian bee hoon and pasta to baked tomatoes stuff with quinoa and capsicum, wonderful salads and dips (including home grown ingredients like mint and bluepea) topped off with pound cake, homebaked cookies, fruits, juices and lemongrass tea. It was all deeeeelish!!! 😀
2) Green Chit-Chat
One of the main aims of the green iftar was also for environmentalists to have a chance to get together and share their thoughts and experiences on various issues related to the environment. Topics of discussion included challenges in engaging sections of society to be more environmentally conscious, encouraging environmental conscious behaviour via highlighting the significant benefits to one’s health, ways of improving the connections between various stakeholders, the humane treatment of animals as part of food choices, the importance of environmental issues in intercultural exchange, and various tools/methods to enhance the sharing of experiences.
3) Enhancing inter-faith dialogue
What I found to be the best aspect of the green iftar, was the ability to use an environmental initiative for the benefit of other social and cultural exchanges. While my initial thoughts of invitees were to be Muslims, I chose to extend the invitation to non-Muslims as well. No man is an island, and the environmental movement is clearly a reflection of that. In addition to non-Muslim guests gaining greater insight to Islam and the diversity amongst Muslims, the green chit-chat was certainly enhanced with a discussion on the cultural aspects and values associated with the environment based on our own ethnic backgrounds. Common threads such as food and water have played significant roles in bringing communities together as well as a means of understanding and appreciating how nature works.
It was agreed that such spaces for sharing such environmental as well as cultural values and practices would be a way of transcending differences and a means of facilitating greater collaboration. With events such as Diwali, Eid al Adha and Navratri coming up in the next few month, it would be a chance to have yet another similar gathering. Yay! 😀
OK… Then what?
While the Green Iftar was a lovely experience, there are perhaps two factors that make it difficult to translate environmental (or any other) activities into something bigger. One comment was that the energy and enthusiasm created in environmental events tends to die off after a while, for the fact that people are sucked back into their “normal” life. Another comment was because society prefers to remain passive and would only latch on to an initiative if there’s a “leader” spearheading it. While this may be to extent true, I’d like to have some hope that there are some people in society that care enough and are willing to experiment on their own.
Leading people is good, but empowering people to be leaders in their own right would be so much better. Moreover, for initiatives that encourage personal behavioural change, you are ultimately your own leader. Taking the effort to have a green iftar with one’s own family and friends outside environmental circles, for instance, will be a challenge but is ultimately the best chance of avoiding being ‘sucked’ back into the normality of careless consumption.
10-day Ramadan Challenge for fellow Muslim brothers and sisters:-
As we commit to more intensive spiritual reflection and rituals in commemoration of Lailatul Qadr in the last 10 days of Ramadan, let’s also make a conscious effort to reinforce one of the main reasons of why we are fasting. To put ourselves in the position of those who have so much less than us. To put ourselves in the position of those that can’t afford meat, let alone enjoy a decent meal.
Several Muslims have demonstrated that it is possible to adopt healthier and greener iftars, if we put our minds to it. Do try to take the effort to reduce your meat intake during this tail end of Ramadan, which just means making a conscious decision of what you want to eat. Encourage family members, such as mothers, to cook vegetarian recipes that are nutritious but also filling. For Muslims in Southeast Asia, think sayur asam rebus, sambal tempeh/telur, kacang pool, or even a banana shake! It would also be much easier to have vegetarian meals at this point, given the fact that many of us would already naturally have a smaller appetite after fasting for the past 20 days. If you must, then limit white meat intake to a couple of days a week. More importantly, do share the experience and beauty of Ramadan to your non-Muslim friends.
Still can’t get over just having veggies for iftar and sahur? Well think about it, at least you know it’s been worth it while you’re busy stuffing yourself on Eid! 😉
It was a quite tiring day for me. When I came home, I had no idea what to cook and was not really motivated to even cook something. Am I reading your mind? Here’s the solution: Don’t cook. Make some awesomely filled avocados instead.
Probably one of the reasons why people have never tried to go vegetarian is due to the perception that most dishes in our typical Singaporean lifestyle contains meat. “Oh my nasi lemak, mee goreng, char kway teow, murtabak and prata, wanton noodles, beef rendang, etc etc…” Possibly true… but there are those unsung heros.
Behold! Fruit rojak and soon kueh! The former would be a sort of Southeast Asian salad, I suppose – both ideal as a snack but also a fairly filling appetizer. Ok so maybe soon kueh might have traces of prawn… but its generally a turnip filling. Great for Flexitarians 🙂