Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eating halal in Turkey

As Salam Aleykum

Sultan Ahmet Masjid ( Blue Mosque) Istanbul, Turkey

On the authority of Abu 'Abdullah al-Nu'man bin Bashir, radiyallahu 'anhu, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, say:

"Truly, what is lawful is evident, and what is unlawful is evident, and in between the two are matters which are doubtful which many people do not know. He who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and honour blameless, and he who indulges in doubtful things indulges in fact in unlawful things, just as a shepherd who pastures his flock round a preserve will soon pasture them in it. Beware, every king has a preserve, and the things Allah has declared unlawful are His preserves. Beware, in the body there is a flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart."

[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

We have just made it back from a trip visiting Turkey. The two cities we vistited were Ankara, the capital and Istanbul.  We made it just before their peak travel time but it was still relatively busy for the beginning of June. It was our first time there and it was such a beautiful trip full of modern culture mixed with rich Islamic history; just simply amazing sights masha'Allah. 

Eating out was an food lovers dream. There were such an array of different flavors and restaurants to cater to any one who wants a traditional Turkish cuisine experience. The sweets and bakery shops were simply amazing and the traditional Turkish baklava and Turkish delights were in every window.

What struck me the hardest though was the struggle with eating halal food. I mistakenly made the assumption that since we were traveling to Turkey that we would have no problem eating halal food.  But just a little history research before I embarked on our trip led me to understand the struggles the Turkish muslims have been through this past decade and how they are slowly renewing the Muslim identity .

 Although Turkey has a Muslim population of 99.8% it is actually a secular based government based from the Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Ataturk) regime and therefore made it extremely difficult to enforce compliance with halal certification of all food. Hence it is up to the individual to verify if the food they are consuming is in fact halal.  Insha'Allah reform is being made slowly and  emergence of halal governing bodies such as
 Gimdes and they have relative information regarding halal food guidelines in Turkey. Actually this Research Institute is hosting the 5th International Halal Council Conference in Istanbul which shows the growing concern for finding solutions to the development of trading halal and healthy food.

  One must ensure the halal food is in fact halal by asking questions since this is what is mandatory for us as muslims alhamdulillah. Insha'Allah Turkey can once again become a center for Islamic discourse and  renewal. In fact while we were there my husband had the honor of attending and chairing at the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) and KOSGEB workshop "Enhancing the Competitiveness of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in the Member States" masha'Allah. These small steps are all leading in the right direction.  These obstacles can and will be overcome if we all use our voices and speak up. You should feel strongly about providing your family with halal food and be proud when supporting muslim businesses that feel the same.

So based on our dining out experiences I can give the following recomendations:

Istanbul- Most restaurants in Istanbul were assuring that their food was halal, but then again most sit down restaurants also had a bar serving alcohol.  Avoiding these scenes with children was a bit of an obstacle but alhamdulillah our kids are not old enough yet to know what 'alchohol' is but I tried my best to not support these businesses that serve alcohol. The best course of action is to always ask and if you still feel uncertain then order vegetarian or seafood.

Ankara- Well I seen some butcher shops carrying pork products such as sausage and ham in butcher shops in Ankara, I would have to say that Istanbul was more of a  tourist hotspot and therefore catered to the needs of the many muslim tourist by using halal meat.  Even the hotel in Ankara that we stayed in served pork bacon on their breakfast menu. So the possibility of cross contamination is very likely and is a choice I wasn't willing to take.  All in all I felt Ankara to be more of a difficulty in choosing halal meals. Needless to say we bought alot of fresh fruits and packaged foods and I prepared most of food myself.

Allah (Most Exalted is He), Who created us and gave us sustenance, has also given us guidance. He said:

"Verily We have created man into toil and struggle… Have We not made for him a pair of eyes; and a tongue, and a pair of lips; and shown him the two ways (obedience and disobedience)?"
(Qur'an, Al-Balad 90:4-10)

May we all seek the truth and what is halal for us in this life 
and never cease in seeking knowledge. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Baked Hamour on a bed of Basmatti and Vermicelli

Baked Hamour with Fragrant Basmatti Rice and Vermicelli served with Spicy Red Sauce and Salad

At our home, we have been cooking fish or seafood every Friday for quite some time now.  My husband will go to Salat Al Jumu'ah and I will prepare ga'ada (lunch). This past Friday was special because it was our first lunch in our new home. :-) This is why I chose one of our favorite meals.

Hamour is a Kuwaiti-favorite and of course we have to have it at least twice a month if not more. It is an excellent tasting fish with nice flavour ( not too fishy) that is low in sodium and fat and perfect for those on diets. It is high in protein and of course a good source of Omega 3 Fatty Acid. It is a Grouper fish and very popular here in the Gulf. Even McDonald's carry Hamour sandwitches on their menu. (Not to say at all that I am telling you to go there try Hamour).tsk tsk.

Serve with basmatti rice, maragh harr (spicy red sauce) and salata (simple salad). The combination of flavors is sure to be a hit.

Try this recipe this Friday, I am sure you will love it.


Serves 2-3


For the Fish:
  • 1 Hamour fish fillet  
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed and finely chopped )
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fish spice ( recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Place garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and fish spice in bowl and mix until combined.
  3. Coat both sides of fish with mixture.
  4. Fry on medium-high in olive oil until browned on both sides. (Approxiatmately 4 minutes on each side)
  5. Place in casserole dish, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes to cook thoroughly.
Fish Spice:
     Combine all the following ingredients and process in spice grinder.
     1 tbsp cumin seeds, 1 tbs coriander seeds, 1 tsp mustard seeds, i loomi (black lemon), 1 dried chili pepper, 1 tsp. tumeric, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tbs rosemary.

     For the Rice:

    • 2 cups basmatti rice rinsed and soaked for 20 minutes
    • 3 cups vegetable stock
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/2 cup of she'reya (vermicelli cut in small 1 inch pieces)
    • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil for frying
    1. Bring vegetable stock to a boil. Meanwhile pan fry the she'reya in the sunflower oil until golden brown. 
    2. Add the she'reya and rice to the boiling vegetable stock along with the bay leaf.
    3. Boil for 5 minutes then turn heat on low. Cook rice for another 15 minutes or until tender.
    For the maragh harr (spicy red sauce):
    • 1 medium onion
    • 1 red chili pepper
    • 1/2 red bell pepper
    • 5 medium very ripe tomatoes
    • 3 garlic cloves 
    • 3/4 cup of water
    • sea salt and pepper to taste
    1. Place all ingredients in blender or food processor. 
    2. Blend until smooth and place in saucepan.
    3. Bring to boil the reduce to medium-low until it is thick and pulpy without any water remaining.

    For the salata (salad):
    • 1 english cucumber peeled 
    • 1 large tomato
    • pinch of fresh parsley
    • pich of fresh mint
    • juice of half lemon
    • pich of sumac
    • extra virgin olive oil
    • salt and pepper to taste
    1. Finely chop tomato and cucumber to fine small cubes. 
    2. Combine cucumbers and tomatoes with remaining ingredients.
    Place rice on a large serving dish  and top with the baked fish. Accompany the main dish with the maragh harr and salata. Add some more flavor and throw some lemon wedges, green onion, and arugula lettuce to top it all off.

    Now go and enjoy!

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    What Happens to Alcohol When Cooked

    I found this great website for Muslim sisters here. I stumbled upon this article and wanted to share with you all. May Allah SWT bless these sisters in their efforts.

    When we’re dining out and discover the recipe we’re dying to enjoy was prepared with alcohol, should we wave the concern away with the common understanding that “it burns off or evaporates from the heat?” I think we’d probably react differently to beer-battered shrimp than to teriyaki, although both traditionally employ significant amounts of alcohol.
     I wondered, though, what the purpose of cooking with alcohol was if none was left behind in the final dish. So I recently decided to find out whether the response I’d seen in some of my sisters was the right one. The right Google search found this chart, with data documented during a 1992 study by Augustin J, Augustin E, Cutrufelli RL, Hagen SR, Teitzel C., J Am Diet Assoc. 1992 Apr;92(4):486-8 for the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory. I think the numbers speak for themselves.

    Preparation Method
    Percent of Alcohol Retained
    alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat 85%
    alcohol flamed 75%
    no heat, stored overnight 70%
    baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%

    baked/simmered, alcohol stirred into mixture:
    15 minutes
    30 minutes
    1 hour
    1.5 hours
    2 hours
    2.5 hours
    Table 1 Credit: What’s Cooking America
     We are not held responsible for what we don’t know, of course. But remaining ignorant becomes worthy of blame in itself. If there’s no information about the ingredients in a dish in a restaurant (which is growing rarer every year in this health-, allergy-, and diet-conscious age), it’s a good idea to ask so we don’t inadvertently harm ourselves and our families, as Allah says, “Say: ‘In them (alcohol and gambling) is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit.’” (Baqarah: 219)

    World Halal Research Summit 2011

    The Overview of the Forum will be:


    The 4th World Halal Research Summit (WHR) 2011 from 6th – 7th April 2011 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre will feature conference, poster presentation, exhibition and research commercialization with the theme, Catalyst for Growth in the Halal Industry. The objective of WHR 2011 is to inspire innovation within the area of Halal Research by providing an international stage for intellectuals and researchers. WHR 2011 is an international research event which brings together scientists, researchers, scholars, academicians alike to discuss and exchange ideas on new research findings, emerging technologies, trends, issues and challenges in the global Halal industry.

    Through Halal Research and development findings, Malaysia is able to strengthen and achieve its vision as the global halal hub and is more able to assist as well as support formulation of fatwas, reinforce traceability and identify new potential for Halal in both products and processes. Through WHR, Malaysia will be recognized as the Centre for Halal Innovation and R&D Commercialization. In line with the effort to focus on a more holistic approach to develop a "halal eco-system" through research and development, HDC aims to move the industry forward and establish Malaysia as the leading Halal R&D Centre.

    This Summit will be a foundation to stimulate technology commercialization in expanding the halal industry for the benefit of the world. The event can foster the development of knowledge-based human capital which is vital for the growth of the halal industry in Malaysia and at the international level. Innovation will generate added value and widen the employment base. As such innovation is imperative within the area of halal, especially in halal research as we seek new and improved products and services to enhance the quality of life of the people, as well as in making the world a better place for future generations. This is certainly in line with the Government’s policy in promoting innovation and the country’s New Economic Model.

     Many prominent speakers that  play a vital role in the International Food/Cosmetic Industry will be speaking at the forum.

    To name just a few I found interesting to do some follow up research on:
    Center for Phytotheraphy and Research (CEPHYR), MAURITIUS

    The paper will deliberate more on the importance of herbal/alternative medicine in health care industry.

    The World Health Organisation reports that over 80% of the world's population depend on herbal medicine for their primary health care. Recent trends have shown that people living in the developed countries are also increasingly turning to herbal medicines. The growth rate for this sector has been estimated to be around 15% annually. While the trend is a good sign for business, it has been observed that the ethical consumerism is demanding for increased certification for these products. The Halal certification is one such label that could boost sales not only for food and medicinal items but also for green cosmetics. This presentation will focus on some of the existing certifications and how the Halal label can boost acceptance and promote sales'.

    Malaysia Association of Creativity and Innovation (MACRI), MALAYSIA
    The paper will deliberate more on strategizing Malaysia as a global halal hub through halal research and innovation.
    Understanding fully the true meaning of creativity and innovation as well as research, development and commercialisation is a critical Pre-requisite towards future sustainable growth. The current development in the Halal industry is very much centered in the food and Pharmaceutical industry. There is now an urgent need to focus more on the value-added products and services in the non-food industry such as tourism and education which in itself could generate lots of spin-offs. Tourism as an example involves transport, hotel, food, shopping, education, entertainment, health, sports and leisure business.

    In line with the government’s intention to make Malaysia a global Halal Hub by 2020, it is strongly recommended that a Global Halal Research and Innovation Institute (GHaRII ) be established immediately in Cyberjaya and develop it as the next Silicon Valley of the Islamic world ! Present Research bodies at the two universities as well as present and future Halal parks should work hand-in-hand with GHaRII to ensure maximum Effectiveness. The research scope should be both traditional and Non-traditional Halal industry and the innovation adopted should be both Incremental as well as disruptive.

    As a strategic approach, GHaRII should also work closely with the soon to be set up "Agensi Inovasi Malaysia" under the prime Minister's department in order to ensure maximum co-ordination of all R&D activities in the country for innovation and commercialisation. One of the key functions of the agency is "to conduct inquiries, survey and analysis of data, research and development relating to innovation and the National innovation eco-system".

    Strategic collaboration with well established international research Institutes as well as industries is a must. The entire Halal Ecosystem should also embrace the latest practice of "Open Innovation" as well as "Design Thinking" as a culture. There is absolutely no option: Innovate or Die!
    This is a much needed discussion and more research and labeling needs to be done to provide an easier way for those who wish to enjoy the benefits and blessings of a halal lifestyle. Thank You Malaysia for hosting this wonderful event, may it's initiative be fruitful for all involved.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Spice It Up! What's in your baharat?

    Baharat in Arabic refers to a mixture of spices that is used to flavor many main course dishes as well as appetizers.  The baharat  mixture differs from country to country and even from house to house.  Since my husband's family comes from the Gulf, they traditionally refer to the spice mixture as 'kabsa' spice.  I personally LOVE living in the Gulf and being able to experience all the spices in the souqs (markets). They are displayed in big sacks taller than my toddler and the smells are amazing. I could spend hours just checking out all the spices and I am constantly sneaking to the spice souqs just to 'smell' them all.

    Sifting through whole spices that I purchased recently at the downtown market I was able to identify the following:
    • Cassia (Cinnamon bark)
    • Bay Leaf
    • Mustard Seeds
    • Tumeric
    • Black peppercorn
    • Loomi (dried lemon or black lemon)
    • Dried Chili Peppers
    • Cloves
    • Cumin Seeds
    • Dried Onion
    • I add cardamon as well depending on the dish.  I admit I am an spice fanatic and treasure all my spices. I like to purchase them whole and grind them before use to preserve their flavor. If you would like to make your own kabsa spice take a teaspoon of all of the above and 1 crushed loomi (black lemon), 2 bay leafs and grind until fine in a spice grinder.

    And when you can get a kilo of baharat that can last for months for less than $5 why not? Well maybe not everywhere you can find it that inexpensive but here in Riyadh we were able to hustle the price. But when cardamon (one of the most expensive spices in the world, next to saffron)  is added trust me it makes up for all we saved.

    What is your favorite spice to cook with? 

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Welcome to Halalicious

    As-Salaam Alaikum Wa-Rahmatullahi Wa-Barakatuhu,

    Welcome to Halalicious, a food blog created to showcase recipes for your family that are both halal and delicious and insha'Allah nutritious as well.  Enjoy and Sahtain (To your health).