Spirituality, in the Kitchen

Intention is an integral part of Islamic practice. In the first hadith that is mentioned in Imam Nawawi’s famous compilation of 40 hadiths, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is narrated to have said: ‘Actions are only by their intentions.’

As a general rule, obligatory religious acts require a specific intention (such as what time of prayer is about to be offered) whereas voluntary religious acts can have multiple intentions. Without intending ritual prayer, one’s prayer is not valid. Likewise in some schools of thought, taking ritual ablution requires intention. When fasting in Ramadhan, one must intend to fast prior to the entrance of dawn. As for voluntary acts of worship, for example, one can intend to offer two voluntary rak’ahs of prayer to show gratitude towards Allah, for a safe & blessed day and for forgiveness. Likewise, any act in our daily lives outside of obligatory religious acts can be carried out with a multitude of meaningful intentions. Islam is not simply the five pillars. Intentions add meaning to our lives. We can eat simply to be satiated, or we can begin to eat by mindfully reciting the Basmala, with our right hand to follow the Sunnah, with thankfulness and with the intention that we will use the energy provided by this meal to carry out good. What a big difference.

As a stay-at-home mother of two, I try to be mindful of what my intentions (or goals, really) are in many decisions I take in my daily life. However, because a big portion of my daily routine is spent in the kitchen, there’s a lot of intentionality that goes on inside this small space. Intentionality can be applied to any part of your daily routine, so if the kitchen is not your primary hub, you may still apply this to other parts of your life.

I know that spending long hours everyday in the kitchen, or tidying up, raising children from the morning till the evening (and in the middle of the night), being at everyone’s service, can sometimes have you question whether you’re doing anything meaningful or not. At least I’ve been there. This seemingly never-ending house work that keeps repeating itself every time you think you’re done with a chore. I am all for getting help as needed and taking a break every now and then. However, on your day-to-day life, intentionality will keep you from the unhealthy & deceptive feeling that you’re not doing anything worthwhile.

I didn’t want to keep this post long and I feel it’s already gotten long so I am going to jump right into some actions you can implement in your cooking area! I want to just begin by mentioning wudhu (ablution; ritual purity). Only Allah knows all the merits of being in a state of wudhu and its reality, but it clearly holds an important place as per the hadith of the Prophet where he describes angels accompanying the person who goes to sleep in a state of ritual purity until he awakes. I understand the difficulty this may bring, especially for mothers who barely have time to go to the bathroom, let alone take their time to take wudhu when it’s not prayer time but I urge you to try to at least implement it for some meals, with mindfulness, that you are intending to cook with wudhu and intend for the benefits of this state to manifest in your food. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been baking my family’s bread for the last few months now. Ever since I began, I try my very best to remain in a state of wudhu while feeding my sourdough starter, kneading the dough and baking the bread. I try to remain in this way when I do my other cooking, as well as while eating. Ladies who are on their moon cycle may consider taking a symbolic wudhu, with the intention of receiving the spiritual benefits of wudhu without resuming ritual acts of worship. In addition to having wudhu, I recite al-Fatiha while I stir my sourdough starter during a feed, or salawat while cooking as I remember, and when I bake a bread for a friend or cook a meal for my family, I intend for that food to bring healing, physical as well as spiritual wellbeing and give thanks for it. If you believe in spirituality, you most likely understand how our feelings and energy can have a strong impact on what they are directed at. While cooking, whether just for yourself or for others, avoid all unhealthy thoughts and feelings to the best of your ability. If you find your mind roaming to undesirable territory, try to refocus and renew your intentions. Trust me, you don’t want yourself or your loved ones to eat food that was prepared with negative energy. (Who knows what state meals might have been prepared in in restaurants!). Try to include Prophetic foods in your diet. I highly suggest Zainab Ismail if you want some ideas and inspiration on how to do just that, very easily. Learn about the sunnan of eating and implement them with the intention of following the Prophet’s way. He ﷺ did not pick certain foods or eat a certain way simply out of desire but because they are superior and better for us.

As a side note: if you feel like you can’t focus in the kitchen for the life of you, consider what state the kitchen might be in when you’re trying to make a meal. Is it unorganized, cluttered, and you don’t know where is what? Maybe that’s a good place to start!

For the stay-at-home mom… If you are in charge of your kitchen, you are actually in charge of your family’s wellbeing. Your spiritual state in this territory will impact the physical & spiritual wellbeing of your spouse, children and/or other family members. The meal cooked with love, du’a and with mindful intentions will nourish your family and so, their accomplishments within their own duties and responsibilities will be connected to the nourishment you are providing them with. That’s a big and praiseworthy role, if you ask me. So next time (and if ever) you feel down about ‘wasting’ ‘all your time’ in the kitchen, think of this.

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Sourdough Einkorn Bread

 

I hope & intend that you find benefit in this post!

 

 

My ‘Spice’ Rack

I wanted to share with you a list of most (if not all) of the things that go onto the rack close to the stove as well as what I use them in. This is where I stack my most frequently used spices, herbs and other ingredients. It’s not really a spice rack, and it’s not a herb rack, nor a grain rack. It’s a combination of everything rack. I have 2-3 other locations where I store other herbs that aren’t as frequently used, other grains like rice, oats and barley, and tahini, molasses, honey and the like. You get the point. Also I entertained the idea of re-organizing and tidying up the shelves before snapping a picture but decided there’s nothing to hide. It is what it is.
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So here it goes:
Top Shelf
Turmeric: I use turmeric on a daily basis in most of my cooking, in frittatas, on red meat/fish/poultry, and in vegetarian stews. It’s super medicinal, anti-inflammatory and according to some opinions, the gold out of the three gifts presented to newly-born Jesus was actually turmeric.
Rock salt: Just basic, unrefined rock salt that I use in cooking. So unrefined it has small rock residue.
Holy Basil: A type of basil highly revered for its medicinal and adaptogenic properties in India. Hence the name. Also known as Krishna. I use this to make a simple herbal infusion to drink, usually in combination with other herbs.
Hibiscus (Roselle): Strong antioxidant. Wonderful tea. I like to combine with a bit of cinnamon and ginger. Recently I tried to infuse it cold and it worked pretty well. I put a couple of tablespoons into approx. 2 cups of water. I added 1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon and 1 tsp fresh grated ginger. Infused overnight, strain and refrigerate. It was very strong so I would have to dilute it as I drank it, either with plain water or sparkling water. Give it a shot.
Lemongrass: I like a simple, plain lemongrass tea after dinner. Soothing, helps aid digestion.
Peppermint: Again, goes into making herbal tea. Digestive, uplifting, gives tea a nice flavor especially if combined with other herbs. I don’t like adding too much though and I don’t consume it very frequently mainly because I am nursing and peppermint can dry breast milk if consumed in large amounts (as well as sage and parsley).
Mint: This mint is specifically for cooking. I add it to simple courgette stew, celery stalk stew (which I haven’t made ever since moving to Istanbul because they only sell celeriac root here), or in yogurt soup.
Thyme/Wild Thyme: Goes into frittata, onto fried eggs, roasted potatoes, roasted root vegetables etc.
Smoked paprika: I love this and I am running out (ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs to US while husband was visiting his family few weeks ago). I usually use it with roasted potatoes and chicken.
Finally, in case you’re wondering what it is, garlic infusing in olive oil: At some point I had way too much garlic at home, more than I’d ever use (I rarely use garlic in cooking), so I figured I should just peel them and add olive oil and some dried rosemary sprigs and leave it to infuse. I haven’t used it yet and I can’t think of how I’d use it other than for ear infections so I’ll have to do some research and brainstorming on that one.
Middle Shelf
Cardamom: I love cardamom. I throw a few into stock, brown rice (along with astragalus root which is another frequently used ingredient in my kitchen but not included in the rack), and into rooibos tea. I also break a pod and throw the seeds into the coffee filter when I am brewing coffee in the morning. I tend to drink coffee after breakfast. I prefer plain warm water first thing in the morning, sometimes with a few drops of vinegar.
Flax seed: Goes on top of oatmeal and salads.
Cinnamon: I use cinnamon in my oatmeal, and in Moroccan inspired stews. I add some to the coffee with the cardamom too.
Black seed (Nigella sativa): Usually on top of labnah along with some olive oil.
Black pepper: Most of my cooking includes some black pepper.
Herbamare: This is an A. Vogel product that is a combination of sea salt, dehydrated vegetables and herbs. I use sparingly on some vegetarian stews and on eggs, and sometimes with yogurt.
Himalayan salt: Again, used in some cooking. I alternate between rock salt and himalayan salt.
Black lava salt: This is a sea salt from Hawaii that is infused with activated charcoal, therefore has detoxifying effect. I use it on roast vegetables and roast meat. Bought from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Cumin: In red lentil soup, mujaddara (lentil & rice dish), Moroccan inspired stews.
Sumac: In frittata, omelette and meat balls.
Red lentil: I frequently make a quick & simple red lentil soup with a combination of  carrots and onions, as well as some turmeric, cinnamon and cumin.
Bottom Shelf
Coriander seeds: I actually don’t use this so much, but it happens to be there. I sometimes use it in Indian cooking or when I marinate chicken with a combination of other spices.
Sesame seeds: If we were still eating wheat at the moment, I would be using this on Turkish börek (along with nigella seeds and flax seed) but since we are not… I just use it to crust baked fish at times or toast and add to sautéed dark leafy greens or stir-fries.
Fenugreek seeds: Simmer to make tea or sprout and eat sparingly. In my experience it really does help stimulate milk production (galactagogue).
Aniseed: Aids in digestion. I like the sweet taste it imparts to tea. Also a galactagogue.
Elderflower: In combination with peppermint, it’s a good remedy for cold. I don’t use it just during colds though and it’s a common addition to my herbal tea.
Nutmeg: Grated and added to food like minced meat, Jerusalem artichoke soup, pumpkin soup.
Red chili flakes: Goes onto soups, frittata, stir-fry, stews. Whatever that needs a kick of flavor.
Chlorella: A single celled algae, in powder form. Very strong algae flavor. This has a cracked outer cell wall to ensure better assimilation by the body. I like to add some to my salad.
Marshmallow root: In powder form, I use marshmallow root to soothe sore throat. I usually add it to honey along with some ginger and/or cinnamon and take a teaspoon few times throughout the day.
Hot chocolate mix: Roasted cacao powder, astragalus root powder, shatavari root powder. I’ll usually mix this powder with a little bit of water and milk (either cow or coconut) as it heats and use grape molasses as sweetener. I would use maple syrup too but I don’t have frequent access to that in Istanbul. I do find it in stores in Cyprus so whenever I am visiting I stock up a bottle or two. (Or from the US when visiting).
Of course these are not my only most used ingredients. I don’t have to mention olive oil, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar… We use A LOT of honey. A lot of tahini. But I had to focus on one (rather messy) location and this was it.
What are your most frequently used pantry ingredients?