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Our Ethical Iftar: The Green Deen Challenge

This Ramadan, Tayyib Society and myself teamed up with Green Deen Tribe and joined them for their annual Ethical Iftar Challenge. Green Deen Tribe is a not-for-profit organization that uses practices and teachings based on the Prophetic traditions and sacred Qur’anic texts with the aim of reconnecting to our spiritual selves and state through nature and the environment. Now you are probably wondering what their challenge is all about, well well… The Ethical Iftar Challenge seeks to revive the sunnah of healthy eating and ethical consumption. Its three core principles are to reduce meat consumption, food waste, and the use of plastic. The challenge took place on the 24th and 25th of April this year, but we delayed our Ethical Iftar Challenge by one day because we had a lot of leftovers from the previous day. We did not want to refuse Allah’s sustenance by letting that food go to waste.

A good meal starts with good ingredients and intentions. We had to be ethically conscious of where our food was coming from and make sure that what we consume is tayyib. It was a lovely sunny day in Cape Town and we needed some fresh fruit and vegetables, so we decided to take a drive out to the local organic market. We brought along our reusable bags to avoid using any plastic at all.
After a beautiful day out, we came home and picked some fresh herbs and peppers from our garden before cooking up a storm in the kitchen. It is such a wonderful feeling to eat from the very seed you planted yourself. Alhamdulillah.

By now, you are probably curious to know what we made. I am particularly excited to share the recipes of what we had for starters, after munching on a few dates, and a special salad we devoured as part of the main course. Spanakopita (a spinach pie of Greek origin), butternut soup, and couscous salad are easy dishes you can cook for your family and are perfect for when you decide to have a meat-free day.

Spanakopita
Ingredients
  • 600g spinach leaves, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • A bunch of spring onions
  • ¼ tsp of nutmeg
  • 250g of crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter or olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • Phyllo pastry sheets
  • Sesame seeds
Method

Sauté the garlic and spring onions in olive oil. Gradually add all the chopped spinach until it wilts. Drain the liquid and keep it aside (you will see why in the butternut soup recipe). Season with salt, ground black pepper, and nutmeg. Then add the crumbled feta cheese and allow the mixture to cool down. Lastly, add one beaten egg and mix it all together.

In an oven dish, use about four to five layers of phyllo pastry sheets on the bottom and brush each layer with olive oil. Then add the mixture and layer it again on top with another 5 layers of phyllo pastry sheets and brush with olive oil or butter (I used olive oil on the bottom and butter on the top layers). Fold in the edges and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake in the oven at 180 degree Celsius for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Butternut soup
Ingredients
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 leek
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 carrot
  • Nutmeg
  • A small butternut, cut into cubes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 50 ml coconut cream
  • 800 ml water (you might need more, depending on the consistency you desire)
Method

Sauté the garlic, leeks, carrot, and red pepper in olive oil, then add the butternut. Season with salt, pepper, paprika powder, and chili flakes. Pour the water into the pot and allow the vegetables to cook until soft. Remember I told you to keep the drained liquid of the spinach and spring onions? Well, now add that into the pot too! Once all the veggies are soft, pour in the coconut milk and use a stick blender to blend the mixture into a smooth and silky consistency. At this stage you can add more water if needed.

Couscous salad
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of couscous and 2 cups hot water
  • Olive oil
  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper
  • 2 spring onions
  • Cucumber
  • Olives
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Paprika powder
  • Artichokes
  • Pomegranate molasses
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Method

Boil 2 cups of water for one cup of couscous. Before adding the boiling water, in a bowl, mix some olive oil to the couscous to separate the grains (this will make the couscous fluffy). Season it with salt and pepper and then add the hot water. Cover the bowl with a plate and allow the couscous to steam. After 10 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork. In the meanwhile, chop all your other ingredients into tiny cubes. Allow the couscous to cool down before tossing the chopped vegetables and herbs into the couscous. Add about a teaspoon of paprika powder to give your couscous a lovely colour. Before serving, drizzle olive oil, pomegranate molasses, or lemon juice.

You can add any vegetable you desire to your salad. You will notice I did not use any onions or tomatoes in these recipes, although it is possible to add them. My brother suffers from migraines and these are some of the food items he has to avoid.

The couscous was served with fresh fish, crispy roasted potatoes, and a tartar sauce.

And voilà! Bon appétit. Afiyet olsun, and Bismillah

I hope these recipes inspire you to eat and live consciously without harming the environment. We have to look after our bodies and the earth as Allah (swt) has trusted us on this earth to look after His creation. Living a tayyib culinary lifestyle does not have to be difficult at all. Start your own little garden if you can, consume less meat, find alternative ways to use less plastic, recycle your jars, and your food leftovers! It’s the little steps we take that count to make a lasting change.

To find out more about the Green Deen Tribe and their Challenge, you can follow them on Instagram (@greendeen_tribe).

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Ilham is a founding member of Tayyib Society. She is a teacher, artist, and food blogger. She particularly loves being outdoors in nature, gardening, and creating new recipes. She is also passionate about Islamic art and geometric design. You can follow her work on Instagram. (@ilham_foodblog)

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