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Selq b'Roz | Algerian Chard with Rice

This soup is made for the cooler months. The spicy-sweet broth offer a comforting, more-ish quality, while the chard and chickpeas add nutritional peace of mind. Be sure to give your soup long enough on the stove, so those delicious, punchy flavors can fully develop.

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

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We Muslims strive to follow the Sunnah, by living and following many of the actions and examples of our beloved Prophet Mohammad’s (peace be upon him). We get closer to the God by following his actions, such as smiling and donating to charity. But I think following the principles of our religion, we ought to reevaluate and revive our relationship with the environment and our dietary habits, as this is very often overlooked.

Many of us strive to implement small things like cooking with olive oil and enjoying dates during Ramadan, but what about reaching for more premaneant and more impactful changes ?!
“…Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption”
 (Holy Quran 2:60)

Living in Algeria now over a decade, we have consciously yet naturally transitioned to a flexitarian diet, meaning we mostly eat vegetarian but still enjoy meat and fish on occasion. I'll be the first to admit that a transition to a more ethical can be difficult and requires time, thought, and creavity.

But I think if we look directly into the Prophet Mohammed's (peace be upon him)'s diet we see that he and the people of that time ate meat only occasionally, unlike most people  who chow down on meat like it's Eid everyday. 

While I'm not some super activist. I'm not even a Super-Sunnah-Muslim. I'm just human. Conversations about the environment, animal welfare, our health and reviving the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) often come up at our table. And I think in general these conversations need to be started not only in global summits but around our tables. The conversations around our table is the real sharing of ilm (knowledge) which can help enable a cultural shift amongst our Muslim communities in our participation in harmful food systems. This need not involve shaming anyone’s diets or automatically placing them in a certain socio-economical class but rather in showcasing that our Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) showed us the perfect harmony found in the principles of Islam.

From a strictly religious standpoint, for meat to be considered halal tayyib and therefore permissible, the process needs to meet requirements beyond what many understand as halal as the draining of the blood and the recitation of Allah’s name at the time of slaughter. The other requirements needed for meat to be tayyib and thus lawful to eat, are unfortunately less known and less used.

The animal must be raised in a humane and wholesome environment, be fed and given water prior to slaughter, and not be stressed, abused or mishandled, nor witness another animal being killed, among other requirements. The reality is that most of today’s meat, even when labeled “halal,” comes from battery farms where the animals endure dire cramped conditions for the span of their short lives only to end on up a menu. Many are treated cruelly and inhumane practices such as being injected with harmful steroids and hormones are used on these animals. How can see this as halal? 

The halal label to me is very misleading. Living in Algeria now a decade, I have come to know the spectrum of husbandry and meat factories. And I'm sorry to report that even here many of the traditional old way of animal husbandry has been lost subhanAllah.

“O mankind, eat from earth what is halal (lawful) and tayyib (good/wholesome)…” 
(Holy Quran 2:168)

Eating lawfully and wholesomely. It's written clearly for us right there. For myself I personally took a look at what I was buying and eating. I made an effort to eat all the colors of the rainbow. Enchallah I try to make them the stars of our meals, always like the French starting with a vegetable entreé. Allah blessed us with such variety of fruits and vegetables, it's possible to eat a healthy diet that consists mostly of plant-based foods. In my house meat is treated like a luxury, not a staple. We never eat meat 2 days in a row. And while I do buy chicken and ground turkey I don't buy red meat often. I try to stretch our Eid meat to last at least 6-7 months. Living in a Muslim country I don't just assume the meat  I'm buying is halal tayyib. I have over the years come to know which butcter sells 'el arab' style meat meaning it was raised the traditional way - free range and grass feed. You remember those catch phrases used in the large supermarkets and the ultra-trendy Paleo diets. Yea! 

“And it is He (Allah) who has made you successors upon the earth…” 

(Holy Quran 6:165)

Humans are the successors of the Earth, so why not take the (large or small) to return to HIS path, reviving the Sunnah not only in dress and mannerisms but also diet. On a practical level, we can make greater effort to lessen our meat consumption, as we know animal agriculture reportedly accounts for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with no other single human activity (not even petrol) having a greater impact on the planet. With my family, we started eating more meatless meals, every other day, now we eat 5 out of 7 days meatless, opting for fiber rich vegetables, ancient grains and legumes to fill in the gap. Of course, eating halal tayyib takes more effort (and money) as not everyone has access to affordable, organic and locally sourced foods, which also extends beyond meat and animal products. But it all begins with baby steps. Ultimately, we need to become more conscious of the way we live and eat and try to keep in accordance with the ethics of Islam.

I like this quote by Ezra Ereckson:
“The point is to live consciously and intentionally—to walk on the path of continual, voluntary self-surrender, for this is what it means to be in Islam. First for the Creator, then for our own spiritual development, for the good of the beings we share this world with, and for the continued health of this delicate world itself.” 

Today's recipe is something my late mother-n-law yarhammha used to make. It's a simple peasant style stew that came about from the austere days of the Black Era where everyone just made due with what they had. She often to use go foraging for wild chard (selq) that she would put into a light broth along with frik, wheatberries or rice. This dish is just wonderful during cold winter evenings.

Chard, also known as sliverbeet or swiss chard is often mistranslated as spinach. It's one of the world's super foods as it is rich in antioxidants phytonutrients such as Vitamin K, A and C. In the spectrum of greens, Swiss chard lies between spinach and kale—not as tender as spinach, not as tough as kale. You can easily subsitute spinach or even kale in this recipe. 

So let's get started with the recipe.

Selq b'Roz 

 Algerian Chard with Rice 

main dishes  | yields about 4-6 servings
COOK TIME: 1,5 hr mins


 2 bundles of chard (about 500g - 3 packed cups) including the tender stems
‣ 1 large onions, chopped small
‣ 2 carrots, julienned
‣ 2 handfuls of precooked chickpeas
‣ 2 TBS tomato paste
‣ 2 TBS mild dersa pepper paste
‣ 2 tsp sweet paprika
‣ 3 garlic cloves, minced
‣ 1 bay leaf
‣ 200g - 1 cup long grain rice 
‣ 1 liter - 1 qt vegetable broth
‣ knob of butter
‣ oil, salt, pepper

‣ Optional - lemon

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the carrots, salt, pepper, dersa, tomato paste, chickpeas and the vegetable broth placed over high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, then stir in the rice and a large pinch of salt. When the mixture returns to a boil, add the chopped chard, and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice and carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes. (The mixture will become like a stew.)
  4. Once the mixture becomes thick and "stew-like" stir in the garlic and butter and cook another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice to taste.

    ⇝ This dish can be stored in the fridge for up to 3days. I wouldn't freeze this dish with the ricein it, as they will get mushy when frozen.

    ⇝ You can use frik, wheatberries or another grain instead of the rice. 
    You can also use spinach, collard greens or kale instead of the chard.
    ⇝ You can make this dish non-vegetarian if you like by using chicken stock and/or adding some shredded chicken in there, or even simmer some small meatballs or bulgur meatlessball in there.


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          1 comment:

          1. Masha'Allah it sounds absolutely delicious. Will add it to this weeks menu insha'Allah.


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