Years ago I bought my ex a cookbook designed for men who hate to cook. In it was a recipe for meatloaf four-ways: you would make a triple recipe of a ground beef and pork and whatever mixture and use it four different ways: as a meat loaf, stuffed peppers filling, meatballs and something else.
So now I present to you Umami Mix Three Ways. Burgers, Scotch Eggs, and Meatless Balls.
The basic recipe makes 12 hamburger patties. If you make a recipe and a half, though, you can have Burgers one night, then Scotch Eggs another, and Meatless Balls another, and quite possibly have some more for stuffed peppers/eggplant/zucchini or kibbe, too!
UMAMI BURGERS
Mexican-Style UMAMI BURGERS with mango salsa and guacamole.

Mexican-Style UMAMI BURGERS with mango salsa and guacamole.

With mushrooms, miso and soy, these vegetarian burgers are full of umami.
Makes 12 hamburger patties

  • 1½ c. dried shitake mushrooms
  • ½ c. lentils
  • 1 c. bulghur
  • vegetable and sesame oil
  • ½ c. onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 c. bulghur
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ tbsp red miso paste
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • ground pepper, thyme
  • 2 pieces crumbled whole wheat bread
  • buns
  • topping
  1. Rinse dried shitake mushrooms in water, then place in a large bowl to soak in 2-3 cups of water. Rinse lentils, then soak. Soak for 1-2 hours.
  2. Cook the lentils until just past al dente. If possible, cook them in some no/low-salt vegetable stock for additional flavour. If they get mushy, that’s fine.
  3. Heat up a mix of vegetable oil and sesame oil (I find sesame is too overpowering on its own, and expensive, and tends to smoke) in a medium pot. Fry the onion.
  4. Lightly squeeze out the water from the mushrooms. SAVE THE WATER! Remove any hard stems or other parts of the mushroom that didn’t hydrate properly. Dice the remainder and add to the onions.
  5. Chop up 2 cloves of garlic and add to the pot. Cook until there’s no liquid left.
  6. Add 1 cup of bulghur to the pot. Straining out the mushroom water through a fine sieve first, add 2¼ cups of the mushroom liquid. Bring to a boil, then drop the heat to the lowest, cover, and let cook for about 20 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed. Stir once every five minutes or so to prevent it from sticking to the pot and to check consistency.
  7. In a bowl or measuring cup mix: 2 eggs, 1½ tbsp red miso paste, 2 tbsp soy sauce, ground pepper and 1 tsp of thyme.
  8. Once the bulghur mixture is cooked, you COULD spread it out onto a cookie sheet or something to let it cool. Or you could do what I did, and just proceed to the next step and just be careful with the making of the patties.
  9. Add to the bulghur mixture 3 pieces of crumbled whole wheat bread. I guess you could use actual breadcrumbs, or crush up some crackers, but that’s what I had available. Add the lentils and egg mixture, too. Now grab your food processor (I have one of those hand blenders) and mush the crap out of the mixture until it’s a thick paste-like consistency.
  10. Take a large scoop and form into a 1cm thick patty. Fry in a mix of sesame and vegetable oil until browned. I’m sure it would be better grilled, but we don’t have one.
Since it’s got a very Japanese flavour profile with the miso, soy, and shitake mushrooms, some sort of interesting sauces would go nicely. For example, Japanese mayonnaise (a mix of chili-garlic sauce and Hellman’s – and maybe a bit of Miracle Whip), or something with wasabi.
To make a Mexican themed meal, throw together some guacamole (avocados, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, olive oil) and salsa (diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, mango and/or corn and/or cooked black beans, cumin, cilantro, lime juice, chili powder) and serve with tortilla chips.
Vegetarian Scotch Eggs

Vegetarian Scotch Eggs

VEGETARIAN SCOTCH EGGS

Scotch eggs are an artery-hardening tasty treat traditionally using sausage meat wrapped around a hard-boiled egg. They go great as part of a ploughman’s lunch, and I used to love eating them. But then I converted to Islam, so no more pork for me! So I came up with this vegetarian variation. The cheese and rosemary help mimic the greasiness and flavours of the sausage, methinks, though the texture is different: and that’s fine with me!
  • Six eggs
  • 2 cups umami burger mix
  • ½ cup grated cheeses (cheddar would be best)
  • 1 tbsp each chives, thyme, and rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying

COATING:

  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
Eggs went into hot water and brought it to a boil. Ten minutes later, cooled them off. They weren’t quiiiiiite hard-boiled, which is just fine with me, even though it meant a right mess when it was time to peel them. But that’s OK, because they were going to get covered up anyhow, and the “sausage” mixture hid any irregularities.
I threw all the “sausage” ingredients and hand-blended them until it was fairly uniform.
I then coated my hands in vegetable oil (otherwise the mix would’ve stuck to my hands!) and grabbed a handful of mash. Rolled it into a ball, then squished it flat. Put the egg on it and wrapped the flattened mixture around the egg, pinching it shut around the ends.
Then I rolled it around again to try and return it to some semblance of roundness, and dredged it in a breadcrumb mixture I’d prepared before (whole wheat breadcrumbs, garlic powder, salt, pepper, paprika) and fried it in vegetable oil until dark brown. It would’ve been nicer to be able to put it into a proper deep-fryer, but a centimeter of oil in a pan and frequent turning did just fine.
Once it was done cooking, I let it drain on a paper towel. If you let it sit for about ten minutes, it’s easier to handle.
UMAMI Meatless Balls

UMAMI Meatless Balls with cheese

MEATLESS BALLS
Take 2 cups of the UMAMI MIX and add ¼ cups of breadcrumbs, some extra spices. I used garlic, but would also suggest an Italian spice mix and/or fresh basil. Because I ran out of basil, I ended up using a tablespoon of basil pesto and two tablespoons of a spicy pesto mix. Break out the old handblender and mix it up, then form into small balls. Fry, turning frequently. Serve with spaghetti and tomato sauce. Melted cheese optional- and TASTY!

If you try any of my recipes out, please let me know how it turns out for you! Don’t bother leaving a comment here, though, it’s 99.99% spam here. Instead you can email me at coeurinsomniac at that wonderful place called gmail.com.

This is a little something I wrote in April of 2009, thought I’d share:

as a result of the trauma this past summer, every day i feel pain, sadness and fear. sometimes it’s overwhelming, making me unable to get out of bed, maintain a regular heartbeat, eat, or sleep. fortunately, those times are rare ov late. most of the time it’s just a feeling that lies mostly dormant under the skin, deep down in my chest. but it’s always there.

i try not to let it affect how i interract with the world. i’m able to find many joys in family and friends. music and books. i sing with my kids, i say my zikr, i dream, i cuddle, i gaze out the window and marvel at the green shoots braving the snow. but it feels as though these are just layers on top of the sadness, and that if you look just a little deeper, scratch away the surface, all the hurt comes up.

for awhile it felt as though my hurt was the canvas, and all of my pleasant experiences were just paint on it, covering it up for awhile, but no matter how thick i threw it on, no matter how many layers were applied, the canvas would still be there, lying underneath, unchanging and full of pain.

but this morning i came to realize that that trauma and all the insecurities and deceptions and abuse and fear and depression and… everything that came with it is also just a layer. it is not the canvas. deeper down underneath there’s a core of me that is the foundation, the base. G*d and i live there. all these experiences and relationships -painful and joyous- add to the work of art that is me. add depth. texture. colour. shadows and light.

i am not my pain. i am not my joy. one aspect may dominate and become a focal point for awhile, but they are just part of the big picture, the ongoing piece of art that is me.

some may some may find it lovely, others hideous. heck, some may not even acknowledge that it’s art, look and think “i could have painted that, and would’ve done it better”. but gosh darnit, i think it’s beautiful. i’d hang me on the wall.

what kind of art are you?

this is a story (paraphrased) told to me by a lovely turkish sufi may 10th, 2009. earlier on i had told him a little bit about how things had been dark with my life, but how i was emerging into the light. he said that he loved hearing stories of suffering, but not why you would think. he shared the following with me:

once outside the palace walls sat two beggars. one had a beautiful voice and was well-spoken and could have been a singer his voice was so lovely. the other croaked and squeaked, his voice unpleasant to hear. one day the gates opened and the king (because there’s always a king in these stories) gave the not-nice voiced beggar bags of coins and valuables. he left, leaving the soft-voiced beggar at the gates.

when questioned as to his motives for rewarding the untalented beggar, the king answered, “i want to hear the beautiful voice longer and keep it closer to me a little longer.”

sometimes we don’t understand why things happen to us, but if we could, it would probably make it a lot more tolerable.

I got to thinking recently about parenthood.  About how I would like to have one more baby, but it’s not bloody likely considering my age and financial situation.  But I did want to share what I wrote recently about the give and take of parenthood.

Its rewards exceed its drawbacks for sure. 

Yes, there are sleepless nights dealing with the little poopmachine, or times when the baby cries so much you think you’ll never sleep again… then the tyke smiles at you, eyes big and open, full of total trust.

There’s the pain of saying goodbye when they move out when you live hundreds of kilometers away… and the pride you can feel knowing that you did the right thing, giving them all the tools they need to get there to be a healthy, well-adjusted and awesome adult.

And then there’s everything in between.  First day of school.  Christmas morning with the grandparents.  That victorious look on their faces, searching for your your beaming smile in the crowd when they win that big award/trophy at school/sports match/spelling bee.  The feeling of a little hand reaching for yours when they need to feel secure, because they *know* you’re strong and will always take care of them.  The joy in discovering splashing water.  The trust placed in you when they confide about their first kiss/period/crush.  Asking for advice on homework, on birth control, on books, on recipes.

For every pukey moment with morning sickness, or feeling that one’s belly is infested by some parasite, there’s that first wondrous moment of seeing the ultrasound or feeling a kick or hearing the heart beat when you know that you’re nurturing a potential human being.  For every restaurant invitation declined, or ruined blouse thanks to some spitup, there’s breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day of burned pancakes with a wilting flower picked from the garden in a plastic cup and a home made card.  For every sleepless night due to colic or your teenager not coming home, there’s the late night when you stay up late wrapping gifts for Christmas morning, and wake up earlier than the kids because you’re too excited and can’t wait to see their faces… or Mother’s Day morning when you force yourself to “sleep in” because your kids are trying to make you breakfast in bed, but are making a horrific racket with pots and pans, and giggles.

Think of songs that catch your heart, that evoke an emotional response

A song that you love to play when doing housework that makes you kick up your feet and get things done

A song that you wave your arms in the air to, hoping nobody sees you

A song that makes you think of happy times and smile wistfully

A song that makes you think of happy times and smile sadly and shed a quiet tear

A hurting song of loss and longing

A song that makes you want to hit the dance floor and lose yourself in the moment

A song from your childhood that still brings joy to your heart

A song that is so beautiful and pure that you could almost cry as you listen intently, hairs on the back of your neck rising

A song you can’t help but sing along to

A tune with no words that catches in your mind and has you humming it all day

A song with words that speak to you and strike chords

The ending chords of a religious piece that sing out an exultant ”AMEN!”

The cadence of words tumbling out smoothly in a good rap song

A song whose rhythms and base make you feel sexy

A song that riles passion or rage, making you want to stomp around and pump your fists in the air, or bang your head.

A song that comforts and soothes as your head hits the pillow, one that ushers you into the subconsious/unconscious.

That’s what my faith feels like to me.

You never know what will set you off.

For me it was listening to a morning drive-in show where the topic of discussion was, “If you weren’t gay, would it be better to kiss your dad or a friend?”  I felt sick, anxious, and started to breathe out of control until I turned off the radio, put on my ipod and listened to my new fave song, “Courage” by Vieux Farka Touré. I wish I could understand all the words, but I get the impression that it’s about being brave, not being afraid of the thunder, and being able to bend.

Last night speaking with the eldest, for her it was watching wedding shows on TV, watching pretty young women on the happiest day of their lives walking down the aisle with a beaming, proud poppa on arm.  She got all weepy because of the thought of having nobody to walk her down the aisle.  I assured her that we have a community of people who would jump at the chance to do so.

But still.

Last night I spent about an hour and a half on the phone reconnecting with an old friend, Ay.  Ef was in the mood to talk, but I got to chatting with Ay and lost track of the time, and when I called Ef when I was done, he wasn’t available.  I was a bit pouty about missing Ef, but happy talking with Ay about single parenthood, old friends, fave music and bands. He inspired me to throw myself a huge birthday party like I used to do of old, and I’m now looking outward and ahead more than looking inward and behind.

There’s a lot to be learned from introspection, self-awareness, and the past. And I still have a lot of healing to accomplish based on the past events (not just the acute trauma of the past six weeks, but the subtle abuse that led up to it as well). But for awhile, I’m going to work on a project of hope and beauty.  The great thing is, this project is going to involve some truly beautiful and talented people, and I’m so excited at the prospects I could just burst.

In related news, for the first time in almost six weeks, I didn’t have a nightmare! 

I dreamed that I was in my house with Ay.  We were both getting ready for my big birthday party in the city, and he was putting on some weird makeup- his whole face was covered in white paint except for a few black bits around his eyes and mouth.  Then suddenly he was dressed like a dervish (except I didn’t know what a dervish was), complete with white shirt and billowing skirt, black cloak over top, and crazy tall fez-like hat.  He kissed me gently on my forehead and my lips, not in a sexual way, but in a gentle, loving way.

I woke up with a smile on my face with a pull in my chest as though I might burst from happiness.  I looked out the window at the sun rising outside my window, and suddenly wished I knew how to pray.  My time in the darkness wasn’t over, but suddenly I was feeling hope, and joy, and gratefulness for being alive.

Edited to add…

Later I was to find out that Ay was on the Sufi path, and that the person kissing me in my dream was a dervish.  Ay wasn’t a dervish yet, though I had the honour of witnessing him “take the hand” and begin his dervishood awhile later. 

Three months after that dream at my big party in real life, Ay took the stage with his band.  His face was painted all white except for three black chunks- over his eyes and one over his mouth- making him look like an electrical socket.   I was surrounded by friends, secure in my choice of the Sufi path, and burning with love for G*d and creation, and started to cry with gratefulness and joy.  I credit that dream the night of September 11th, 2008 with getting me started on the Sufi path and to healing with joy.

I recently went to a good friend’s wedding, and I wanted to share a few experiences with you.  She and I used to live together almost twenty years ago.  She’s the godmother of my eldest daughter (which in itself is a funny story).  She and her family have been a source of strength and inspiration for me, especially in the past two years during my time of darkness and emergence into the light.  She and her partner have been through a lot together and come out stronger than ever before, and it’s a joy to visit them.  I was honoured to be invited to their wedding at the Jerrahi Sufi Centre.

Friday night the Micron and I attended my friends Kina Gece- a Turkish bridal henna party- and had a lovely evening amongst girls and women of all ages and backgrounds, united in our celebration of our good friend’s impending nuptials.  Then we slept over at a friend’s place, Em.

Saturday morning my friend Em and the Micron and I went to the local market, picked up some Portugese buns, vegetables to grill, some smoked gruyère and spiced havarti, some spicy mustard and some tzaziki.  We marinated the vegetables, sliced bread, cheese and tomato so that all would be ready once we got downtown. 

The plan was that Em, the Micron, My Fella and I would all go downtown for a friend’s housewarming party BBQ. Em would stay at the BBQ, whilst the rest of us would head back out west to the location of the event. Unfortunately, circumstances intervened.  The major highway leading us into the city was closed, and I wasn’t that familiar with the lay of the land.   We were supposed to be leaving the BBQ around 4:20 in order to get to the wedding on time, and already it was 3:30.  We were in the middle of heavy traffic, and weren’t convinced it would be feasible to make the BBQ on time.

So we made the decision to go to the Sufi Centre.  Em was a bit nervous that her shortish skirt and tights wouldn’t be conservative enough dress, but I offered her a headscarf so at least that aspect was covered!  Tummies grumbling, we made our way tot he Centre which mercifully was nearby.

As we arrived, we had to wind our way past a gazebo tent to park in the back of the building.  The tent was up because that day they were celebrating a “Community Day”, and were BBQing lots of meat to give away to local residents as a thank you for welcoming the Centre (which had only opened up in late 2008) into the neighbourhood.  They gladly cleared off the grill of the charred meat and cooked up a bunch of our vegetables for us.  We donated our tomato, cheese, mustard, tzaziki and buns to the cause.  Em and the Micron both enjoyed some meat, My Fella and I savoured roast portabellos and zucchini and red peppers.   Talk about one door closing and another one opening!

As usual, the Sufi community was warm and welcoming.  The ceremony was casual and funny at times, the Sheikh disagreeing with Hawking’s (“Einstein’s grandson, my crippled friend”) assessement that meeting aliens would be bad for humanity.  Aliens would would be welcome at the dergah/mosque, just so long as they parked their UFOs properly. 

The bride was absolutely lovely in a custom-made dress brought over from Turkey.  I had tears in my eyes for the vision of her.  I’ve always known her as a goth or punk, so to see her so radiant in some traditional garb was a shock and a pleasure.  Her mother, father and sister were glowing with pride and joy, and I know I wasn’t the only one swept along in the the overall aura of love.

Two dervishes whirled as musicians played and other dervishes performed what I would deem a mini-zikr.  The percussive sound of the men’s voices created a beat that resonated in my chest.  It’s said that G*d lives in everyone’s heart, and as the dervishes repeated their ilahis, my little piece of G*d responded and throbbed.  Then the ney played reinforcing a sung prayer, and it was divine breath on earth, making the hair on the back of my neck rise, and bringing more tears to my eyes and a rapturous moment of forgetting all worries, leaving behind my “monkey mind” and being caught up in the beauty.

We said our prayers, and the sound of dozens of pairs of lips quietly mouthing the silent words struck me.  Although no-one was speaking, you could still hear the whisper sounds of S, like a worshipful chorus of crickets, or a sudden gust of wind through tall grass in the summer.

When we pray, angels gather around to pray also and to record our deeds. As a seal to our devotions, we turn our head to the right and left to greet the congregation of these creatures of light.  As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatulah.  That evening, I was surrounded by family and friends- old and new- and was truly grateful to be able to greet and thank the angels and all those around for being there, and wish them peace and love.

Mashallah, S & J.  And thank you.

This is a variation on a recipe my nutritionist gave me.  I didn’t have exactly the ingredients, but made do for a nice, rich soup.  I think this would go great on a fall afternoon.  We served it with grilled cheese sandwiches on 12-grain bread for a hearty dinner.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 medium/large potato, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1″ of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 tbsp curry powder

1 tsp cinnamon

2 cups home-made, salt-free vegetable stock

1 cube of vegetable stock

¼ cup of vegetable cocktail

1¼ cups boiling water

1 can of lentils, rinsed

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the sweet potato and onion and cook 2 minutes, then add the garlic and ginger.  Cook until the potato is soft.

Stir in the curry powder and cinnamon.

Add the stock and lentils.  Bring to a boil, then drop the temperature to medium-low to low and simmer 30 minutes.

If I’d had more of my regular veggie stock I wouldn’t have had to use the bouillon cube.  The original recipe called for 1 cup of dried red lentils and 4 cups of veggie stock and 2 tbsp of tomato paste and some sea salt.  Not having the dried lentils, I reduced the amount of liquid by half a cup.  Not having the tomato paste, I used the vegetable cocktail in the fridge.

It turned out fabulously.  The curry and cinnamon were a great combination.  I might try making a main dish of this by adding rice and some raisins and almonds sometimes.  mmmmmm

“One single minute.   Every day. 

Just one minute of contemplation every day is the start towards the killing of the nafs.* 

You don’t need a book- no Qu’ran, no Bible, you need to study the book of yourself.

Who you are.  What you do.  Why you are here.

Dervishood has been around since before Adam, and it goes on today, and has evolved.  I used to say that you needed to study yourself for five minutes a day**, but now I say one minute.  Who here can say they take one minute  a day for themselves?

A single minute.  Every day.  This will kill your nafs.  This will answer all your questions.”

-Sheikh Cemil Baba repeated as faithfully possible from memory from a discussion Saturday, April 17th, 2010, please forive any transcription error. 

*I was once told that the challenge of the individual on the Sufi path was “De s’en débarasser en lui de ce qui n’est pas de Lui.”  Some refer to it as polishing the mirror so as better to reflect God’s light.  I like to think of it more as polishing a gem so as better to refract His light and share the colours of the lovely rainbow thereby created with those around me.  It’s very similar to Buddhist teachings and efforts, especially when you get talking about the illusory nature of the world.  But I digress…

**This reminds me of how in the story of Muhammed (pbuh) being lifter to heaven on the “buraq”, he was instructed by God to pray 50 times a day, but then how Moses (pbuh) told Muhammed to plead for a reduction, and it was haggled down to only 5 times… Although technically in the Qu’ran the commandment is only for three times- near-dawn, afternoon and evening.  But that’s another story.

===

After spending so much time seated on a cushion on the floor, we creaked and cracked and stretched, saying we had “zikr-knees”.  This reminds me of  “prayer bump”.

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