Recipe for ‘Lubya Polou’

Now this is one of my favourite Persian rice dishes. How do I know how to make this dear reader? Only By watching Minoo in the kitchen (after all my real talent lies in eating Persian food rather than cooking it..).

‘Lubya Polou’ (Persian Green Bean Rice)

Ingredients

1 can of chopped tomatoes

400 grams green beans, sliced into about half-finger lengths (Wait, that’s not very scientific it depends how big your fingers are..).

600 grams rice washed and drained in a colander (The Beech family swears by basmati- despite the recent price rise we are rice addicts..)

500 grams minced beef (in Iran diced meat seems more popular, me, I prefer minced beef)

1 large finely diced onion

Teaspoon of Turmeric

Teaspoon of Cinnamon

Half a teaspoon of saffron

Cooking oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Fry minced beef and chopped onions for about seven to ten minutes on a high heat, stirring all the while. Add turmeric, cinnamon, saffron and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the chopped tomatoes and green beans, cook mixture for another five minutes or so.

At the same time par-boil basmati rice in a separate large non-stick pan. (This is a bit of an art- use about one measure of water to a measure of rice so it does not go mushy). When par-boiled remove rice from pan and pour a little oil to cover base. Put pan back on the cooker to heat up the oil.

Put rice and meat mixture back into the large pan. Now this is the technical bit… Add the ingredients a layer at a time. A layer of rice, a layer of mixture, get the idea? (This is to avoid mashing the rice).

Use a clean cloth to cover the top of the pan, put the lid back on the pan, and cook on a very low heat for about forty minutes. When ready ‘flip back’ the rice on to a serving dish. (I know this is a risky procedure).It should theoretically pop out in a nice pan shape with a crust of fried rice the Iranians call ‘tah diq’. Serve hot with salad.

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Is Religion The Opposite Of Spirituality?

In certain quarters ‘Religion’ has come to mean the opposite of ‘Spirituality-‘ the observance of out-dated law as opposed to spiritual development. A quick search on WordPress.com is sufficient to get an overview of this particular debate. The question is- are these two concepts truly the opposites that some points of view suggest?

As explained by Bahá’u’lláh the rationale of our existence is to express those virtues that comprise the very essence of our being. Bahá’u’lláh referred to the human being as a “mine rich in gems of inestimable value”. However these virtues can only be developed successfully with the guidance of a Divine Educator, as it is not possible with our limited perspective to understand the will of a transcendent God.

Thus over the millennia humanity has been guided by Divine Educators including Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and Bahá’u’lláh. The guidance that each has brought has been both timeless in reiterating key spiritual teachings but also contemporary in revealing laws relevant to that particular age-

“…is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions”?

– Bahá’u’lláh The Kitáb-i-Íqán, US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1989 pocket-size edition Page: 257

I would suggest that following the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh unites both the ‘form’ of religion and the ‘content’ of spirituality. This is because of the appropriateness of the social guidance to the age in which we live.

In the words of Bahá’u’lláh-

“Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight”!

– Bahá’u’lláh- The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’í World Centre, 1992 edition

 

‘God Passes By’

In our small town in England we have just commemorated the 116th anniversary of the passing of Baha’u’llah. We gathered together with our friends to say prayers and reflect on this most poignant of Bahá’í Holy Days.

A thought that occurs to me is that there seems to be a comparison between the description of the passing of Baha’u’llah and that of the Buddha (whom Bahá’í s also revere as a Divine Educator or ‘Manifestation of God’).

The passing of Baha’u’llah is described in the following terms-

“Six days before He passed away He summoned to His presence, as He lay in bed leaning against one of His sons, the entire company of believers, including several pilgrims, who had assembled in the Mansion, for what proved to be their last audience with Him. “I am well pleased with you all,” He gently and affectionately addressed the weeping crowd that gathered about Him. “Ye have rendered many services, and been very assiduous in your labors. Ye have come here every morning and every evening. May God assist you to remain united. May He aid you to exalt the Cause of the Lord of being.”

‘God Passes By’ Shoghi Effendi, US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979 second printing Pages: 412

Compare this with a following description of the passing of the Buddha-

For a long time, Ananda, have you waited on The Tathgata with a kind, devoted, cheerful, single-hearted, unstinted service of body, with a kind, devoted, cheerful, single-hearted, unstinted service of voice, with a kind, devoted, cheerful, single-hearted, unstinted service of mind. You have acquired much merit, Ananda; exert yourself, and soon will you be free from all depravity.”

The Death of the Buddha, translated from the Mah-Parinibbna-Sutta (v. and vi.) of the Dgha-Nikya: Buddhist Writings. The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

What shines through for me in these descriptions is the generosity and humility of these Divine Teachers in acknowledging the service of their followers. One of the reasons perhaps, that the Divine Educators are remembered with prayer and devotion; while the demise of ten-thousand haughty warlords and kings and are but a mere list of dates on Wikipedia. 

Minoo’s Recipe For ‘Khoresht-e-Bademjan’

This is a kind of Iranian aubergine (egg plant) casserole which Minoo makes for some of our Bahá’í meetings (notably Naw-Ruz).

This dish should serve about 5-6 people.

Ingredients

5 medium-sized aubergines

1 pound lamb or beef cut into cubes (we like chicken as well)

1 large onion chopped into thin slices

1 can chopped-tomatoes

Dried limes (or lime juice)

A pinch of turmeric

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

1) Peel the aubergines and remove the stem. Slice lengthwise, sprinkle with a little salt and leave in a sieve to drain.

2) Fry the aubergine in a little oil until it begins to turn brown.  Turn off heat and allow to stand.

3) Fry the meat and onions over a moderate heat until they turn golden-brown, adding the turmeric and salt and pepper (to taste). 

 4) Add water (about half a cup), chopped tomatoes, and limes. Cook on a medium-low heat for about 45 minutes.

 5) Put the aubergine in a single layer in an oven dish. Pour the meat and tomatoes over the aubergine and cover with foil, cook in a medium oven for about an hour

6) Serve hot with Iranian-style rice (basmati is good).

Is it any surprise I have put on so much weight since I got married..?

P.S Minoo just reminded me- if you are using dried limes instead of lime juice, remove them before serving-they are only meant to add flavour to the dish whilst cooking.

 

Philip K. Dick And The Pursuit Of Spiritual Truth

I have just finished reading “Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick” by Lawrence Sutin and have been struck by two things: both the impressive energy of Dick’s pursuit of spiritual truth but also the ultimate inability of a human mind, however imaginative, to comprehend the divine reality.

In the words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

‘In the Old Testament we read that God said, ‘Let us make man in Our own image’. In the Gospel, Christ said, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in Me’. In the Qur’án, God says, ‘Man is my Mystery and I am his’. Bahá’u’lláh writes that God says, ‘Thy heart is My home; purify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation’.

All these sacred words show us that man is made in God’s image: yet the Essence of God is incomprehensible to the human mind, for the finite understanding cannot be applied to this infinite Mystery. God contains all: He cannot be contained. That which contains is superior to that which is contained. The whole is greater than its parts.

Things which are understood by men cannot be outside their capacity for understanding, so that it is impossible for the heart of man to comprehend the nature of the Majesty of God. Our imagination can only picture that which it is able to create’.

Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Paris Talks’, UK Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1972 eleventh edition reprint

Significantly in his latter years Dick was to search for a saviour figure, perhaps realising that if he was to receive ‘God’s Wisdom’ it would need to come via a divine messenger. Did Dick ever hear about the Baha’i Faith? Perhaps someone out there in the blogosphere could let me know…

Increasing Concern for Baha’i Leaders Detained in Iran As Their Whereabouts Remain Unknown

As if the prospect of being held in the notorious Evin Prison was not bad enough, simply disappearing altogether is even more worrying . My thoughts and prayers are with my Baha’i brothers and sisters Behrouz Tavakkoli, Saeid Rezaie, Fariba Kamalabadi, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, and Mahvash Sabet who have not been heard from since their detention in Iran last week.

‘Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding’!

-The Bab

Minoo’s recipe for ‘Ghormeh-sabzi’

Don’t tell her that I have given away her secret but here is my wife Minoo’s recipe for making Ghormeh-sabzi, a Persian Stew. (We sometimes serve  this at the Bahá’í meetings we hold in our home).

Ingredients

(We usually get ours from the local Pakistani merchant- but if you live in an area with a large Iranian population, for example ‘Tehrangeles’ your local Iranian shop can supply) This should serve five or six people.

1 kilo of boneless stewing lamb or beef (lamb is best)

1 large onion-finely chopped

Cooking oil

1 teaspoon turmeric

1.5 measures water

1/2 measure dried limes (or lime juice)

3/4 measure kidney beans (best to pre-cook them)

Salt (to taste)

Black pepper (to taste)

1/4 measure finely chopped ‘tareh’ (chives)

1/4 measure finely chopped ‘shanbelileh’ (fenugreek)

1/4 measure finely chopped coriander

1 measure finely chopped spring onions

1.5 measures finely chopped spinach

1/2 measure finely chopped parsley

Instructions

Cut fat off the meat and chop into cubes. Fry the onions and meat over a medium heat in cooking oil until they turn golden-brown, adding the turmeric and salt and pepper (to taste).  Put in the herbs and fry for a few more minutes stirring all the while. Turn down the heat. Add water, kidney beans and dried limes. Put on the lid and simmer gently until meat is tender (for about an hour to an hour and a half). Should be served with white rice.

Enjoy! (or as the Iranians say ‘Noosh-e-joon’)!

The Challenge To Develop New Economic Models

George Soros was reported today in the Times Online saying that  the world economic situation is like a ‘greek tragedy’ (and presumeably not just a tragedy for the Greeks..).

Reading this prompted me to re-read a letter first published by the supreme governing body of the Baha’i Faith entitled The Prosperity of Humankind. It was first published in 1995 and I thought I would share with you what seems to be a particularly prescient section-

‘The classical economic models of impersonal markets in which human beings act as autonomous makers of self-regarding choices will not serve the needs of a world motivated by ideals of unity and justice. Society will find itself increasingly challenged to develop new economic models shaped by insights that arise from a sympathetic understanding of shared experience, from viewing human beings in relation to others, and from a recognition of the centrality to social well-being of the role of the family and the community’.

Looks like a good opportunity to start developing those ‘new economic models’..

Wrongful Arrest And Imprisonment Of The Leaders Of The Baha’i Community In Iran

I am greatly troubled by the recent wrongful arrest and imprisonment of the leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran on the 15th May. This brings back unhappy memories of the early 1980’s when  members of two national Iranian Bahá’í governing councils were abducted, leading to the disappearance or murder of seventeen innocent souls.  Deeply sad and ironic given that the Baha’i community with their non-involvement in partisan politics are among the most loyal and peaceful groups in the Iranian polity.  If you would like to find out more about this issue visit the Baha’i World News Service.