Halal Cooking Club
Welcome to my Halal Cooking Club. We are a group of eleven women with a true love for culinary experiences, sisterhood, and following halal. Usually we keep our dinners very private, but today we want to share some of our precious culinary travels with all of the Halal Consumer readers.
How does it work? We rotate dinner venues; each of us gets an opportunity to host. The hostess gets to pick the theme, assign the recipes, and decorate her home to match her theme. She also is responsible for providing theme-related beverages. Usually, these are unique concoctions (forget about water and soda). The hostess goes all out—ordering flowers from the florists, getting unique service sets from abroad, and rearranging the house to meet the theme.
The rules are very strict—no husbands, no kids, and absolutely no extra guests.
When the Cooking Club day arrives, we are all hard at work, taking our unique recipes and making sure they come together. As the evening draws close, anticipation grows—not only of how our individual recipes will present themselves, but also of the amazing degustation that awaits us. The menu usually consists of a five-course meal: two appetizers, a soup, a salad, a main dish, and two desserts. The main dish is made up of two meats and two sides.
Dressing to the theme is imperative, from the Mexican sombrero to the red carpet red lipstick (Emmy’s Theme). The evening comes to life not only in our kitchens but also our closets.
We are all busy women, with kids, extended families, and many of us with careers; however, it is seldom that any of us will miss these precious evenings. Our Cooking Club has existed for over four years now, and our palates are still constantly surprised by the beautiful culinary universe that awaits us.
We all hail from different backgrounds, from South Asia to the Balkans to the Midwestern American Heartland. We all live in different parts of Chicago, from the heart of Lincoln Park to the vast homes of the North Shore. Cooking Club not only offers us the opportunity to bond and indulge our taste buds, but also to experience genuine hospitality in each other’s homes.
There are no exclusions. Being strict halal connoisseurs, this is liberating. We have made it all—ale-battered cod (using ginger ale), Hawaiian pizza, Mexican beans, French onion soup—of course finding very viable halal alternatives for all relevant ingredients. We savor the opportunity to open doors to foods that may otherwise be off limits. We have reinvented the game: halal for us has gone from a dietary requirement to a magical culinary journey. What is amazing is that we have a beautiful sisterhood (and supportive families) to share it with!!!
Before I joined my Halal Cooking Club, that is what my spice rack consisted of. Our table settings were mediocre, and our culinary universe consisted of my mom’s simple dinner solutions and some ad hoc recipes I picked up along the way. Being a strict zabiha connoisseur, the scope of my family’s palate was framed by my limited kitchen abilities and what was available at local Muslim restaurants. Every day as 3pm rolled around, I was shocked and mortified—it’s dinner time again???!!! With Cooking Club that has changed; whipping something up is so much simpler. My spice rack is now brimming with ingredients that bring new zest to the kitchen table.
Thai Spring Rolls
French Onion Soup
[Ginger] Ale-Battered Cod
Asma Ahad is a mother of four who lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago. She is IFANCA’s director of halal market development.