Haj 2000

We have just celebrated the Eid al-adha and it reminded me of my own Haj in 2000. I went with the Islamic Foundation, based in Leicester, England. It was documented in page 20 of the attached magazine.

Haj 2000

At the time I was working with Islamic Relief in Kosova as the Country Director but flew back to the UK to join the group. You will notice in the picture I was clean shaven. Upon my return to Kosova two young students of Ilm approached me after prayers one day and reminded of the Hadith concerning men shaving their beards. I have not shaved since. So now I have reminded you.

Asalaamu alaikum

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Time is your own

One of the best things about working for yourself is the fact that you can work at times that suit your lifestyle. We have all been brought up to carry out tasks at certain times of the day. These times are not necessarily the most suitable to us, but have been selected to suit business or governmental interests.

Many years ago I lived in Yemen and there we lived our life according to the Islamic day. Each day regulated by the call to to prayers. We woke early, worked till noon, rested till Asr and then worked an hour or two more before Maghrib. The timing of these events changing as the sighting of the moon determeined the calendar months.

Alan Plater, wrote a play called “Only a matter of time”. I heard it on the BBC Radio service. It is the story about the Standardization of time in 19th Century England. Until that time basically each towns clock was not necessarily synchronised with other towns, but this did not matter as it just served as a general guide for the towns people. The rural people used nature to tell the time.

The play records the arrival of a Railway official into the outskirts of a Welsh town. The official, who was on horseback stops to ask a farmer the way to the town. The farmer is busy and invited the official to rest in his field while he finishes his task The official starts to talk about wasting time……

What follows is repartee between the two. The farmer, after the official had explained to him his reason for coming to the town, wanted to know why it was important for their town to be synchronised with London. The reason was, explained the official, that in order to produce a Railway timetable they had to unify time across England or at least between the towns that were connected by a railway line. The farmer is nonplussed by this explanation and fails to see why they should follow London and would prefer London follow them. The official explains the benefits of the Railway to the farmer, but the farmer sees no reason for him to go to London or to send his produce to London…… and so it goes on. If you get a chance listen to it. It is quite amusing.

Today of course we are time-synchronised across all of the countries of the world. To the extent that if we loose or gain the odd second it is a matter of international importance. This has brought us to this unnatural day in which we now live, dictated to us by the needs of transport, communications, industry and finance.

Living as we do my wife and I are able to return to the natural rhythm of the day, which for us Muslims, is dictated by the call to prayer. Alhamdulillah. How fortunate we are.

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From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary


: the common spirit existing in the members of a group and inspiring enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for the honor of the group.

This is a value that was taught to me in post-war Britain and later re-enforced in the Royal Navy. It is the spirit that drives people to volunteer, help their neighbor and try to perform well in all their endeavors. More recently it has been replaced by something less complete called “Team Building”. Many bodies, mostly corporate have jumped on the bandwagon to send their staff on these “Team Building” programs. I wonder how many can claim that it achieved any improvement in achieving Esprit De Corps.

As an example, how does Esprit De Corps affect the workplace? There is an employer and an employee, they are tied by contract to each other for the common purpose of creating some output. The employer agrees to pay the employee and the employee provides services to the employer and in return receives payment.

There is Esprit De Corps at various levels. A global one to make the company a success and this includes interacting with customers and suppliers by the Management and Staff, and also Esprit De Corps amongst the employees of the Business, which includes the management..

I remember in Thailand one day I went to a shipping agent to collect an incoming shipment of computer printers. The young woman who was dealing with my job apologised  as her clerk was still at the airport and would be late returning. After numerous cups of tea the clerk returned with the parcels but it was about 8PM. I said to the woman that I was sorry she and her staff had to wait so long and thanked them. She informed that no thanks were needed if was their job to complete the task for their employers and the companies customers. “How else could the company succeed and maintain them in employment?” she exclaimed. This is an example of Esprit De Corp.

Unfortunately these days, too often we see employers laying off employees because the forecasts are declining, instead of getting out and about and create more business. A leading Hotelier told me one day at a luncheon in Bangkok that this was a problem with many Western Companies compared to Japanese and Asian Companies that tended to ride the bumps and keep the business intact for the benefit of all not just the shareholder ( rights of the stakeholder/shareholder became very popular in the Thatcher years), even if it meant everyone taking a cut in salary.

At the other end, employees who do not turn up for work for whatever reason and without prior authorization of the employer  have broken their agreement. They have not only broken their agreement with the employer but an unwritten contract with their co-workers. Now their co-workers have not only to complete their tasks, but carry out the work of the absent worker. Absent employees create a vacuum in the workflow sometimes to the extent that subsequent processes cannot take place. When absenteeism becomes an epidemic, the business will struggle to succeed and erode the spirit of Esprit De Corps between the various parties.

We are indeed fortunate in Islam that “the contract” plays an important role in our lives and we are warned by Allah to adhere to them. This is one of the beauties of religion we have rules and regulation of Allah making it easy for us. This, as opposed to man-made laws which change over time.



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Exciting Times

Well the holiday season is about half way through and things are gradually returning to normal. After our long break we will, Insha Allah, re-open on 2nd August at 9AM.

Whats that 9AM? Well many people have asked us to extend our opening hours. So we will give it a try. We shall be serving a breakfast which will include choices from Organic Eggs, Organic Bread (Toasted), Danish Pastries, Sourdough Whole Grain Pancakes, Tea and Coffee. Milk for children.

This will continue throughout the morning, towards the afternoon we will revert to our normal Pizza or Foccacia, Scones, Pastries, Cakes with Tea or Coffee.

Please remember that I shall be baking as well, so I will be rushing around trying to prepare your items. The keywords are “slow/casual” dining :)

We look forward to seeing you.

Events at Jasons. On August 8th we will have a table at Jasons, Bangsar Shopping Centre where we will have a selection of our breads and will include some sampling. Approximately from 08:30 to 12 noon. This will be a good opportunity for those who have not tried Real Bread made from Organic Grains to try them out. There is a link on our website that will take you to the “Real Bread” website. Here you can see what is going on in the UK and around the world re-introducing people to “Real Bread”. We have been a member since its beginning. Take a look, there is a lot of information and downloads to help budding bakers and also ideas for schools and institutions. We will bring along a selection of grains and flours so you can see fresh ground Organic Flours. Many of you will know that we have a traditional stone mill especially brought in from Austria made by the famous Green family.



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Stores, Cafes and Restaurants

We have implemented an online web ordering system for corporate clients. This allows you to set up a standing order, and then as the need arises edit the order by adjusting the quantity or the type of bread. This allows you to adjust to market forces and avoid excessive waste.

For example, a customer of yours asks for a specific bread you do not normally carry but they wish to pick it up from you. Maybe it’s a holiday and you are closing. Just stop the order till you re-open.

An audit trail is provided; a designated person will be advised by email of the changes. The changes you make will be immediately reflected here at the bakery for us to implement. No need for you to waste time trying to contact us.


We will be happy to give you a demonstration.

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New Happenings at Whitebrickoven

Next week Ramadan will be with us once again and as a consequence our Cafe will be closed till August. I am looking forward to having a rest on Sundays.

I enjoy Ramadan as not only does it give me a rest. It is a nice change to eat at regular times in an unhurried manner.

There will be a lot going on here at the Whitebrickoven. First behind the scenes is the installation of some new software which helps us to manage the operations of a Bakery. Our large regular customers will be able to log in to their account and place or ammend their bread orders without the need to call us. They can enter their holidays to let us know when not to deliver and authorised staff can check invoices and statements.

We also hope to be able to offer the opportunity for you to order bread  that is not normally carried by your nearest supplier and have it delivered to them for your collection. These products must of course adhere to the suppliers conditions. for example you will not be able to order scones to be delivered to a shop which only carries Vegan Products because the scones contain Butter. We will also aim to expand our list of suppliers.

We have not forgotten our regular customers either. If you go to the “Products” page of the web site towards the bottom you will see a form. This is to let you make a request for bread, cakes, scones etc. We will then mail you back with a quotation. I will also start adding product descriptions with pictures. This form will change as it is a evolving project. Please note that all products ordered will have to be collected, unless you elect for POSLaju delivery.

There is more, but we will tell you about that later. In the meantime enjoy the quiet time time ahead.

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Flours to bake your own Sourdough Loaf

I have four flours that I blend for you to bake your own bread.

  1. Sticky Malt Loaf Flour – Organic White Flour with Malted Barley and Muscavado Sugar. Add sourdough or yeast, raisins, salt and water to make a chewy Malt Loaf.
  2. Mixed Seed Blend – Organic White Flour, Malted Wheat Flakes, Linseed, Millet, Sunflower Seed, Sesame Seed, Barley Malt Flour.
  3. Mixed Grain – Organic Wheat Flour, Malted Wheat Flakes, Rye Flakes, Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seed, Wheat Bran.
  4. Malted Wheat Flour – Organic Wheat Flour, Malted Wheat Flakes, Barley Malt.

These flours can be used with yeast or sourdough. The contents weighs 1KG and each cost 15 RM.

If you need sourdough we will provide that FOC for you to feed/grow.

Good luck with your Baking and hope these flours will give some new and interesting tastes and textures.

Please order the flour two days before collection at baker (@) whitebrickoven.com

To start your Bread Baking off I suggest you follow along with my friend and fellow Baker Dan Lepard in his video.

Here are the ingredients for his recipe. You can use any of our flours for this.

  • 400g strong white flour, plus more for shaping
  • 1 tsp dry instant yeast, from a sachet
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • oil for kneading

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▶ Earth Talk: Mind How You Bake! The Transformative Power of Sourdough Bread with Andrew Whitley – YouTube

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Malt Loaf

One of the things a true Englishman yearns for, at least of my generation, is the Malt Loaf. A squidgy, sticky, fruity loaf tasting of Malt. Malt is made from Barley which has been sprouted, dried and roasted before being either ground up into flour or made into a thick syrup. It is nutritious.

I said my generation, because in Post WWII Britain, children were given Malt, Cod Liver Oil and Orange Juice.

There is a company in England called Soreen and they have been baking the Malt Loaf for as long as I can remember.

Today I set about trying to reproduce the loaf. The actual ingredients of the original are a secret. I think I came up with a pretty good first attempt. The problem is that we are supposed to leave it for 2 – 3 days to develop its softness, but with all the testing there is not much left :(

Oh well that is a good reason to make some more. Will it be available on Sunday? Drop by to find out.

I will be making some new flours. Malted Wheat Flour, Seeded Bread Flour, Mixed Grain and Mill Flour (something like Granary Flour). They must be pre-ordered.

If time permits I will have some samples of the bread these flours make on Sunday.

Have a good weekend


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Vesak Day

I just went out with Mardia to deliver some bread to Blue Oasis, prior to its transportation to Penang. The roads were quiet but as a consequence, so many drivers were ignoring the traffic lights. A biker on a powerful machine with a female pillion rider in the briefest of shorts streaked through the traffic at over 100 kmh.

Come on, this is a holiday, a joyous day. Why risk making it a sad day by dangerous driving. When you are in charge of a vehicle, you are in charge of a machine that can kill.


Yesterday I baked my first batch of Teff gluten-free bread and it tastes great. We had some spread with cashew nut butter to accompany our salad lunch.


The ingredients are Teff, Buckwheat, Salt, Caraway Seed and Water. That is all; no other hidden ingredients. Note: no gums, yeast, baking powder……

If anyone want to try, you are welcome to give us a call and arrange to try it whilst it lasts. Remember, it might have gluten in as this is a bakery with gluten.

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