Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance

I arrived at 10am at Humraaz support services for December’s community cook up.  I had been sent the menu a few days before which the ladies in the service came up with themselves. We would be cooking a mixed vegetable karahi with wholemeal chapattis and a Christmas themed semolina.

So in line with the other events my role was to source the ingredients from local independents rather than a supermarket chain, to demonstrate that it doesn’t have to cost the earth to eat well and on a budget. I then facilitate the  workshop around the cooking with food themed conversations with the participants. I have found so far that food is a great connector and engager. It provides a foundation that breaks down barriers and opens up conversations in all directions. The common theme however  is always an authentic heart led dialogue around about well being, connectedness and community.

I was interested in finding out more about these ladies backgrounds and the food landscape in the country they were born in. These ladies have experienced violence and domestic abuse and so to protect their identities there will be no photos of their faces.

Yasmin – the education worker, explained that cooking together is one of the many ways the women find solace and is often cooperated into the sessions and activities which take place in refuge and at the community hub.

The ladies on this session were mostly from Pakistan. I was eager to find out how children there learn to cook and if it differs to here. Neelam told me that her mum taught her how to cook when she was about 15 .She said that at the school she went to they didn’t teach cooking skills but they did a yearly event and all the children brought in dishes that they cooked at home and shared the recipes. She told me that Pakistani people love their food, understand its role in family and community but eat far too much high fat foods! She said their normal is still one of people growing their own produce and supporting local farmers. She said however there is a shift happening now in that more families are wanting their daughters to progress academically and the tradition of girls learning how to cook from their mums is taking a back seat. The other ladies acknowledged and agreed with this.


So here are the recipes for the food that the ladies cooked. They cooked enough to feed 20 people.

Chapatis – from Halima

500 g flour

2 cups of water

4 tbsp oil

Pinch of salt



  • Mix together the flour, salt and add the oil to make a dough.
  • Let it rest in the bowl and just leave until ready to cook.
  • Roll out when ready into the size you want and when the pan starts to smoke place the chapati in it.
  • Cook for about 30 second each side.


Mixed Vegetable Karahi- from Sakina

3 caulifower

1kg onions

1 tomatoes

500 g garlic

500g ginger

2kg potatoes

2kg carrots

500g green chillis

9 mixed peppers

curry powder mix- according to taste – we used Basaar mix

Bunch of coriander

Half a cup of oil

3 Tbsps. salt – according to taste




  • Cut and wash the vegetables.
  • Add the oil to the pan and fry off the onion until its brown.
  • Add the garlic and ginger, then after 2 minutes add the salt.
  • Then add all of the vegetables and coriander.
  • Cover for 10 minutes.
  • Stir and cover for another 10 minutes and serve when ready.


Christmas themed semolina- from Neelam

1.5 kg semolina

2 packs of butter

1kg Sugar

250g almonds

500g desiccated coconut

Bramley apple




  • Begin with melting the butter
  • Add the semolina until the mixture turns golden in colour
  • Add 1kg sugar and 2 litres water
  • Allow to cook until the water is fully absorbed
  • Add dry nuts, cranberries and apple
  • Finally sprinkle coconut on top


In total the food bill came to £63.00 and I bought it all from Scott Stewart on Blackburn market and Asia Continental and so that comes in at £3.18 per head. Not too heady a price is it- eating local seasonal produce and supporting local businesses along with it!


There were about 10 ladies in total. All of them worked like a team – it looked to me like a professional kitchen! It was truly impressive to witness but what was more memorable were the stories each lady shared with me.  Personal events which I won’t share here but are the reason for these ladies being in this service. Life changing trauma that is more common than most realise.

You wouldn’t think these ladies had suffered like this however because the atmosphere and energy in that building was one of love, kindness and compassion for one another.

Thank you, ladies and all you ladies who work at Humraaz. You are doing a brilliant job, and thank you for having me.


Scott Stewart: Blackburn Market open 6 days a week. If you can’t get to the market Scott will deliver within Blackburn and Darwen Facebook

Asia Continental:  Unit 7 Whallley Range, Boyle st, Blackburn BB1 6DG Facebook