Cumbria Multicultural Women’s Network brings together women of diverse cultures now living in Cumbria, for the purpose of acknowledging and celebrating individual heritage and traditions, sharing unique and collective experience, and nurturing skills and confidence; thus enhancing abilities to integrate with local community and pursue new opportunities.

What We Do

Join us in creating a book of our favourite ethnic recipes.  The recipes below have been sent in by members.  When we have enough we will look for funding to publish our book.  You can contribute to the collection by posting your recipe on the space provided below

My Grandmothers’ Falafel.    by Maha Ismael


 While I was shopping at Tesco, I came across a packet of dried Falafel. I was very pleased with it. All you have to do is add water and leave it for just 5 minutes, before frying it. Now we can eat Falafel without having to go through the tedious process of doing it from scratch. I fried it, did a nice sandwich and thought it was great.

My Husband was very happy with it, but said it does not taste like the real ones; he wanted the ones done from scratch. But how to do it and the main ingredient – the dried split beans- is not found in Barrow?

I waited till our monthly shopping fromManchesterwhere we buy the stuff not available in Barrow and bought the Falafel ingredients as well.

I have never prepared Falafel before; my mother & grandmother used to prepare it from scratch at home. But my grandmother’s was something very special… Not knowing how to do it, I called my sister to ask her if she remembers my grandmother’s recipe.

Now that I have the ingredients, the recipe, it is time to start.. Oh! I don’t have a manual mincer, I’ll use the food processor, I think it will do the job.

I soaked the split beans for a couple of days, changing the water twice a day. When it became soft , ready to be used, I chopped the herbs, cut the salad onion – we call it green onion –and the onions,  mixed all together in a large bowl, took a handful of the mix put it in the food processor and let it work for 2-3 minutes.

I opened the food processor, looking inside it with doubts of the result. The delightful kiwi green color of the paste inside the food processor was quite a surprise to see, I was more astonished while taking the paste out. It did have the same texture as my grandma’s.

As I was placing the processed paste in a bowl, it suddenly took me back some 40 years, as if I was looking to my grandma’s bowl, in her kitchen with the wide windows overlooking the back garden, I see the old table with the manual mincer fixed on its edge, the dark wood rustic shelf where she was keeping the spices in small glass labeled jars. I always looked forward to the day I’d be tall enough to reach this shelf.

On weekend my brother and I would go to sleep over at my Grandma’s house. Friday’s breakfast was usually Falafel. We would wake up early to help Grandma preparing it. She would let my brother have a go with the manual mincer just for a couple of rounds, and then she would continue the mince, making him believe that she couldn’t do it without him.

“You will do the Tahini salad; nobody is doing it better then you.”  She used to tell me. She would put all the ingredients in small bowls and all I had to do was to mix them up and keep stirring with a fork until it become a soft creamy thick paste.

Spending the weekends at grandma’s was a great joy for me and my brother.

I fried the Falafel, spread a layer of creamy white Tahini salad in a Pita bread,  placed 4 brown crispy Falafel, topped with sparkling golden sesame seeds, then finished the sandwich with sliced tomato and spring onion, placed it in a plate over a layer of lettuce and some black olive on the side, ready to be served. Not only did it look so delicious, it also had an irresistible smell. Seeing my husband enjoyably having his first bite, I recall my Grandma gently smiling when my brother innocently asking her “Is there going to be Falafel sandwiches in Heaven?”

Yes, it is true that Grandma’s Falafel was incomparably (yummy) scrumptious, but it is the family gathering around the breakfast table, the collaboration during the preparation process, the satisfying sense of achievement and above all the love and the passion that my grandma was putting in while preparing it; the main reasons behind this feeling of extreme happiness.

I understood why my husband wanted the homemade Falafel

Now I always have it in my fridge,  I make the paste freeze it in small packs, ready for frying on weekend breakfast, like the old days.

I remember my grandma each time I eat it, the revival of a weekend ritual and eating a very traditional dish makes us feel home, even if I’m not doing it as good as my Grandma’s it does have the same love and affection.

The Recipe

 Falafel is very popular in the Middle Eastas a fast food. Vendors sell it on the street corners in Cairo. As a main dish, it is served as a sandwich, stuffed in pita bread with lettuce, tomatoes, and tahini. As an appetizer, it is served on a salad, or with hummus and tahini. Falafel is a favorite among vegetarians.



  Preparation:  Place dried split beans in a bowl, covering with cold water. Allow to soak for 2 days. Change the water 2 to 3 times a day until beans are soft. Drain split beans. Combine all the ingredients in large bowl and mix well.
Process the mixture in a food processor. You want the result to be a thick paste.
Form the paste into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Slightly flatten. Top with sesame seeds.
Deep fry in oil at 350 degrees until golden brown (5-7 min                      



Stuffed vine leaves   by Omnia Mossad

The recipe I would like to share is one of my mum’s rituals in weekends since I can remember. It’s called stuffed vine leaves. It’s the meal we used to have at dinner every Friday. My mum used to work all week & she was very busy so she usually treated us with this delicious meal on Friday since this was her only day off. Preparing this meal takes a lot of work & time so practically my mum didn’t enjoy her day off after all her hard work but she made it with so much passion & said she felt rewarded when we all sat down & enjoyed it together.


Every Friday, my dad woke us really early so we could all enjoy our weekend together. He would play with me & my three sisters until mum prepared breakfast. When we grew a little older, we would take turns in helping mum, so two of us would help her with breakfast & the other two would be stuck to help her with dinner. When it was my turn to prepare breakfast i would always be in charge of making the feta cheese with chopped tomatoes, lemon juice & olive oil. Mum would start making the falafel earlier & I would make scrambled eggs at the last minute so they stay nice & warm when served. I can still vividly remember the smell of falafel being fried & the smell of vine leaves being blanched in the background. They both smelled really delicious. After preparing breakfast, we would all sit down in our dining room & enjoy eating & chatting & laughing together sometimes for more than an hour. This also gave time for the vine leaves to cool down. After breakfast & clearing up as quickly as possible, it was time for coffee. That was my favourite time of the whole day. My mum taught me how to make Turkish coffee since i was 12 & I loved it ever since. We would all sit down & relax in our sunny balcony in winter or our nice cosy airy living room in summer & enjoy drinking coffee talking endlessly. I still remember the aroma of freshly brewed coffee & the voices of my sisters playing & laughing with my parents while I made them the perfect cup of coffee ( mum always said that the best way to enjoy coffee is to have it made for you , not make it yourself) . By the time we finished our coffee, it was usually Friday prayer’s time & it also meant that our lazy relaxed morning is over & it was time for more serious things to be done. My mum would head back to the kitchen with her two helping daughters & the other two would start doing chores around the house.
After blanching & cooling the vine leaves, she prepared the stuffing which consisted of the following (for every 250 gms of vine leaves) :

 2-3 cups of rice
4 tomatoes finely chopped
2 onions finely chopped
Bunch of flat leaf parsley finely chopped

    2-3 cups of rice
4 tomatoes finely chopped
2 onions finely chopped
Bunch of flat leaf parsley finely chopped                                                                                    

Bunch of coriander & a bunch of dill both finely chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dry mint
Seasoning (salt,pepper,cumin,coriander) all measured to taste.

 She might use 250 gms of cooked minced beef sometimes. After a long process of chopping to prepare the stuffing she would mix all the ingredients & check the seasoning in order to start the stuffing process. She usually prepared a big pot to cook the vine leaves in by lining it with thin slices of tomatoes & onions laid carefully in concentric circles on the base of the pot. The vine leaves are spread carefully one by one on a plate (rough surface facing upwards for a soft finished look), one tablespoon of the stuffing is put at the tip of the broadest side of the leaf & the two other sides are tucked inwards & rolled over to the other tip. This process resembles rolling spring rolls; only spring rolls are squared in shape while vine leaves are triangular. My mum was so patient when she made this meal. She liked them all to be the same size & thickness so she took her time when she rolled them. They looked so neat & shiny & she usually arranged them in concentric circles as well in very neat rows until she finished the whole lot. In order to cook the vine leaves, she added 1 litre of chicken stock, juice of 2 lemons   & left them to simmer for 45mins- 1 hour. The vine leaves should be left to cool for 45 mins & then came the greatest trick of the whole meal. Mum usually inverted the pot on a large circular platter & it looked marvellous. It really looked like a very well decorated cake with slices of juicy cooked tomatoes & onions on top & neat circular rows shiny of vine leaves underneath.  

2-vine leaves (egyptian).jpgWe used to feel ashamed of wrecking its shape to eat until mum promised us a new one the following week. She also served a smooth yoghurt dip with this gorgeous meal. The smell is unforgettable & the beauty of this meal is that u can eat it hot, warm or even cold if you are lucky enough to have any leftover.

Stuffed vine leaves is always cooked in summer & there is also stuffed eggplants, stuffed courgettes &stuffed tomatoes. We use the exact stuffing for all those vegetables but they are prepared differently. The eggplants, courgettes & tomatoes have to be hulled first before stuffing them but they taste equally delicious. In winter we use cabbage leaves instead of vine leaves. Cabbage leaves have to be boiled briefly in hot water with cumin added to it, then they are stuffed exactly like vine leaves.
I  always do my best to cook this meal for my kids, but I never make it half as good as mum used to make it. My kids even say that my mum’s stuffed vine leaves taste far more delicious than mine & I can’t blame them because they really do taste better. My mum still cooks this meal for us when we visit her for dinner on weekends & she says that she’s even happier to cook it for her grandchildren. We still enjoy it together as we always did when we were kids.

(sa-wat-ka ) by Joanna Polis
I thought about that recipe, and finally have one.  It's basically a boiled vegetable salad with mayonnaise – called something like 'shawott' - that's how you might spell it for the right English pronunciation in Silesia region in Poland, where I come from.        
Surowka is one of the most popular salads in Poland, which you wouldn't

 guess, parsnips, celeriac and potatoes don't sound very sophisticated!

Even in the 'poorer' times it was a certain thing on the family table
- you could use any veg you used for preparing the chicken stock or
dinner leftovers and so on.
I remember it best from the innumerable birthday and anniversary parties at my grandma's house. I have a big family, and they would all gather at grandma's, and invariably, there would be a 'shawott' on the table for supper. The huge salad bowl would disappear in minutes ☺ 
Another party staple were the unforgettable birthday cakes baked by my grandfather - unfortunately, I don't have the recipe. It was like he had the  'secret ingredient' - neither my grandma nor my mum were able to recreate   grandad’s masterpieces.
 I remember the salty bread sticks, herring canapes, and soured cucumbers we children loved. (Either you love those cucumbers or hate them, I guess, they're pickled in salty water with herbs and get crunchy and sour).
But, back to the 'shawott' - There are no exact measurements, the vegetables are in more or less equal amounts. You'll need parsnips, celeriac, new potatoes, carrot - these you boil or steam and then dice. Plus - a can of green peas and some raw leek (only if you like, you need to cut the white and green part into small pieces). The truth is, having that basis, you can add whatever you want, boiled egg, sweetcorn etc.
My mum would always add some diced soured cucumber. If you feel like experimenting, you can find a jar of those in Polish shops and probably at some supermarkets as well. After you mixed them all in a bowl, you add a little mayo - so that you get a sticky mixture. But it's not as much as in Coleslaw. Finally, you add salt and pepper to your liking.
Right, that's it!
best wishes,

Recipe for Polish Barszcz (clear beetroot soup)  By Zosia Wand


This dish is typically served on Christmas Eve as part of a twelve course, vegetarian banquet that begins at the moment the youngest child in the family sees the first star in the sky.  I remember eating this soup when visiting Polish relatives.  It is the most magnificent rich, purple colour and was always served from wide, shallow bowls, sometimes with tiny mushroom dumplings called uszka (little ears) a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of dill.  I spent my childhood summers in a dilapidated villa outside Warsaw with my mother’s two aunts and various other eccentric tenants.  My aunts ran a workers’ restaurant where they served cooked meals three times a day.  Later, when they retired, the still cooked and served a meal to anyone who happened to call in.  There was always fresh soup on the hob and even in the times of severe rationing, a meat and vegetable dish of some kind to follow.  Sadly, I was too busy playing outside to learn any recipes from them and back in England neither my mother nor my grandmother liked to cook, so I had to teach myself traditional Polish recipes from a Polish cookbook I bought at the Polish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith.  More recently, I’ve taken the advice of local Polish friends.  I particularly enjoy cooking Barszcz at Christmas because it takes several days to prepare and the colours of the vegetables in the pot are stunning: the deep purple of the beetroot against the lime green leaves of the celery, the darker, forest green of the flat leaf parsley, the pale gold of the parsnip and onion, the vivid orange of the carrot.  Making the barszcz signifies the beginning of Christmas for me, the coming together of past and present, memories and hope.

 Kwas      Serves 8

Kwas is the deep purple beetroot ferment that is the foundation for the classic clear beetroot soup and provides its unique depth of flavour.  It should be made at least 5 – 6 days in advance.

450g (1lb) uncooked beetroot, peeled and sliced

1 litre (1 ¾ pints) water

1 crust rye bread.

 Put the beetroot into a large jar or bowl.  Bring the water to the boil, remove from heat and allow to cool.  When it is lukewarm, pour it over the beetroot.  Add the crust of rye bread.  Cover with cling film or a piece of muslin and stand in a warm place (the bottom of an airing cupboard is ideal) for 5 – 6 days.  Remove the foam from the surface and strain the clear beet juice into a suitable air-tight container.  If kept in a cool place this will last for several months.

 Once the kwas is added to the soup, the soup should not be boiled, otherwise this sour juice will lose its flavour and colour.

Uszka (‘Little Ears’)

Makes approximately 20

For the dough:

75g (2 ½ oz flour

pinch salt

1 egg yolk

 For the filling: (see over)

25g (1oz) mushrooms (reserved from stock made for Barszcz)

1 onion, peeled

25g (1oz) butter

1 tablespoon dried breadcrumbs

1 egg white

sprig of parsley, finely chopped

salt and pepper

To make the dough, sift the flour and salt into a bowl and knead to a smooth dough with the egg yolk and a few drops of water.  Roll out the mixture thickly and cut into small squares 5cm x 5 cm (2inches x 2 inches).  To make the filling, dice the mushrooms, chop the onion finely and sauté both in the butter until the onions have softened.  Mix in the breadcrumbs, egg white and parsley and season well.  Spoon a little of the mushroom filling on to each square.  Fold the dough over this to form a triangle, then join the two opposite corners together, pinching the edges firmly together to seal.  Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and when bubbling briskly throw in the little ears.  Boil for 5 minutes.  The will rise to the surface when they are ready.  Drain the dumplings, put in the soup tureen or into individual soup plates and pour the Barszcz over.

The Soup

25g (1oz) dried mushrooms

1 celeriac, roughly chopped

1 carrot, roughly chopped

½ parsnip, roughly chopped

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped

450g (1lb) uncooked beetroot, peeled and sliced

1 bay leaf                                     

5 black peppercorns

750ml (1 ¼ pints) kwas

                                                1 level teaspoon of dill           Uszka in clear borscht                                                     

I level teaspoon of parsley

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

pinch of sugar

1 garlic clove, crushed.    

                                       To serve:                                         

sour cream (optional)

little ears (optional)

 Wash the mushrooms and leave to soak in warm water, having cleaned them all of their grit.  Drain, put in a pan and cover with fresh water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender.  Put the celeriac, carrot, parsnip, onion and beetroot in a pan, cover with water, add the bay leaf and peppercorns and cook for about 1 – 1 ½ hours until the beetroot has softened.  Meanwhile, strain the mushroom stock, reserving the mushrooms for the ‘little ear’ dumplings, and set aside. Strain the stock from the vegetables and mix with the mushroom stock.  Add the kwas and stir thoroughly.  Chop the dill and parsley finely and sprinkle into the soup.  Add the lemon juice, sugar and garlic.  Heat the soup to boiling point but do not allow to boil.  Remove from the heat and serve with ‘little ears’ and sour cream.




"Thank you Donika, for setting up the network and opening this door for so many women… thank you from one such woman."