Try Ujala and Asma's recipes


SocietyLinks, in East London, received funding last year, for their project which enabled women to learn about other cultures and bridge cultural barriers, from creating a cookbook.

Food is a union between people and the cookbook includes recipes from all the women involved who come from different ethnic groups. It’s also a chance to let your taste buds join you on a journey, trying recipes from around the world.

Today I’m pleased to say I will be sharing two recipes from the cookbook with you today. Pack your suitcases - we’re going to India and Bangladesh. Here’s a tasty starter and a sweet dessert dish. Ujala shares her pakora recipe and Asma shares her firni recipe. Both have been good friends for over a decade and the cookbook was a great opportunity to share their cooking skills for others to try out at home!

Ujala's pakora recipe (serves 4)


Pakoras are a very popular Indian snack. They are quick and easy to make, and always a favourite with guests. You can make them with different kinds of vegetables.


  • 1 onion, chopped roughly
  • ½ tbsp curry powder (medium)
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 green chilli, chopped finely
  • Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped finely
  • 150g gram flour
  • 75g rice flour
  • 25g sesame seeds
  • 60g red lentils
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Sunflower or coconut oil (for deep frying)
  • Salt           


Place the red lentils in a bowl of water, making sure they are well covered. Leave to soak for two hours until soft, then drain. Blend until smooth.

Meanwhile, put the onion, coriander, chilli and spices in a bowl and mix. Add the sesame seeds, 1 tbsp salt and both types of flour and mix. Add the lentil puree and lemon juice and 1 tbsp of water. Mix well with your hands.

To cook, heat 500ml of oil in a deep frying pan over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, place walnut-sized balls of the mixture into the oil to cook. Test with one first to check the oil is hot enough. Don’t overfill the frying pan, you will have to cook the pakoras in batches.

Cook for about 10 minutes, turning half way through, until the balls are golden brown all over. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen towel.

Asma’s Firni recipe (Serves 6-8 people)


Firni, Rice pudding with cardamom, is a common dessert in Bangladesh to round off a meal or at a party. Most people like having something sweet after a meal.


  • 500ml whole milk
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 3 tbsp rice flour
  • 4 ½ tbsp couscous
  • 3 tbsp coconut flour
  • 3 tbsp semolina
  • 75ml whole milk
  • 100g sugar
  • 25 almond flakes, chopped
  • 1 tsp cashew nuts, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp sultanas
  • 3 tbsp pistachio nuts, chopped


1) Prepare the infused milk. Warm the milk, cardamom pods and bay leaves in a pan. Leave overnight, or at least for a few hours, to allow the flavours to infuse. Remove the leaves and cardamom pods before using.

2) Put the dry ingredients in a large saucepan. Add the plain and infused milk, and the sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 15 minutes until reduced by 2cm, stirring regularly. The mixture will start to thicken.

3) Add the chopped cashew nuts and almond flakes. Simmer on a low heat for a further 20 minutes.

4) While the milk mixture is simmering, melt the butter in a frying pan and add the sultanas. Fry until brown and add to the milk mixture.

5) The pudding is ready when it has the consistency of thick custard. Pour into a serving bowl to cool. Sprinkle with the pistachio nuts.

Through sharing recipes, cooking together and creating a cookbook together, SocietyLinks was able to unite women of different ethnicities in the local community. I hope you enjoyed that journey and you get to try these recipes at home! If you do, let us know how it turned out by tweeting us @NearNeighbours. We would love to hear from you!