Cooking, eating and sharing food – a virtual feast from a safe distance

Rana prepares her chickpea pulao cookery demonstration

Onions sizzle in the pan. When Rana adds her mix of whole spices a tantalising aroma fills the hall and a small crowd gathers round the table.

Hard to believe this was Rana Sham’s first cookery demonstration, and as she laid out the ingredients she admitted to being nervous.  You would never have guessed it once she started taking her audience through the key steps of cooking a simple but delicious chickpea pulao. (See recipe below.)

Even harder to believe, this was just over two weeks ago when we gathered for a local community food event at Out of the Blue Drill Hall on International Mother’s Day. With just a little hindsight, Extra Helpings, a simple social event, seems to belong to a different time. A happy, heartwarming multicultural gathering celebrated ‘local food from around the world’.  Sunlight streamed through the roof. Live music played and World Kitchen in Leith members shared recipes, skills and dishes. We washed our hands a lot but we stood side by side. Together we dished up a nourishing meal for around fifty people of all ages.

From a different time – two weeks ago

Now as Covid-19 continues to spread, most of us are confined to our own homes – apart from those key workers who will become increasingly important during this time of crisis.  Not just the heroic NHS teams on the front line, risking their own lives to save ours, but the shops and businesses enabling food supplies to reach those most in need.

Good food and good company have never been more important. We need to find imaginative ways using digital media to keep in touch with each other, to stay safe and in good mental and physical health.

With all that in mind, we are sharing recipes provided by World Kitchen in Leith over the last few years.  [We will also share new ideas to support and connect with people living in isolation  – check tweets on @leithopenspace  @WrldKitchnLeith and follow the hashtag #FeedtheNation]

Please join us in our virtual kitchen.

Chickpea pulao

For this delicious, spicy pulao you need a large frying pan or wok with a lid. Prep 15 mins, cook 30 mins. Serves 4 or more. (In our socially isolated household it fed two of us for three meals – with boiled eggs added on the last day for a change, it made a kind of veggie kedgeree).


  • Ghee 2-3 tablespoons
  • 1lb (500g) long grained rice soaked for 30 mins
  • 1.5 tins chickpeas  
  • 2 chopped tomatoes  
  • 3-4 green finger chillies
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder  
  • half tsp turmeric  optional)
  • 1 tsp garam masala  
  • 1 tsp pulao masala (optional)  
  • 1 medium onion chopped  
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seed
  • half tsp black cumin
  • Whole spices: 2 green cardamom, 1 black cardamom, 2-3 cloves, stick cinnamon
  • Juice of half lemon
  • Handful fresh coriander, chopped  
  • Water – approx 1.3pints or  75 cl
  • Salt to taste


Melt ghee, add whole spices, including cumin and black cumin,  and stir fry 3-4 mins. Add chopped onion and fry until it starts to take colour.

Add chopped tomatoes and salt. Stir fry for 1 min. Now add dry spices and cook until the ghee separates.

Add chickpeas, cover and cook for 2-3 mins.Now add the pre-soaked rice and stir fry 2-3 mins. Add water and bring to the boil. 

Turn down heat, cover pan and simmer until done – 10-15 mins

Stir in lemon juice and chopped coriander. Serve with raita and chutney.

Variations: mushrooms or for meat eaters, lamb and chicken work well.

Stay safe

Hoping you can try this out. Please let us know how you are getting on. Take care, stay safe. We will get through this!

With thanks to WKiL’s Rana, Alice, and Meena; to  OoTB for organising and hosting the Extra Helpings event on Sunday 8 March and FairShare for contributing delicious food.

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