Still waiting… The four plaited loaf

One over three, two over three, four over two, this is the forth four plaited loaf to go alongside the 24 mango Chelsea buns, the kitchen smells like a bakery and I feel like a baker, I’m enjoying it!
I am making lunch for 20 people for the last of the training/practise sessions at the hospital.
‘Mama, mama’ Lucas calls, excitedly in the beautiful high pitched toddler voice ‘tuk, tuk, tuk tuk’ he runs to the window trying to pull himself up high enough to look outside at the metallic chugging  lawn mower engine powered vehicle. He has become somewhat obsessed with tuk tuks (rickshaws) that parallels only his fanaticism for chickens. As he drifts off in to his late morning snooze his eyes closed and stretched out in the middle of our double bed his gentle voice calls ‘tuk, tuk’… he is dreaming.

Lucas and I pack up the sandwiches, as we live up three flights of stairs, I pause and think how do you carry a toddler, a rucksac, 40 sandwiches and 20 Chelsea buns down the stairs in one go so I don’t have to leave Lucas alone? I somehow have to manage to lock the front door and keep the car keys in one hand (forgetting about the two trips option), I place the sandwiches in two plastic bags, put them over my arm, put the rucksac on, pick up Lucas, place the tray of Chelsea buns outside, lock the door, pick up the tray and realise I’ve forgotten to put Lucas shoes on, so I rewind, put his shoes on, finally pick up the tray and head down.. .mobile mum and bakery here we come! I arrive at the hospital the mock study run through which is going really well, the team are all very motivated and putting great thought into any small problems that arise.  We have all made a good start, ready to go, we all wait, wait for the slit lamp that is still in customs.

Andrew: “This is the third person I’ve spoken to and each of you has said I need to do something different” I’ve just got off the phone to DHL, again! The team is all raring to go, training is complete and motivation high, but we still have no slit lamp. We can’t start with out this vital piece of ophthalmic equipment so I am having to balance patience with growing frustration at what is a ridiculous situation.

A colleague in Rwanda sent the parcel containing the slit lamp 4 weeks ago, plenty of time for it to be received and the project started as per the schedule I’d set (forgetting temporarily that life here runs on African time and that no amount of being organised and prepared can change that). I followed the DHL tracking system on-line and it had arrived in Nairobi a couple of days after being sent. Excellent. I called the office to see when I might get my hands on it and they explained to me that it is fact lost in Uganda somewhere. This made no sense, why had it been marked as arrived? Apparently only the label had made it to Nairobi!

Daily phone calls to their offices to see if it had been found ended with them resigning to the fact they had lost it and suggesting we make a claim to get the value of it back – a process which will take a minimum of 3 months.

My colleague in Rwanda calls the DHL office and is assured that it is not lost but awaiting customs clearance in Nairobi. The plot thickens. After several more hours wasted in phone calls it seems it is has never actually been lost but in Nairobi airport awaiting customs clearance. They say it cannot be cleared with out the item’s serial number. The only copy of the serial number is on the slit lamp itself, which is in the box. They cannot open the box with out the serial number and we cannot get the serial number with out opening the box!

After 3 more days of negotiations they accept it can be cleared with a clear description of what is in the box and what it is used for. We will however have to pay a bond, an “agent” to help clear it on my behalf and pay the rapidly growing charges for them “storing” it for us in customs!!! Today letters are being written and we are yet to reach the end of this saga.

“Everything will be okay in the end, and if it is not okay, then it is not the end”

There are several adjustments we are having to make to life here, the relaxed pace has two sides to it. It is nice not feeling rushed however “Africa time” can result in a lot of waiting around. The “fundy” read plumber/handyman is due at 9am to fix our over spilling toilet, he finally arrived at 4.30pm and then has to go again for more parts!

I’ve decided that I’ll use the waiting time constructively and have set up a regular teaching program in the hospital. We will have our first session on Monday and this will at least keep the team together and I hope, motivated until we are ready to go. It is also an opportunity to catch up on mounds of paper work and complete some of the background work I need to do to ensure smooth running of the project.

Despite the frustrations there are so many things that make being here such a wonderful experience. The people are warm and the tuk tuks (rickshaws) and their drivers provide Lucas with endless entertainment as he gets to point and practice his newest words with the tuk tuk drivers waving back in appreciation of Lucas’ pointing. I like that when they don’t have the right change when shopping they give you a few small sweets to soften the blow and that any major purchase comes with the seller’s mobile number in case it needs fixing. I smile each time we leave or return to our compound, Daniel the security guard tells us, “you are leaving”, or “you have come back”, in case we did nit realise. I love that as we step on to the road outside our home we are sure to be passed by the local farmer and his 11 humped back cows and that the roaming chickens will have Lucas imitating them.

Thankfully Madeleine continues to churn out quality baking to keep myself and the team motivated.

Recipe:  4 plaited loaf

150g wholemeal stoneground flour

350g white strong stroneground flour

8g dried yeast

340g water

5g salt

10g mild olive oil if you would like? (You don’t need to add this, it just makes it a little softer)

handful of sunflower seeds

20g golden linseeds


1. Mix all ingredients together into a sticky dough and knead for 10 minutes of 5 minutes using a dough hook in a mixer.

2. Cover with cling-film and leave to double in size for about 1 hour.

3. When risen turn out onto the work surface and divide into 4 equal portions

4. Roll each portion into a long sausage about 45-50cm long.

5. Line up vertically and gently stick the ends together.  Begin plaiting, place one over three, two over three, four over two and continue to repeat until you have used all the dough, renumber one to four each time you have made a movement, i.e. after the first plait the roll on the furthest left is now number one. Stick the ends bits together and gently tuck under to make it look neat.  Dust the plaited loaf with flour and cover with cling film and leave to rise for a further hour.

6. It is proved when it holds an indent of a finger.  Place it in the oven at 220°C for 10mins, tip a half glass of water on the bottom of the oven to create lots of steam to make a better crust before closing the oven door.  Reduce the heat to 200°C after 10mins and bake until golden brown.

7. When baked remove from the oven and bake of a wire tray to preserve a crusty base.


1. Tomato sliced, mozarella, fresh basil, drizzle of good olive oil, black pepper and sprinkle of salt

2 Aubergine pate – Slice in half a few aubergines and roast with sprinkle of salt, balckpepper and caynne pepper on top.  Roast until all gooey.  Scrape out and place in a food blender with some roasted garlic to taste, fresh coriander, olive oil, lemon juice and dash of white wine vinegar and blend util desired consistency, season further if required.

Somethings just don’t quite go to plan…. Banana Tart Tatin and Chocolate Mango Surprise Cake

No! The cake is leaking! Molten brown sugar is spilling from one carefully crafted banana tart tatin to the one below. This is not good and Andrew looks at me like I’m a crazy lady as I report the disaster that is happening in front of me. Here I was thinking I’d make the team a treat for another hard day of training, instead it is early morning and I’ve left making the banana tart tatin until now, the training session is this afternoon. I thought it would be a great thing to make, simple ingredients, locally sourced and available, however I had totally over looked that making caramel with the brown granulated sugar here is different to using white caster sugar.  I also thought that using a flan dish with a removable bottom would be ok…(well maybe with good caramel!) so we had a rather big leak. Then there is the ongoing problem of markedly different temperatures on different shelves in the oven! I was left with something resembling a pudding and maybe a tart tatin that could be cut into pieces and eaten with a napkin! The team loved them but I felt a bit embarrassed serving them but felt it was important to share my flops as much as the successful bakes, I like to be real!

I wake hearing the sound of sloshing water and cloths, Lucas is still asleep, I daren’t move, any extra minutes of sleep are a bonus.  I am counting in my head in rhythm to the sound of sloshing water the number of times he has woken in the night and Im sure its 8.  My eyes are stinging, they have been all night, a second shower at 3am only mildly took the edge off.  Andrew emerges to find our poor guests Bernice and Eric, from South Sudan and Ghana, mopping up the contents of the toilet… everything… it has overflowed, we had the plumbers in before they arrived who had assured us it was working.  Did you know it is world toilet day on 19th November? Seems very apt after our toilet disaster. Bernice’s eyes are also stinging, it turns out handling new impregnated mosquito nets then rubbing your eyes is not that dissimilar to chopping chillies then giving your corneas a good rub! I don’t think they’ll be coming back in a hurry to B&B Jamii.

I am cooking for our guests, I decide to make our family chocolate cake inspired by the arrival of “Tim Tams” (the Ozzie version of Penguins but better) that Bernice has kindly brought us. I notice an unwanted visitor in the kitchen, a cockroach, I chase it around till I finally trap it and gently make sure it doesn’t visit again…   Distracted I miss the oven is overheating, I think it is not actually an oven but a random temperature generator. I hurriedly pull the cake out to find the middle burnt and sunken, a cake disaster! Andrew doesn’t seem to see the magnitude of yet another cake breakdown and flippantly says I should just cut the middle out! I tell him in the politest terms possible that it is a ridiculous idea and the cake is ruined. He’s convinced it’ll be fine with a gaping hole in the middle! Then I start thinking maybe he is on to something, I cut out the middle of the cake, take the burt bit away, crumble up the good stuff, it still tastes good. I then mix the crumbled centre with chopped mango, (Bernice loves mango) and put it all back in filling the hole.  A chocolate icing cover and the ‘mess’ is hidden.

“Chocolate mango suprise cake” is surprisingly good and goes to show that disasters can be turned in to success.

The Falty Towers events continue, I have a pile of clean washing and a wriggling Lucas in my arms and head for the door to hang the washing on the roof, the inside lock is completly jammed, we are stuck in the house! Andrew is in the office (just a couple of minutes away) and comes to try unlock it from the ouside but is unable. Lucas and I settle for a day indoors.  Our landlords appreciate that although the flat looks great it is poor quality and the finishing appears to have beed done as a race to get out. They very kindly drive from two hours in Eldoret to arrange a new toilet and a plumber to fit it, send another guy to sort the lock and once he is in he has the job of trying to fix the hot water in the guest shower. With people in and out we take a break once they have left and go for a walk, on the way out we find the outer door key is missing.  This a potential security risk so our landlords kindly buy us a good padlock, whilst walking I am thinking why were they keys separated, I don’t like to assume they have gone into the wrong hands, and I think it is just as likely a bit of carelessness. Thankfully  later we find the key on the guest shower window ledge!  Shortly after, just as dinner is served we have yet another power cut, a long one, another dinner by phone light. We decide to leave the washing up until we can see and snuggle up together on the chair to watch the last half an hour of Ice Age and take an early night!

We wake this morning very refreshed, and finally my eyes have stopped stinging! A run followed by a coffee, things are looking up!! I turn on the tap, no water… Oh well a good excuse not to do the washing up!  We go out for lunch instead!

Andrew:  I’m on the phone to DHL East Africa yet again who assure me the Slit Lamp (the rather expensive and essential piece of equipment I need to examine the study patients on) has not been lost in Uganda and this was misinformation. Apparently it is in Nairobi airport but nobody there seems to be able to place it. My plan of commencing village 1 of 100 this week looks to be an unlikely event. Oh well, I have a mountain of things to work through and I can’t magic up a new one so will have to use my energies elsewhere. Madeleine is having a fight with the oven which appears to be the cause of a cake accident. I make some suggestions which are not well received so go back to being on hold with DHL.

The study team have gelled really well and are seemingly happy. My phone rings, it seems one of the team are unhappy about something, an issue we had already discussed on several occasions and apparently sorted out. We meet in the hospital to discuss it again. I am rapidly learning that face to face frank discussions are not the way things work here but through intermediaries who share information at a later date when the individual with the concern is not available. We have accepted that cultural differences, missing deliveries, oven disasters, leaking toilets, power cuts, water cuts and self locking doors are all part of the rich fabric of living in Africa, things like this will happen and it is all part of the learning experience, one so far that we are really enjoying.

Recipes: Banana Tart Tatin and Chocolate Mango Surprise Cake

For the banana tart tatin I used Sarah Jane’s recipes from the Great British Bake-off.  In addition to the problems described earlier I just placed the rough puff pastry in the freeze to chill more quickly as I was struggling with time, probably another not great bit to do with hind site  However the bits of rough puff pastry that were cooked well, worked and were nice and crunchy and yummy! Let me know how you guys do with this one and I will try and improve my efforts at a later date!

Chocolate Mango Surprise Cake

This chocolate cake recipe is a McCutcheon (my family name) favourite as a child we would always have this cake for our birthday’s, it’s so yummy and easy to make, tastes really chocolatey whilst just using cocoa powder and the icing is so simple but very effective and gives you the same chocolate hit as nice dark chocolate!



110g soft butter

275g dark sugar

175g plain flour

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 ts bicarbonate of soda

200ml milk (or guinness..very yummy!)

50g cocoa powder


1 chopped Mango

Icing: (sorry these measurements are not metric..its just how i’ve always made it!)

1oz of butter

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp caster sugar

5oz icing sugar

10z cocoa


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a 20-22cm ish cake tin with baking parchment

2. Beat the soft butter and sugar until light and fluffy then gradually add in the egg (if you add a room temperature egg it is less likely to curdle.

3. Sieve the flour and raising agents together in one bowl, in another small jug mix together the cocoa and milk until you have a smooth chocolatey paste, at first it will probably go all lumpy but just keep mixing in the milk in small quantities.  Gradually fold in the flour and chocolate paste into the butter, sugar and egg.

4. Scrape the cake mixture into the tin, gently wiggle until all level or smooth over then place in the oven for about 45 minutes, depending on your oven, keep an eye on it in case you experience cake disaster, like I did!

5. Don’t make your icing until your cake is out the oven on a wire tray and cooled as it will set.  When the cake is cool cut a circle of cake out the middle and scoop out, crumble this up and mix with chopped mango, the place back in the hole and squash down until level with ring of cake.  When you are ready to make the icing add the butter, sugar and water to a small pan on low heat, stir until all dissolved, then add in all the icing sugar and cocoa and stir quickly until all combined and you have a smooth chocolate icing.

6. Pour the icing onto the cake starting in the middle and in circles moving outwards gradually pour the icing out, if you need to use a spoon to smooth it out make sure it is wet or you will loose the icing shine.

7. Eat when icing set and keep in the fridge due to the fresh mango, yummy!

Running with the Kenyans, B&B Jamii opens and Nakuru Sourdough

Madeleine: I look up, he is tall, slender and looks VERY fast! Andrew is chatting with him, his name is Bernard. I am waiting for the starters call spotting tuk tuks with Lucas, Bernard is expecting to do the 10km in 30mins, he is not alone, everyone around me looks as fast as him. Having decided to take the plunge and do the Nakuru (Menengai 10km) I am feeling nerves in the pit of my stomach and have that sinking feeling. In  my back pocket is my mobile and 500 shillings, in my mind I see these tremendous effortless runners disappearing into the distance, the traffic surrounding me and finding myself lost somewhere in the town.  Andrew is still chatting with Bernard and jokes that he is friends with Mo Farah… Bernard has trained with him!!

Thankfully Kate arrives and translates and says its time for me to go to the start line, although very nervous I’m excited to,o 10km is a comfortable distance for me, just not at Kenyan speed and particularly when I haven’t been training for a race and at 2000m altitude with equatorial heat! I look around at the start, it is getting busy, warm ups are happening and I listen, I relax there are people who haven’t run 10km before and some school kids taking part also, I feel so happy that hopefully I wont get left behind! Lucas carried by Daddy comes over and kisses me on the lips to wish me luck…so cute!

I am running in trainers, the teenage boy in front has bare feet -respect! The girls around me are in sandles, I can’t see the pro runners as they are off in front.  I hear laughing and children shouting “mzungo”, I am the only white girl in the race! They are sweet, offering hi fives just like half marathons back home, however that is usually because I am in fancy dress! We turn corners with music loud and joyful, not the bands like in the great north run but all the different churches.

I am happy with my pace, a couple of young men offer to be my pacer, one of whom I had actually over taken and then been passed by a few times. I think he has  the “I don’t want to be beaten by a girl” syndrome! He is friendly… a little too friendly, he stick too close to me and I don’t have my space…there is only one option, I’m going to have to outrun a Kenyan! I increased my pace until he dropped back, I had my space again

As the morning progresses I heat up, the sun bearing down strongly, we pass through Nakuru city centre dodging the fumes and traffic to come onto the main road and take a left turn, 100m to go and I see those beautiful faces, Lucas on Andrew’s shoulders… I’ve finished! They hand me a piece of paper, I’m not sure of the scribble at first, then realise it says 34th (I don’t think there was that many women!!) 48mins I think is a respectable time for no training and I just feel so relieved I didn’t get left behind!!  I see Bernard, he finished as he predicted in 30mins and he came 35th in the men’s race!!!

Andrew: On our first day in Nakuru, Madeleine saw a sign for an upcoming half marathon and decided she would enter. 3 weeks later I’m stood with her, Lucas clutched in my arms, at the start line. Madeleine debates going home,  worried that not only does she stand out from the crowd but that she also could be left behind in the middle of nowhere. I am confident she will do well and come back buzzing. The race is started and we are almost flattened by the runners as they fly over the start line as though they were in a 100m sprint. Madeleine gets in to her stride and Lucas calls “Mama, Mama!” as she disappears in to the distance.

48 minutes later she reappears, safely in the middle of the pack, she looks like she’s barely broken a sweat and and very very relieved. We are so proud of her. 


The word Jamii originates in Swahili. It signifies the collective noun for the English equivalent of community, society or family

This week we officially opened our doors to Bed and Breakfast (B&B) Jamii, we hope to be able to extend the warm Kenyan welcome we have received here to our visiting guests.

Currently we have staying with us, Stewart Jordan, the fantastic app designer who has been working with Andrew since March to make the EYE-Phone dream a reality – for FREE! He has come out to stay and help ensure the app is improved and refined as field testing starts next week. Stew has quickly settled in to Kenyan life having spent 7 years living in Cambodia our surrounding are not too unfamiliar to him. He’s become part of the family and gets bonus points as he enjoys all forms of exercise and appreciates my baking. He is fantastic with Lucas who has decided that Stew has come to Kenya to play Lego with him!

Our second arrival is Hillary Rono – an Ophthalmologist who works in a neighbouring rural county (where all the amazing runners come from). Dr Rono was doing an MSc at the Tropical School of Medicine last year whilst Andrew was preparing for the project. He is bright, enthusiastic and very able and Andrew always speaks very highly of him. Andrew sees him as someone who, if the EYE-Phone is successful, will be able to lead the use of it in the future   when we leave. Dr Rono was recently voted as an “Eye Health Hero” at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness Assembly in India that Andrew attended in September shortly before we came out.

Next week we will reach full occupancy (4 rooms when Lucas is in with us and we use the 2 office bedrooms) as two friends of friends arrive from South Sudan who work for Medair, a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO).

Since arriving I have been working on the equivalent ‘white cottage loaf’.  I’ve been developing my sourdough with a mix of flours and this is what we are eating for breakfast toasted with butter and jam and also for some lunches and dinners!

Recipe: Nakuru Sourdough

Ingredients for the starter:  This is from Andrew Whitley’s “Bread Matters”

Day 1

40g stoneground wholemeal wheat flour

40g water

Mix up in a plastic container and keep at near 28°C

Day 2

Add same as day 1 and mix into day 1 mixture and keep near 28°C

Day 3

160g  starter from day 1+2

40g stoneground wholemeal wheat flour

20g water

Day 4

220g starter from day 3

120g strong white flour

100g water

By now you should see a mixture that has risen and probably collapsed with air pockets in.

Ingredients and method for the loaf part 1

160g starter

100g wholemeal flour (stoneground organic if possible)

100g strong white flour

120g water

Mix all the above together in to a firm dough and leave in a bowl covered with cling film for 3-5 hours in a warm place.

Ingredients and method for the loaf part 2

100g stone-ground wholemeal flour

150g stone-ground strong white flour

150g chapati mix flour (this is the closest I’ve found in Kenya to any rye flour as it is a mix of flours with some rye flour in it, but you could use any mix of flour you feel like).

300g water

7g sea salt

300g of part 1 mix

Mix the flours, salt and water together into a dough and knead for 8-10mins until a smooth dough, add in 300g of part 1 mix and knead another few minutes, if too wet you can add a little more flour if needed. Smear water over the work top and place the dough on top with a bowl lined with water over the top and leave for 1 hour.  This lets the gluten relax and soften, and the yeasts will begin to aerate the dough.

Then with wet hands and a dough scraper, if you have one, stretch and fold the dough into a round shape, cover the smooth side with a sprinkling of wholemeal flour and place smooth side down into a proving basket, sprinkle wholemeal flour on the top and cover with cling film. If you don’t have a proving basket it can be placed direct into a floured loaf tin .  Leave to prove for 3 -5 hours, it is ready when an indentation of your finger disappears fairly slowly, turn out onto a floured baking tray (carefully), make a cut in the top with a sharp knife and bake at 220°C for 35mins turning the heat down to 200°C after 10mins.

Eat with everybody at any time with anything from passion fruit jam to guacomole or bruchetta… Delicious!

It may seem like a lot of work initially but if you keep the leftover dough from part 1 and start from that point again you can have a continual production line with fresh bread on a daily basis. The preparation time and extra steps may seem to much but the added depth of flavour this gives the bread makes it well worth it.

Meeting Kate, Jonny and their 14 children…. Okra, mchicha and smoked paprika tart

14 Children, 3 dogs, 3 tortoises, a few frogs, chickens, ducks, geese and unreliable minibus! Meet Kate, Jonny and their family.

Every so often you meet someone who challenges you in a way that proves the seemingly impossible is possible.

We are so inspired, I really hoped of meeting a family here, particularly someone with a young child with whom I could relate as it can be quite isolating in a 3rd floor apartment with a young child, especially when Daddy will be out in the field.  Jonny and Kate moved here from the States 8 years ago with three small children, they now have 5 biological children and 9 orphaned girls (some abandoned, others their parents were unable to look after them and some who’s parents have died) as part of their family all living together under one roof.  The youngest Éowyn is 2 and a half and together with Lucas are so cute, the oldest is nearly 18.

When we met them a week a go at their house, Lucas exploded with excitment as he ran (now very quick) to the chickens, rolled around the floor with the three dogs, and had a genuine “jaw drop” moment when his milk chocolate brown eyes first clocked the giant tortoise!  He spent the rest of the afternoon chasing the dogs, ducks and chickens having loads of fun with the other kids.

If having 14 children is not enough work on its own (one at times feels overwhelming), they also run an orphaned boys home, provide education in some of the local slums and home school half of the children.  Jonny is the chilled one (like Andrew) and Kate is fizzing with energy and creativity, each day she has a new activity or idea from teaching crochet, designing fashion items from cheap men’s shirts, teaching flute, zumba classes, the washing up “game” and what’s more, she’s a baker with a passion for healthy food and children’s health! I think I’m going to learn a lot from her. As if there isn’t enough for us to bond on she is getting back into running after 14 years of non-stop breastfeeding. I have a running buddy! We are blessed with a car so I can drive over with my boys (on a non-work day) and run with her at 6.30 in the morning whilst the boys chill or run around with the kids. Jonny describes Kate as having “vomit mouth”, I guess the equivalent of the verbal diarrhoea I’m known for and have just shared with you all.

We met them after finding their blog…. and had them over for dinner last night. Andrew made his roasted tomato and red onion soup for starters which we enjoyed with some fresh out of the oven, warm sourdough (next blog!). For mains we had okra, mchicha (spinach) and smoked paprika tart with sweet potato cubes in a crispy ugali crumb.

Here is the recipe for the tart:




5og unsalted butter

80g plain flour and 30g millet flour (If you only have plain that’s fine)

25g strong cheddar

pinch of salt

teaspoon smoked paprika


300g mix of chopped okra and shredded spinach (mchicha) (admittedly this is an estimate as I didn’t weigh it all (sorry) so make enough to fill the tart)

0ne small onion

knob of butter

50g strong cheddar (you can add parmesan too but its really expensive here like all imported stuff)

4 large eggs, beaten

75-100ml single cream depending if you like it creamy or not

tsp smoked paprika

salt and pepper as required


1. First make the pastry.  Using chilled butter cut into cubes and add to the flour and rub in with your finger tips, try do just use your finger tips and not to let the butter melt, it helps to lift your fingers up high out of the bowl to prevent warming the mixture.   Mix in the grated cheddar, salt and paprika, add 3 tsp of cold water and using a knife cut it into the dough, with your hands bring the dough together (you may need another tsp or 2 of water) and wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30mins.

2. Finely chop the onion and sauté in the butter on a low heat until soft. Add the chopped okra and shredded spinach, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for 15mins (ish) until the greens are not too wet. I actually dried the okra and spinach with kitchen roll after washing it so it wasn’t too wet before cooking.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

4. Using a fork beat together the 4 eggs, cream and grated cheese and set aside.

5. Take the chilled pastry dough out of the fridge and roll out in-between two pieces of baking parchment.  Grease the 23cm flan tin and place the rolled out pastry in the tin.  Prick the base all over with a fork, then place a couple of small pieces of baking parchment over the base with either baking balls on top or I just used dried butter beans.  Place in the oven for 20mins, take out, remove the baking sheet and butter beans and glaze with some of the egg/cream mix and place back in the oven for a further 5 mins.

6. Add the okra/spinach mix to the pastry case followed by the egg/cream mix and place back  in the oven for a further 30mins until the centre is firm.  If the edges become too dark you can just cover with tinfoil and continue cooking.

7. Eat and enjoy with friends or family who really inspire you! Great for lunch the next day and Lucas loves it too!

Meeting the team, Butternut Squash and Orange Muffins

Madeleine: So the time has come, even though our whole lives have recently changed, it is hard to believe the project is really happening. Meeting with the Kenyan team is something we have all been waiting for.  I am with the youngest team member, Lucas 24/7 and I am getting to know every crevice of the eye department at the Nakuru District Hospital very well as Lucas goes exploring. We watch football games over the fence, run in the VERY heavy rain, toddle up steep slopes of stone hoping my flat shoes are not going to give way and teaching Lucas about the retina from a wall poster.  In between being an eye hospital explorer we are part of the team meetings. The project’s office manager, Redempta, has been incredible, showing us the ropes since we arrived and lending us our car! We will introduce you to the team one by one as we work through the clusters! What excites me is this is a team with a lovely diversity of age, skill and clinical know-how. Andrew has begun training the team and will continue till the end of next week …here we go.

I asked Redempta what she though the team would like for a first bake, she said a cake so I thought I would stick with a tried and tested recipe…well I only changed it a bit to use millet flour instead of rice flour and I couldn’t find any ground almonds so I ground down ground nuts (fresh peanuts). 

Before we left the UK, Andrew was invited to write a blog entry for the Medical Research Council. Here it is:

Serendipity in Science

Seven years ago as a very junior doctor attending an international health conference I found myself sitting in the wrong room at the wrong time. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, it dawned on me that I’d misread the programme and the session I thought was on healthcare in Africa was actually on making the most of medical school.

When it got to my turn, I explained apologetically that I was in the wrong session and introduced myself as a wannabe ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) with a dream of working in Africa. I contemplated daydreaming the rest of the session away, but as the introductions continued, I heard another man apologising for also having misread the programme. At least I wasn’t the only one.

This wise-looking man, it turned out, was Nick Astbury, the then president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. I listened in disbelief as he explained his plans to establish a programme linking eye hospitals in the UK and Africa. When the session was complete, he took the time to listen to me and later put me in touch with people establishing a link between the Leeds NHS Trust and Madagascar, in which I became involved.

Since my time in Madagascar I have completed the majority of my ophthalmology training and am now doing a PhD at the International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH) in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

I’ve also been combining my geeky fascination with technology with my passion for eye health. Branching out into smartphone apps and hardware was unfamiliar territory and I thought that finding an affordable app designer with the right combination of experience, coding ability and understanding of international health would be almost impossible.

Yet I returned home one evening in March to find my wife beaming — her friend who’d just returned from working in Cambodia had this “app designer friend” looking for an international health project. He has now worked tirelessly for months for nothing.

Equally incredible, my search for a precision engineer to build the hardware lasted less than 24 hours. The man behind a microscope attachment for a smartphone that I’d read about turned out to be a good friend of my new next-door neighbour, and he has also generously given his time and skill free of charge to make this project work.

We now have a working prototype of the smartphone ‘eye clinic’ (The Eye Phone) ready for testing.

Nick Astbury is now a colleague at the International Centre for Eye Health and the UK-Africa network is thriving, with more than 20 partnerships established.

I have been an ophthalmologist for six years and I love it.

And next week I’m moving with my beautiful wife and toddler to live and work in Kenya.

Funny how things work out…

For the full article as it appeared on the Medical Research Council website follow the link:

Andrew: In our first trip in January, 8 months ago, we recruited the majority of the study team, many of whom are based in the eye department of the public hospital in Nakuru. It was great to see some familiar faces again. We will spend many hours and days over the coming months travelling and working together and I hope getting to know one another as friends. After a short presentation on the study and establishing the various roles that would be needed, it became apparent that I was surrounded by good people. Initially everyone was very quiet and slow to share ideas or opinions and gave very little away. After a while some enthusiasm became evident which reached it’s peak when Madeleine explained the baking challenge ( and shared Butternut squash and orange muffins with everyone! 

Andrew: We retuned the next day to begin training. Having gone to great lengths to get this camera and transport it from the UK to Kenya, we were on the final leg of the journey for it to be unveiled. Lugging the retinal camera and equipment down 3 flights of steps from our flat and then driving on the non-tarmac road to the hospital was not good for my back or the car. We arrived safely, as did the precious (still working) equipment. Halfway through the camera (v expensive!) demo it started to down pour. We had several power cuts meaning the camera shut down and would require restarting, only to happen again and again. One of the the many challenges that lays ahead. The sound of the rain pounding away on the corrugated iron roof was deafening and near impossible to hear or be heard. Droplets of rain seeped through the roof on to the table and with a mad dash we covered up the camera to protect it. The rest of the afternoon was spent shouting over the rain teaching the protocols for measures such as blood pressure, weight and hip circumference. Tomorrow the training continues and we are hoping to kit out the office in preparation for starting field-work in 2 weeks time. We feel privileged to be here and can’t wait to get started.


Ingredients for muffin:

2 medium eggs

80g brown sugar

80g castor sugar (Castor sugar here is finer than our castor sugar but not as fine as icing sugar)

200g grated butternut squash

Finely grated zest and juice of one orange

50g millet flour (or rice or plain)

50g plain flour

100g ground groundnuts (raw peanuts) or ground almonds

2 level tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Ingredients for Orange butter icing:

6 tablespoons of softened butter

250g icing sugar

Finely grated rind of one orange

Method for muffin:

1. Preheat oven to 180°C and place 12 muffin/large cupcake cases in a muffin tray.

2. Whisk eggs and sugar into a large mixing bowl for 5 minutes until pale and quadrupled in volume.  Add the grated butternut and whisk again.  Mix in the flours, ground groundnuts, baking powder, salt and orange juice until all are well introduced.

3. Spoon the  mixture into the cake cases until evenly distributed.  Put in the oven for 20mins.  They will be flat when you take them out…thats fine! Leave them to cool in the tin before placing on a wire rack to cool.

Method for icing:

Beat the butter and icing sugar for 7 minutes in a mixer until pale, fluffy and smoother, beat in the grated orange rind and a 0-2 tsp of orange juice depending on consistency and what you prefer to pipe.

Using an icing bag and nozzle make swirl patterns on the cakes as in picture.  I actually find this far too much icing and if I am making them for me I just do a pretty piped small blob in the middle of the cake for a little taster.  You may also find you prefer more icing.