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.

2 thoughts on “Still waiting… The four plaited loaf

  1. Lucas seems to grow by the day, he looks so grown up! I think Mary Berry has a definite challenger for her crown. Continue to love the blogs just ashamed that I don’t do that much baking, did manage mince pies at the weekend, they tasted OK but certainly not fit to be photographed!!
    Hopefully the slit lamp has arrived, fingers crossed!

  2. You are all as gorgeous as ever….love the baboon warning!!! Mad you would be proud….I made gingerbread biscuits at the weekend….mum will hopefully e-mail picture to you soon!!! Love to all….will post everything to you this weekend….hope it gets through customs faster than the slit lamp. Take care Katxxxx

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