Countdown to Christmas, Mango and Almond Biscotti


I listen to our Christmas songs and dance around with Lucas, it is fun and momentarily I forget the ache in my chest.

I’ve made mince pies a couple of times now, we have even enjoyed eating them with hot mulled wine, the rosemary “Christmas Tree” is up and we are counting down to Christmas with our homemade advent calendar.  The sun shines most of the time and I’ve found a worthy replacement to my apple addiction – pineapples. I barely remember what wearing a jumper feels like but if I’m honest it feels like we have been pretending it is Christmas.

The ache is relived by regular baking, a daily run or hypothermic swim – must be the endorphin release! I am incredibly thankful I am with my two beautiful boys but I can’t shake off this feeling.

We said goodbye to Lyds Chris and Estie at the beginning of the week, we had had such a wonderful time with them, immediately we missed them and Lucas kept on asking for “bebe Estie”… sooo cute! Part of me wished I was returning to the grey, wet (very wet from what we hear) and cold England, Christmas seems to have this pull to bring me to be with all the family.

My emotions have been on overdrive. I think it is because I can not hide from life around me. We are living alongside people with only the most basic amounts to eat and standard of living that is hard to accept as normal. My emotions swirl between feeling deep hurt at a world that seems so unfair and equally humbled by how much we have (health, family, education to name a few). The problems just seem too big, when will it end? I’m not sure what to do with all these feelings but for now I just quietly process them and try to be open and real. Maybe it’s the delay with the slit lamp and not having started the 100 village countdown… I try and remind myself why we have come here and however small what we are doing is, we can at least make a difference for some people and we will try and do it right, even if it doesn’t all work out at least I know we have tried.


The slit lamp….!!!! It has been a very complicated process but in short it has successfully undergone an inspection (yay!) in London which means it won’t have to go through the same process here on Kenyan time and at a cost of £2000! Crazy import rules! It’s now packed up with its numerous certificates and countless documents and has a seat (probably won’t actually get a seat) booked on a British Airways flight tomorrow, the 23rd, so it may just be in Kenya for Christmas! We hope!! There will still be some time before we can get our hands on it here though.

The study team are great and have been so patient. We ran another teaching session this week including simulating glaucoma and loss of visual field by wearing two empty toilet rolls, one held up to each eye, lots of fun. They all clumsily bumped in to one another and got a real appreciation of what it would be like to lose vision from glaucoma.



I made mince pies for some festive cheer and we gave out laminated training certificates with a little Christmas pressie of almond and mango biscotti.

We were warmed to hear from one of the study team that despite the project not having started yet we have strengthened our relationships with them. No one directly tells you how they are feeling but always through a third party. A very sweet third party shared with us that they are all really enjoying the baking and that we value them enough to make the effort. There have also been comments that they feel valued at being part of the team and treated as equals. I think they expected Andrew to fulfil the doctor role (they are used to being told what to do and publicly embarrassed if they make mistakes) and play the hierarchy game but as this has not materialised they are all contributing more and slowly being more open with us. The new year looks positive.

We hope you are all enjoying the festive cheer, we are inside our third floor apartment, particularly when the music starts, Lucas is one star at dancing to Christmas cheesy classics!

Recipe – Almond and Mango Biscotti


350g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp mixed spice

250g caster sugar

3 eggs beaten

coarsely grated zest of 1orange

85g raisins

85g dried mango

100g whole almonds


1.     Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

2.     Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.

3.     Put the flour, baking powder, spice and sugar in a large bowl, then mix well.

4.     Stir in the eggs and zest until the mixture starts forming clumps, then bring the dough together with your hands – it will seem dry at first but keep kneading until no floury patches remain. Add the fruit and nuts, then work them in until evenly distributed.

5.     Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 pieces.

6.     With lightly floured hands, roll each piece into a sausage about 30cm long.

7.     Place 2 on each tray, well spaced apart. Bake for 25-30 mins until the dough has risen and spread and feels firm. It should still look pale.

8.     Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack for a few mins until cool enough to handle, then turn down the oven to 140C/fan 120C/gas 1.

9.     Using a bread knife, cut into slices about 1cm thick on the diagonal, then lay the slices flat on the baking sheets.

10.  Bake for another 15 mins, turn over, then bake again for another 15 mins until dry and golden. Tip onto a wire rack to cool completely.

11.    Store in an airtight tin for up to one month.


Lucas having fun on the roof

Lucas on the roof.jpg

Lucas trying to fix the broken slit lamp…


9 thoughts on “Countdown to Christmas, Mango and Almond Biscotti

  1. Hi guys!
    I spent one Christmas in warm climes and it felt very strange – it’s just not Christmas! It was Australia and during my gap year, so nothing like you guys are experiencing, but we are all so proud of you for following your dreams and turning your ambitions to reality. It sounds hard, but you’ll definitely look back with no regrets 🙂 Baking and hypothermic swimming seem to be a good focus, and of course the great blogs, so keep up the good work!
    Sending big hugs and loads and loads of love from all of us.
    Sian, John & Jessica xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. Hello! Lovely to hear from you as always. I have returned to work which is a nice change (and easier than looking after a baby…). W had Chloe’s birthday party today -chaotic but fun! It’s her birthday tomorrow then back to work on Christmas Eve. It sounds like you are having a very frustrating time what with not being able to start the research. Keep the faith – the idea is fantastic and novel and will be well worth the wait. I hope you enjoy a slightly different christmas xxxxx

  3. Having a strong sense of purpose keeps you going, as the rewards of what you are doing are, at the moment, intangible. You know deep down that what you are doing is right and important on so many levels, but perhaps the rewards, when they come, may not be what you were expecting or be something of a surprise!

    Love to you all this Christmas


  4. Hey, As above, I want to echo the sentiments Sian has said. You guys are also an inspiration to those of us back here who are currently only dreaming about how to make a difference. You are out there doing it and before you know it you will be back in the family fold. Until then continue to support each other as amazingly as you always do and know that we are all thinking of you and that secretly you are here with us in a very mild and very wet British Christmas…you have continued to inspire me baking wise and this year I cook the ‘Cook family’ Christmas and Boxing day feasts…I hope! Can’t remember ever cooking a full meat roast!! Merry Christmas with jingling bells, tinsel and rosemary!! Take care Kat xx

  5. Hello Madeleine, Andrew and Lucas, Hoping that you have a very merry Christmas and that all your wishes for 2013 are fulfilled! It has been very interesting to read about your experiences in Kenya and delightful to see the photos of you all, with Lucas looking so engaging and cute. I’ve shared your frustration over the slit lamp – you seem to have managed to cope with the difficulties calmly but it must have been very annoying. I hope you’ll have no further problems and that the project will go really well in the New Year. I don’t know how you find time for the baking and blogging as well as everything else – I can only admire! Lots of love,Patsy

  6. Never forget the difference that you are all making, I so admire you and wish that I had had the conviction when I was your age.
    Have a lovely Christmas time, if not traditional, will be thinking of you lots and remembering the crib service last year. I’ve volunteered myself as the sous chef am very excited at the prospect of Kat cooking Christmas dinner!
    Much love and lots of hugs xx

  7. Hi guys. I have totally failed to send you a card in the post which was my intention… Three month old baby has frazzled my brain! (will try and send some pics soon of him wearing his very smart green baby trousers!). I am sure Christmas is going to feel very strange so far from home this year but I hope you find some great Kenyan traditions to enjoy and add to your own celebrations. We prayed for the slit lamp at Cholsey yesterday and so I trust it is currently on its way to you. Martha and Bea hope that Lucas has seen lots of zebras and giraffes and not too many crocodiles.
    Happy Christmas, love Jo, rob, Martha, Bea and Reuben x

  8. Hello, it is very true that you guys are an inspiration, I read your blogs as soon as they arrive. It is so hard being away from home sometimes, in my experience homesickness does come and go and when it arrives you just have to stay busy until it goes away! We are thinking of you all lots with lots of love from wendy, andy and molly. xxx

  9. Merry Christmas to you all!

    I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and I’m sure that you will make the most of a sunny festive season! (Very, very wet and flooded here…)

    It must be hard being away from the rest of the family at this time of year but, importantly, the three of you are together to celebrate Christmas, having each other, and the fantastic work that you are doing out there.

    As many of your friends and family have already said, you are an inspiration to those of us who don’t have the courage to go out beyond our comfort zones! And in the meantime, your blogs are great for helping us to enjoy your experiences and allow us to go with you on your adventures.

    Lucas is growing up so fast too – the photos are great! He looks so cute – gorgeous hair – and I hope he’s still signing?!

    I’d better get to bed or Santa will never come! Looking forward to reading more festive recipes soon – keep them coming.

    Have a Merry Christmas & a happy, healthy and exciting New Year.
    Take care of yourselves,
    Chris x

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