Conquering Altitude! Mango and Cashew Sponge


As I peer into the oven, the Victoria sponge is rising perfectly, a little earlier than I would expect in the UK but it just looks so beautiful.  A little while later I peer in again through the slightly sticky oven glass to see the top of the cake begin to take a golden brown colour.  I look in a third time, my mouth watering, hopes are dashed as I see a slight ribbing of the cake surface and it is sinking, it is definitely sinking!  Knowing it’s too late to change the outcome I go and make a cuppa to comfort myself.  Andrew asks if  he can dilate my eyes again tonight, there’s a recurring pattern here, many sunken cakes and blurred vision, he has some new gadget to test. In the back of my mind I know baking at high altitude is different due to the lower air pressure and so I have adapted the cake recipes by using less raising agent, but the time has come for a little more research. I’m not sure if I can handle another sunken cake!

We are living at 2000m above sea level, a perfect training zone when running but a little more of a challenge when baking.  As altitude increases air pressure decreases which means baked goods will rise more quickly and lose more moisture.   Liquids evaporate more quickly and water boils at a lower temperatures with lower air pressure, which means dry crumbly cakes.  With lower air pressure, resistance is less to the growing air pockets in the dough or sponge causing them to grow quicker which may lead to over stretched cell walls or large irregular air pockets both of which will lead to collapsing baked goods.  The remedies include reducing the raising agent and for our altitude is as much as half the original, adding more moisture to the uncooked  mixture/dough, adding an extra egg as this is the setting agent, and when more of it is around it can help form the cooked shape, slightly higher cooking temperatures can also help fix the shape quicker.

So I added an extra egg than I normally would, whisked the egg and sugar for 3 minutes rather than 5, halved the raising agent and daringly turned the oven (random temperature generator)  up by 10°C, as this is a vegetable sponge i.e. no added fat I wouldn’t expect it to have dome shape but I really didn’t want it to sink! As I take the two halves of the cake out the oven and place them on the top of the cooker, I watch, wait, watch, wait and have a cuppa whilst making the mango jam.  It’s actually not sinking, dare I say I’ve conquered baking cakes at altitude?!….

Whilst I was dealing with my own atmospheric pressure problems, Andrew was having to deal with the complications of high eye pressure in the field…


Today we are in a run-down building with smashed windows. Apparently it was over run in the clashes of the last elections and has not been repaired since. At least the windowless windows mean we are able to pass a cable from a generator directly through to the equipment. We set up, avoiding the various types of animal poo that surrounds the building as the patients wait to come in.

20130129_090656_Njoro Rd


An old man is guided to me at the slit-lamp; he has a wooden stick in one hand and is being guided by one of the team. He is not one of our study patient’s but we have an open door policy and examine and treat anyone we can from the community who hears we are here. His wife accompanies him and they are excited, as they’ve heard other people in the room have been offered sight-restoring surgery and are hoping they will get the same. I recognise the wide-eyed, searching look and suspect this man has glaucoma. Unfortunately my suspicions are correct and it is of a very advanced nature meaning he is already blind and beyond treatment. Unlike cataracts, glaucoma blindness cannot be corrected, only prevented. It turns out he has been aware of sight problems for some time and had been given treatment from his local chemist (no prescriptions needed here). He pulls out a tatty bottle from his pocket, I read the label, he has been using steroid eye drops for months to years. Steroids eye drops have many unwanted effects including raising eye pressure, which for this man most probably sped up his journey to blindness. I feel both gutted and frustrated that such unregulated treatment can be given out, had this man seen a trained eye care professional when he first had his problems he would have had a fighting chance of still having useful vision. I remind myself that this is why we are here, although not able to help the man sat in front of me we hope to stop others like him being in the same position.



Recipe – Cashew and Butternut sponge

Ingredients – sponge

3 medium eggs

160g castor sugar

200g grated butternut squash

100g rice flour

100g ground cashew nuts

1 tsp baking powder

1tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Ingredients – Mango Jam

Mango jam:

1lb ripe mangos

3/4 cup white sugar

90ml water


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line two 22cm half cake tins with baking parchment.

2. To make the sponge, whisk the eggs and sugar at high speed until three times the volume for 3 minutes in a mixer.

3. Grate the butternut squash and whisk in.

4. Beat in the remaining sponge ingredients.  (I ground cashew nuts in the coffee grinder).

5. Add the sponge mixture equally to each cake tin and put in the oven for 20 mins, until slightly coming away at the edges and a lovely golden brown on top.

6. Whilst cooking start the mango jam.  Chop the mangos into 1 cm cubes or smaller and add all the ingredients to the pan.

7. Put on full heat and stir gently as required, remove from the heat when it becomes more of a gooey jam consistency or begins to ripple if you put it on the back of a metal spoon and push it gently with your finger nail.

8. Let the cake cook for at least 20 mins in the cake tin, once cool and once the jam is nearly cool spread the jam over the base cake and place the better looking cake on top for a mango cashew nut sponge.


20130129_104229_Njoro Rd_HDR

Poppy’s Wholemeal Orange, Raisin and Cranberry Bread


Back in October, shortly before we left for Kenya, the school challenge was set for Giraffe class at Cholsey primary school. We can now announce the winner…. (brace yourselves) Poppy Perry with “Wholemeal Orange, Raisin and Cranberry Bread, in Silver is Robert Moroney with Blueberries, Raisins and Banana Bread, and Bronze goes to Molly Venner with Red Berries and Honey Bread.

Poppy’s bread was chosen as the brief was to design a ‘nutritious loaf’ that could be made with Kenyan ingredients. Poppy chose to use wholemeal flour in her bread which contains many more vitamins and minerals than white flour, many oranges are grown in Kenya and the mix with cranberries and raisins just sounded very yummy.  As the Gold medal winner I’ve baked Poppy’s loaf for the team today, I made lots of little round loafs just because its much easier to share when everyone is busy with lots of eye patients.  The exciting part for each of the winners means that some of the money from the Max Perutz Award will be used as prizes for our three winners. Gold winner Poppy’s prize (the equivalent of £240) will pay for 6 people to have cataract surgery and be able to see again. Roberts silver prize will pay for 4 people to have cataract surgery and Molly’s prize will pay for 2 people to have their sight restored. It was really hard trying to decide the yummiest and most nutritious loaf and all the entries were very good so well done to giraffe class!




Lucas is behind me in the car as we arrive through piles of dust in an area mainly of mud huts, the sun beats down on our backs as we get out the car, lots of small children come round to say hello.  As we walk into the church building where the eye examinations are ongoing, an elderly gentleman in a suit is having his height measured, a lady in a bright purple top is with the nurse, to our right are a couple of rows of the locals waiting their turn to have pictures taken of the back of their eyes, field of vision examined and to be examined with the  slit lamp!  It’s a very hot day and the team are hungry, at an appropriate time to stop for lunch we all gather round and lunch is dished out with Poppys scrummy bread for pudding.  The team are full of smiles, they love it, ‘it is sweet’ they say which actually means very tasty rather than ‘sugary, sweet! One team member said “Poppy is a genius!”  and one of the patient’s was very keen to try one, luckily we had spares!


We have now completed 6 villages/areas.  The team are working very well together: setting up the equipment and organising each part of the examination.  Each patient that arrives recieves a study number, personal details are written down, their height, weight and abdominal circumference is taken  along with some other measurements, they move on for a finger prick blood test and blood pressure.  The eye examinations begin with visual acuity where their eye sight is checked followed by a photo taken of the back of their eye, their field of vision measured and finally an indepth examination on the slit lamp that allows Andrew to diagnose and monitor any problems. We had Andrew’s PhD supervisor, Matthew with us this week who really helped with project logistics and future work. We really enjoyed his company and think I’ve convinced him to do some home baking!

The biggest challenge currently is the number of people we are managing to trace from the study 5 years ago.  We have been given a list for each area of around 50 people, some will have died and some moved away but we were still hoping for 60-70% to return for this examination.  Unfortunately the list only has peoples ‘common names’ e.g. mine would be ‘mama lucas’. People generally do not know their date of birth but we have year of birth recorded. So with no National identity card numbers and no full names, even when the Advance Team are knocking on doors and discussing the list with the village chief or elder its a difficult job as you can imagine! We have since found out the full names were recorded initially but had been taken of the lists we had for confidentiallity reasons, the original list is now in Rwanda where the Ophthalmologist who carried out the first study now lives.  Amazingly Stew the App designer has a weeks work in Rwanda this week so we have sent him with a few empty suitacases to bring back as many of the original papers as he can with 5000 people initially examined and 8 pieces of paper for each person…its a lot to sort through!…we will keep you updated!

For now a big congratulations goes to Giraffe Class at Cholsey Primary School and we very much recommend baking this bread!



Ingredients: Makes 8

250g wholemeal flour

250g white stone ground flour (Stone ground has more vtamins and minerals retained after milling)

7g dried yeast (allinson in a tin does not have any other chemicals added just dried yeast#0

5g salt

1 tbsp runny honey

50g cranberries

50g raisins (saltanas are slightly more moist)

50g orange peel

170ml orange juice

170ml warm water


1. Mix the flours, yeast, salt, honey, water and orange juice together and knead for 10 minutes.

2. Leave in a bowl and cover with cling film for about 1 half hours in a warm place until double in size (in an airing cupboard, near a radiator)

3. Tip out onto the work surface that is lightly covered in flour, squash into a rough square and pour the dried fruit in the middle then fold over each corner over the dried fruit, turning the dough as you go, repeat this process until the dried fruit is evenly distributed.

4. Divide into 8 equal portions, roll each portion into a ball, put the palm of your hand over the ball of dough and gently round over the top stretching the dough as you go.

5. Sprinkle wholemeal flour over the base of two baking trays and place each rolled bread roll on the tray very well spaced apart. Leave to rise for 1hour until doubled in size or the dough leaves an indentred mark with your finger.  Once risen brush a beated egg over the top for a shiny top once baked.

6. Bake at 200ºC for 25 mins until golden brown, yummy! thank you Poppy!

Loved by all ages…


On our way to say thank you to the household we borrowed electricity from


Lucas with Redempta, our Project Coordinator


The Bastawrous Family – Lucas making some fine adjustments


A day off and a trip in to town to go for a swim






Up and running with Kimbia Bars


At 2000m above sea level the cool early morning breeze is refreshing and I’m enjoying feeling fit, my legs dodge the stones poking up over the potholed un-tarmacked road.  A school bus chugs past us kicking up all the dust around my face, the sun appears over the hill and the rays are strong on our faces, we are greeted by school children at every corner dressed in an array of coloured gingham and little pack packs.  I’m so thankful I can get out running here.

We are in training for the 3rd March when Andrew and I will run the Goring –on-Thames 10km road race blind folded, 5km each whilst the other leads. The proceeds will go towards paying for eye care here.  £40 will pay for cataract surgery and restore someone’s sight.  To encourage good reliable follow-up of the patient we are putting together a way to sponsor eye treatment for a particular person at the district hospital, each sponsor will receive follow–up of the patient operated on and the patient will have an opportunity, however little to pay it forward towards another persons surgery.

Would anyone like to be involved? Either to run with us, support from the road side or whatever you feel inspired to do – you don’t have to be blind folded, that is just to challenge us. It is now 3 weeks in to January and many of those new year resolutions will have been forgotten  well this would give you an aim to get fitter?  Run and be sponsored? Sponsor us? Or do anything else to join in the spirit of it! IF you do want to run you could join our team, let us know and we will add you on. To find out more click here: BLINDFOLDED RUN

I have also entered the Marlow half marathon on 24th March, another beautiful run with my Canadian running partner who will be visiting the UK on her way back to Canada.  I won’t be raising any money for this run but if you would like to join in for fun or raise money for your particular cause or for eye care here’s all the details! MARLOW HALF MARATHON

Rather than buy some of those supermarket processed “energy bars” we decided to make our own. We call these Kimbia Bars (Kimbia is Run in Kiswahilli)


5 clusters down, 95 to go! A much needed energy boost came from these Kimbia Bars. Back in the field tomorrow for number 6….

Recipe: Kimbia bars


125g Rolled oats

50g Wheat flakes

50g Dried apricots

50g Dates

25g Saltanas

20g Linseeds

25g Almonds

35g Cashew nuts

80ml orange juice

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence


1. Weigh out all the fruit and nuts and cut the fruit into little cubes and the nuts roughly crush in a bag.  Pre-heat oven to 160ºC.

2. Add in the oats and wheat flakes and mix.

3. Over a gentle heat melt the honey and sugar into the orange juice then add in the vanilla essence.

4. Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well until all ingredients covered.

5. Cover a 18cm by 25cm tin with tinfoil and lightly grease with vegetable oil.  Pour the ingredients into the tinfoiled tin and squash down with your finger tips with slightly wet hands until firm all the way round.

6. place in the over for about 30mins until crispy and golden, allow to cool before cutting into squares.


Happy 90th Birthday Great Grandmum!!


It is Lucas’ Great Grandmum’s (My Grandmum) 90th birthday so we decided to celebrate it here.  There is one cake in the world that has remained my number one since I can remember eating and that is ‘Grandmum’s Carrot cake’!  I always go for second helpings even when I’m full.   Grandmum very kindly made it for the top of our three generation wedding cake and we ate it 3 1/2 years later when Lucas was Christened (It freezes well!).

Grandmum has 3 children (all girls), 9 Grandchildren and 3 Great Grandchildren (all boys).  From when I was young we regularly spent our Sunday afternoons at Grandmum’s.  We played for hours in the garden or swimming pool, we all have many fond memories chasing each other around all day and the highlight was afternoon tea. Tea served in proper tea cups with saucers and a whole array of baked treats, impeccably presented under the sunshade in the garden, the pinicle being ‘Grandmums carrot cake’!  This must be where both mine and my Mum’s love of afternoon teas developed! Not afraid to make anything from scratch and with a natural gift for baking she has inspired her daughters to be passionate about baking too. Clearly this is where much of my inspiration has come from and watching Lucas play with the dough and the mini rolling pin my Auntie Dilys (Grandmum’s daughter) posted to him it has clearly being inherited by the next generation!


With my dark hair and Andrew’s dark skin and hair (what’s left of it) there is only one explanation for Lucas’ golden curls…


Andrew often blames my genetics when Lucas doesn’t keep still but really we know better… at 90 yrs old Great Grandmum still regularly goes to her exercise class and can sit with one leg stretched out straight so that her foot is touching her ear! She was also one of the last people on the dance floor at our wedding and taught the rest of us a thing or two about belly dancing!

Grandmum thank you for all the generosity, fun, love and baking you have continually given all of us.  We are celebrating here for you and we look forward to celebrating with you when we visit England!


With 4 clusters completed for the project we really feel we are getting going.  There are few areas that need some attention including problems with the data base for the data collected, finding the correct people can be challenging and moving all the equipment very tiring but there are particular members of the team with incredible work ethic and resourcefulness that can only be described as inspiring, I’m sure they would get along very well with Grandmum!

eating carrot cake



8Floz corn oil

8oz castor sugar

3 large eggs

6oz plain flour

1 1/2 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 level tsp baking powder

1 1/2 level tsp ground cinamon

3/4 level tsp salt

4 oz chopped walnuts

8oz peeled grated carrots

1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients  – Icing

3oz soft cream cheese

1oz butter

1 tsp almond essence

8oz sieved icing sugar


1. Grease and line a 8-81/2 in tin

2. Pre-heat oven to 180°C

3. Beat corn oil and sugar with a whisk until lighter at least 5 minutes.  Add sugar a little at a time and beat in.  Beat in the sieved flour and raising agents and cinnamon.

4. Stir in then beat well in the walnuts, carrots and vanilla essence.

5. Pour into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven for 40 minutes.  Allow to cool in the tin before removing.

6. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter until well blended, gradually beat in the remaining ingredients until slight peaks form.  (The icing I made wasn’t quite as peaked as it should be partly in got too warm and the butter began to separate and partly the soft cream cheese wasn’t quite thick enough but it still tasted very good!).

7. Spread the icing over the cooled cake and use a fork to give it a peaked rough appearence.  Run around all afternoon outside even if its cold, then come in and enjoy a yummy slice with a cuppa in a tea cup, yummy!



90th grandmum

Lucas cake Collage

Mango and Passion Fruit Lemon Tartlets


I lie still watching through the open, heavy canvas door, enjoying the stillness of the vast expanse that is the 12km crater visible through the gently swaying trees.  We are in a single roomed canvas tent housed inside an African thatch which gently creeks in the breeze.  My two boys are asleep either side of me.


‘Splash, splash’ Lucas hysterically giggles as we sit on the side of the small swimming pool kicking our legs.  The girl throws him a rubber duck filled with water which he delightfully squeezes allowing the water to run down himself as he continues his infectious giggling with ‘wee, wee’.  We have had our first night away in the 3 months we have been here and it was just lovely.


Lucas’ head is drooped over my right arm in a darkened room as I sit and stare at the big old cream machine. Its droning sound reminds me of a CT scanner.  There are piles of old film reels in the outlet tray.  The droning continues when another one slowly appears, it gently curls and drops into the collection container, our passport photos are ready.

It’s 90 days since we arrived and we are renewing our visas whilst awaiting our residency to be processed.  We are also applying for an ‘alien card’! Yes its official we are aliens, they have every finger print to prove it and we look like we have been underneath a car all day with our black oily fingers! The ‘alien card’ is basically an official document you can carry around instead of your passport.




Stood at the till unloading the trolley of fresh mangoes, passion fruits and more flour we turn round to find Lucas has helped himself to a bright pink packet of “Butterfly Extra Ribbed” condoms and placed them in the old mans shopping basket who is waiting behind us. Thankfully the old man had a good sense of humour!


The tarts have been a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a little while, I made them up last night so I hope I get the measurements right for you.  The hardest bit is not to eat all the mango you have just chopped up, it is just so juicy.  The second hardest bit was whether to add cinnamon and a very small pinch of cardamom. My tip is add it very very slowly (pole pole they say here) so the flavour does not over power everything, a hint is lovely and brings the flavours out.


Andrew: I’m sat in a dark room looking at eyes at 16 times magnification. It is raining outside and for a brief moment I forget I’m not in England. A chicken clucks in the clinic waiting area and I’m soon reminded of where I am. As I take a breather and step out of the darkness I witness the lush green surroundings and am told that the neighbouring Baruti primary school recently had a lion visit. We are a long way from the NHS… Thankfully no wild animals visited the clinic today.


Mango and passion fruit lemon tartlets

Ingredients: Makes 18


350g plain flour
80g icing sugar
150g unsalted butter
2 egg yolks large
Grated rind of one lemon
Two tsp cold water

Mango filling:

Two mangos cut into small squares Three passion fruit scopped out of rind
Tbsp Lemon juice
Pinch of cinnamon
Very small pinch cardamom, careful!

Add a pinch of salt to some of the left over egg white for the egg wash.


1. Add the prepared mango, passion fruit and lemon juice to a pan and gently bring to the boil, allow to become soft and add the spices being very careful not to add to much, add them bit by bit and check the flavour yourself.

2. To prepare the pastry weigh out the flour and the icing sugar, cut the cold butter into about 1cm cubes and rub into the dry ingredients until breadcrumbs are formed.  Add the egg and the water and using a knife cut and mix the dough together until it naturally comes together.

3. Place the ball of dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30mins.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.

5. Remove from the fridge, sprinkle a little flour on the work top and roll out to approx 4mm thick.  Cut using your bigger round cutter the bases and place each into the muffin or cake tin, lightly press the corners in. Using a fort lightly pierce the dough in each tartlet.  Tear a small square of baking parchment for each tartlet and place in the base of the pastry dough covered with some dried beans or baking balls.  Place in the oven for 5 mins.

6. Remove from the oven and remove the baking parchment and dried beans.  Fill each tartlet with the mango filling, not too much to avoid it spilling out the side.


7. Cut the small circles out to fit the top of each tartlet and brush with egg wash to stick to the pastry bases.  Once stuck to each tartlet pierce the top of each one to let the steam escape.  Brush each with the egg wash.

8. Place into the oven and bake until golden brown.

9. Enjoy with a cuppa!

Some photos from our weekend away:





Pain au Chocolat…

Pain au chocolate

My wife, son and bed smell of vomit. Lucas got too excited and wouldn’t sleep, eventually bringing up the days digested food over himself and our bed.

I’m lying in bed aware it is late and I have to be up early for village number 2. I start drifting off to sleep when screams of, “I’m an idiot” repeatedly come from the kitchen. It’s nearly midnight and Madeleine is not happy with herself and the oven. Apparently the butter has melted too early (?) and we should pack our bags and move back to England…

Although it is late and I think she maybe being a little dramatic, I remind her of how she turned around the burnt chocolate cake in to a success. Clearly I’m not getting the magnitude of this disaster and decide to return to bed and the paranoia of a mosquito being trapped inside the net with me.

Eventually Madeleine makes it in to bed after 1.30am (Lucas will be up shortly after 6 and I leave at 7). The sight that beholds me in the morning in no way resembles a disaster and Madeleine returns from her 6am run somewhat sheepish and clearly fairly pleased with what eventually came out of the random temperature generator.

Things in the field went well today. £80,000 worth of equipment was installed by the team (the slit lamp is my responsibility) and the throughput of patients was smooth. The phone worked a treat and although very early, is looking promising.



As I walk back into the kitchen I realise my pain au chocolat fatal mistake.  It’s 11.30pm, I had wanted to start much earlier but Lucas got over excited and did not sleep until 9pm, I look into the open oven to see my beautiful and carefully repeatedly folded, rolled and chilled doughy pain au chocolat beginning to flop in a sea of melted butter! All that time, care and effort in creating beautiful layer upon layer of pastry melting into one doughy buttery mess! As I pull two trays out of the oven  I am overcome with tiredness and feel gutted, there is certainly no time to start from scratch and what on earth was I thinking? I needed to wait for the croissants to rise before cooking them but given it was so late I attempted to cut a corner by warming them a little quicker in the oven at a low temperature with the door open – it clearly did not work!

Croissant disaster

I nearly sat on the floor and cried like in Julie and Julia, when Andrew came out of bed to find me not too happy.

I wacked up the heat in the oven and put them in, feeling certain they were ruined. As I peered in through the browned oven window, the top shelf were burning… It is then that I discovered the oven works effectively as a top and bottom grill meaning only the middle shelf is evenly heated! Amazingly the layers still formed and something resembling croissants came out, phew! One by one I put the next two trays in the oven, wow! Pain au chocolats were coming out!

I did stay up until 1.30am but I still made it out for my 6am run with our neighbours. I overcame the tiredness with a good coffee and pain au chocolat whilst lucas had his morning sleep.  I’ve got to say although not the smoothest evening ,I really enjoyed making them and if the little ones are asleep it’s a great way to spend an evening in and out of the kitchen folding, rolling, chilling in-between catching up on emails.  i cant wait to make more!


The day went well for the team, with around 300kg of eye equipment to be transported up and down three flights of stairs then to the field to be set up and packed away again it is pretty impressive to see how well it is working. We need to find as many people from the 5000 examined in the study 5 years ago to see how they have been affected over time. This makes it possible to predict how many new people become blind and why. When patients are followed up like this, it is known as a cohort study. For it to work we need an average of 65% of the people seen 5 years ago.  Although all the examinations have gone well this week we have only had 50%.  The area we went to unfortunately had a lot of problems during the last elections and people may have been displaced.  Next week we are going to an area that was not badly effected so hopefully the numbers will be higher.

The pain au chocolat seemed to go down well with the team.   Although I wouldn’t recommend trying to decrease rising time in the same way, the buttery mess can be at least partly redeemed!



The EyePhone

Phone test

Andrew: After a break for lunch I whipped out the pain au chocolats – they were devoured with wide smiles and grunts of appreciation as well as requests for Madeleine to open a baking school.

Enjoying the croissants

fly in butter

Recipe – Pain au Chocolat

Ingredients –

Recipe slightly adapted from ‘Crust’ Richard Bertinet.  Makes 12-14.

500g strong white flour

7g dried yeast

10g salt

50g castor sugar

1 large egg

125ml semi-skimmed milk

125g water

200g unsalted butter (In the book it says good quality butter, I’m not sure if a squashed fly on your butter counts as good quality but I just cut that bit off, it’s all I had!)

200g 70% dark chocolate.  (Thank you Grandma for sending us some!)

1 egg mixed with a pinch of salt for the egg wash.



1. Mix the dried yeast with he water until dissolved, then mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with your fingers or dough scraper.

2. Knead the dough for 4 minutes.  Admittedly if Lucas is not actively helping I put it in the Kenwood mixer with a dough hook to give lucas a few more minutes of full attention.

3. Form the dough into a ball with the rough side underneath and place into a lightly floured bowl, the cut a deep cross in the top of the dough, cover with cling film and place into a fridge for minimum of 2 hours or overnight.  I made the dough in the morning and placed in fridge during the day.

4. When you are ready to use the dough first prepare the butter, weigh out then place in-between a piece of baking parchment and the butter wrapper and bash the butter into a square shape about 1cm thick then place back in the fridge so it is kept flat.

5.  When you take the dough out of the fridge, place onto a lightly floured surface and using the cross you have cut into the dough roll out into a 4 leaf clover shape with a square in the middle slightly thicker that is the same size and shape as the rolled out butter.

6. Without using your hands, instead use the butter wrapper so as not to melt the butter, place the square of butter in the middle of the rolled out dough, then fold in the two opposite squares first onto the butter square then the next one onto the dough on the butter square and repeat with the remaining ‘leaves of the clover’.

7. Gently roll lengthways rolling the dough into a rectangle about 60-70cm long.

8. Fold the dough into thirds like when folding a piece of A4 piece of paper into an envelope and indent the dough once to remind you this is the first folding.  Cover with baking parchment and put into the fridge on a chopping board or something for 20-30mins.

9. Repeat 7 & 8 two more times.

10. Roll out the dough to about 30 x 75 cm the cut into squares 15 x 10cm so you should be able to make 14.  Break your chocolate into strips of about 3 squares or so they are just shorter than 10cm. With the dough rectangle lying horizontally place the chocolate 2cm in from the left hand side, then roll over the dough to the left of the chocolate, then fold in from the right side and over to create a seam at the bottom and smooth top.

11. Place each rolled pain au chocolat onto baking parchment and glaze with the egg wash.  Leave to prove for 2 hours (Not as  did in the oven!).

12 Pre-heat the oven when the proving is almost complete to 220 -230 degrees C  and bake for 18-20mins until golden.  Cool on wire racks if you have them or I use clean tea cloths or material.

13. Enjoy immediately with a coffee or if its 1.30am wait until the next day and just re-heat to crisp off and then enjoy with a yummy tea or coffee!


Pain au chocolat pre-cooking

uncooked croissant

Lucas enjoying one with some coffee

Lucas coffee and croissant


Andrew on his way to work

travelling to work

One down, 99 to go….


We have been waiting for this day for a long time, I get up at 6am for my run and am embraced by the dark and refreshing cold morning air, it is a beautiful sunrise that is over very quickly.

We eat breakfast at 7 and Andrew sets off, the van has arrived and the guys are doing a great job loading it up.  Lucas and I watch from 3 floors up as box by box disappears in to the van, Lucas’ attention is interrupted ‘tuk tuk’ he almost jumps out of his skin with a massive grin emblazoned on his face – pretty impressive as we see at least 5 a day!


With the ups and downs we’ve had it seems like we have been waiting for this day for ages and it felt like it may never really happen, then whilst playing with his tractor Lucas finally did his first wee in the potty!! Thank God for tiled floors!



We are driving through Nakuru to a place called Keptembwa, we take a left turn off the main road, the car tilts forward and bumps along the dirt road, I am following Stew on his ‘picki picki’ motorbike as he uses his phone to track the GPS position Andrew sent him earlier.  Everyone is staring, (we must be quite a sight, 6’11” white man on a motorbike followed by an anxious looking white woman in a green Peugeot in the middle of a busy urban area) we stop and hesitate unsure which way to turn, an arm comes in through the open window asking for money and wanting to know where are we going? It is clear we are visitors to this place! The windows go up so as not to draw any unnecessary attention and Lucas and I start sweating in my self made greenhouse. We drive on over and through potholes and dips, faces watching us, the school children chant ‘muzungo, muzungo’.  The road becomes narrower until eventually we have to turn around, we are being stared at by everyone and all I want to do is get to the primary school where the team have set up. Eventually we arrive, Lucas is dripping with sweat, there are children everywhere, it’s playtime, my maternal instincts kick in, if I don’t hold onto my toddler he is going to be mobbed with hundreds of excited children all desperate to play with him! I keep him very close. Inside a dusty school building the team are doing well, we dish out lunch and when a natural break arrives they all tuck in. It seems the official first bake is a success! After a Lucas led tour of the dusty school grounds and a few team hellos we attempt our journey back.

I am crying, I don’t understand why? I should be so excited we have actually started the 100 clusters/villages and at last the count down can begin!  As I drive I realise it’s because my protective instincts have been on over drive.  Partly tiredness and partly questioning how do I be a good mother in this situation? I want Lucas to be able to greet and play with all the children, but the playground  is so dusty and dirty, the kids noses are running and I’m sure they are mostly unwashed latrine hands.  Trying to be a good mummy out of my comfort zone is certainly my biggest challenge.

After a good run around and play in the dusty, unfortunately broken playground at the apartments we head up for a shower which feels so good!  ‘Da deee ‘arrives home 2 hours later, he is pleased, there are a few areas to work on and these will be addressed, but for now one down and 99 to go! That feels good!






All the equipment (there is a lot) ran from this one “safe” looking plug. Amazingly lasted most of the day before the inevitable power cut, thankfully the generator held it’s own.


Recipe – Caramelised Red Onion Baguettes

(one day before)

Ingredients – bread starter

2g dry yeast  (1/2 tsp dry yeast is 1.6g)

350g water

150g wholemeal flour

200g strong white flour



(Poolish ferment French term) 12 hour fermenting time in the fridge

Can be left at room temperature but fridge means longer fermenting time developing better taste and texture.

  1. Stir yeast into warm water, then add in all flour and bring together.
  2. Cover with cling film and place in fridge overnight.

Caramelised onions

5 x red onions

25g butter

1 table spoon brown sugar

50ml balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp of sage (2 leaves finely chopped if fresh)

Fry onions in the butter in a pan, sauté for 10 minutes on a low heat then add the sugar, balsamic vinegar and sage and leave to simmer on a low heat for an hour. add more balsamic vinegar or water if drying out.

Baguette (to make 15 baguettes)


All of the poolish starter

650g wholemeal flour

650g strong white flour

700g water

7g dry yeast

30g salt

Ugali or semolina for dusting or corn maize flour


  1. Add the flour, water and yeast to the starter and mix with hands or dough scraper until a dough forms then tip onto a surface.
  2. Knead the dough for 10minutes then add in the salt.
  3. Lightly flour the dough and bring into a round (ball),then place back into your lightly floured bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 1 ½ hours in the kitchen.
  4. Tip dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 15 pieces approx 200g each and leave to rest for 15 minutes on the work surface.
  5. Whilst resting prepare your trays.  Use as many trays as you have available shelves in your oven.  Take a piece of tinfoil and roughly make into a long cylinder, then wrap a piece of baking parchment around it, it doesn’t matter if they are not perfect, these are just dividers to shape your baguettes, lay about 3 vertically on your tray to make 4 compartments to shape your baguettes.
  6. Fold in the onion mix in to each baguette dough.
  7. Shape each baguette one at a time, squash the dough into a rectangle, fold both long sides towards the middle, then bring the outer side towards the middle again and pinch along the join, repeat this until the baguette has lengthened, pull a small piece of dough outwards  at each end into a very small tip and twirl to shape.
  8. Sprinkle corn maize flour (ugali) or semolina onto silicone baking sheets or non-stick tray, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 1 ½ hours until doubled in size.
  9. After approximately 1 ¼ hours pre-heat your oven to 250°C, once heated spray water or tip a small cup f water on the bottom of the oven to create an oven of mist to develop a lovely crust.
  10. Bake for 12-15minutes, once done leave to cool on wire racks or I use teacloths as I don’t have enough wire racks out of the oven.

Ginger Biscuits for the Final Practice

Ginger Biscuits

I hear the chugging of the generator outside a marquee tent, with the sun shining strongly I almost expect to see children throwing themselves across a bouncy castle. Lucas peeps round the marquee door ‘da dee’ Andrew is sat on one side of the glimmering slit lamp and an elderly lady is sat the other.  Andrew moves the joystick with ease as he examines the ladies eyes.  Lucas greets and high fives the team members who barely have a moment to spare. Faith is putting eye drops in to the lady on the right, there are 4 rows of chairs, not quite in rows because of the slightly uneven grass, with friends and family of the team all willing and excited guinea pigs for our final practice before the 100 village count down!  To my left are three team members: Hellen, Maryann and Jedidah at the registration table signing everyone in and assigning them a study number. A lady smiles at me whom I don’t recognise but has a faint familiarity, she greets Lucas as if she knows him, she is the mother of two of the team members (twins) and of our close friends from Nakuru whom we met in January, it’s lovely to meet her and join all the dots.  It really is just wonderful to see all the planning in action. Lucas wriggles and squirms ‘ka ka’ he has seen a chicken so we dart off to say hello!

I have made some simple biscuits a Czech gingerbread (with no treacle as difficult to get here) and very easy to make over 50 for all the team members and the family/patients for today, everyone seems very hungry so they must have been working hard!


examining at the slit lamp

Lucas moving chairs


Andrew: My blood sugar must be low, it is hot and I’ve been examining patients for four hours now without a break, the slit lamp is familiar and perfect (the team members have been advised to treat it like a baby!), I must be having hallucinations, I hear “Da Da, Da Deeee!” being shouted across the marquee, Lucas has the attention of everyone. I feel so proud seeing him and Mama Lucas stood there dishing out golden biscuits – a much needed sugar hit is here.

The team have excelled, two of the younger members, Cosmas and Joel loaded all the heavy equipment in to the van early in the morning and I was so impressed to see everyone set up their stations ready to start. We had a few hitches getting everything working from the petrol generator but after a couple of hours of struggle we were well on the way.

It was great to have a final “dress rehearsal”, we were all exhausted by the end of the day and no doubt I would have collapsed had the biscuits not arrived, but at last, I think, we are ready.

Our advance team will go out next week and prepare the patients and venues for 2 of the 100 locations. It will be a big challenge locating the patients from 5 years ago, some of whom will have moved away, others may have died and some will be unavailable. It is a challenge we are ready for.

Next week the count down begins…



Vision test

Czech Gingerbread Biscuits

from Richard Bertinet ‘Crust’ book (my chistmas present sendtfrom our parents!)

Makes 25-30


425g plain flour

100g icing sugar

125g butter, softened

100g honey

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1/2   tsp bicarbonate soda

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp ground ginger

Pinch of salt

1 egg beaten with a pinch salt for the glaze


  1. Preheat oven to 160°C and prepare two baking trays with silicon mats or baking parchment.
  2. Put all the ingredients except the egg wash in a mixing bowl and mix until a dough is formed.  Cover with a baking cloth and leave to rest at room temperature for 15-20mins.
  3. Lightly sprinkle flour on work surface and roll out the dough to 5mm thick,  then cut out biscuits whatever shape you like depending on what cutters you have.
  4. Place the cut shapes on the baking sheets and brush the eggwash over each one,  then using a fork or knife score patterns into the top of the biscuit.
  5. Bake for about 18minutes and transfer to wire racks to cool completely or if you are like me and the only wire rack you have is in the oven I place them on a clean folded tea cloth to let them air and crisp up at the base.
  6. Eat with a ‘cuppa brew’ as our Yorkshire friend would say! Or in a tent whilst hugging a slit lamp!


Happy New Year?

tea cakes.jpg

There is a lot to reflect on as we say goodbye to 2012, we push the trolley round Nakumat (our local supermarket) as Madeleine loads the trolley with food for a new year celebration and I’m helping Lucas as he does the same with his imaginary shopping list.

It has been a challenging year in many respects; it is our first full calendar year as parents and within this year Madeleine went back to work after maternity leave when Lucas was 8 months old, I went part-time for 5 months to look after Lucas, at the same time this shift in roles happened (10 days after we returned from a preparatory trip to Kenya), Peter, my best friend from the age of 5, very sadly died. This was undoubtedly the hardest time of the year for us both. Life is short and precious and this made us all the more convinced we had to do something valuable however uncomfortable this might be.

Now we are here in Kenya ticking off the shopping list with the sense of frustration becoming a normal background emotion, still unable to start the project as we head in to 2013 but having made close bonds to the team and new friends. Lucas loads his mini trolley with bars of soap (I’ll put them back when he’s not looking), my phone buzzes in my pocket, it reads “Patrick Customs”, more paper work to be done no doubt. Lucas knocks some fluorescent plastic baskets on the floor, in my left ear I hear Patrick saying the consignment has been cleared through customs and is being delivered to Nakuru now. It will be with us in 3 hours! In disbelief I hug Lucas and swoop him up to share the news with Madeleine.

The driver arrives on time and we carry the 87kg box up 3 flights of steps before unveiling it. A beautifully Swiss made slit lamp, brand new, nothing missing and perfect for the project.  I’m overcome with a mixed sense of relief, gratitude, anticipation and realisation that now, at last, the project will begin!

Driver slit lamp.jpg

This Friday we will set up camp in a church hall out of town, we will run all the equipment from the newly purchased petrol generator and have invited family and friends of the study team to be our patients. This gives the team chance to demonstrate all they have learnt to their family whilst giving them the most comprehensive eye examination they will have ever had. The hope is this will encourage quality, pride in the work they are doing and will serve as a reminder in the 100 locations that lay ahead that each of these people we examine is somebody’s relative or friend and should be treated as our own.

The year has begun with much promise and hope.


(Madeleine) It’s New years eve and we have opted to have a chilled one at home and celebrate on New years day by having Kate and Johnny’s family over for lunch and games. I’m trying to navigate my way around the supermarket with a few more unusual items on the list. I’m making 12 crackers, one for each chime of Big Ben, each with a country in and how they celebrate the New year. We then have to recreate it, like in Spain where they pop confetti everywhere -and Ecuador where men dress as women. I’m trying to be quick as Andrew is on damage limitation as Lucas impulse shops with his mini trolley. Andrew and Lucas pop up by the milk counter as I try and juggle too many items. “It is here!” What? “the slit lamp is arriving to Nakuru in 3 hours!” I feel utter disbelief, excitement and strangely nervous, I don’t think we could handle another disappointment.   

Whilst we wait the 3 hours for the slit lamp to be delivered from Nairobi we spend the late afternoon with some lovely new friends and their 4 yr old son Jona. Lucas and Jona have loads of fun drawing with chalk on the concrete, chasing a football and getting all of Jona’s toys out. Before we knew it we are driving down to meet the vehicle with the slit lamp to direct them to our home. We find an Peugeot pick-up truck with a wooden box covered in tarpaulin on the back. With the help of 4 men we get it upstairs and Andrew prises the lid off….it really is a slit lamp, all shiny and new, bit by bit we took the pieces out, they were all there!! With five hours left of 2012 this was a highlight right at the end!

Slit lamp unveilled.jpg


We had a late dinner that evening and saw in the New year with a drink on the roof with our neighbours followed by a very fun, slightly chaotic day with the Brooks family! Kate said she always likes food with a surprise and we certainly felt like celebrating so this was the time to attempt the Mary Berry teacake from great British bake-off, ok so a little rough around the edges… I did seal the choc bit with a wriggly Lucas on my hip! They went down a treat, so much so we had to have a paper airplane competition to decide who would have the last one! I totally recommend savouring it with a cuppa tea!

roof paper planes.jpg

The past few days have been a lovely break enjoying time and chilling with my two boys, we are ready to really push to get lots done in January. We hope you all have a lovely new year and we wish you many blessings in 2013.

Chocolate tea cakes

Equipment and preparation: You will need a silicone mould that has 6 x 7.5cm/3in wide, half sphere moulds.


  • 400g/14oz dark chocolate with around 40% cocoa solids (such as Bournville)
  • 50g/1¾oz wholemeal flour
  • 50g/1¾oz plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 25g/1oz caster sugar
  • 25g/1oz butter
  • 1 tbsp milk

For the marshmallow

  • 3 free-range eggs, whites only
  • 150g/5½oz caster sugar
  • 6 tsp golden syrup
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ vanilla pod, seeds only, or vanilla essence

Preparation method

  1. Melt 300g/10½oz of the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a simmering pan of water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Melting the chocolate over a soft heat stops the chocolate from discolouring later on. Leave aside to cool slightly – you can’t line the moulds if the chocolate is too runny.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
  3. To make the biscuits, put the flours, salt, baking powder and caster sugar into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips. Add the milk and stir everything together to form a smooth ball.
  4. On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 5mm/¼in thick. Cut out six rounds with a 7.5cm/3in straight sided round cutter.
  5. Place the rounds on a flat plate or board and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Make sure the biscuits are perfectly round and well chilled, otherwise they might spread or shrink when baked.
  6. Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes. They do need to be hard, not soft as they form the base of the teacake.
  7. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  8. Coat the inside of the moulds with the melted chocolate. The thickness of the chocolate should be enough to make them sturdy but not too thick. This is best done with a spoon, using the back to run the chocolate around the moulds. If the chocolate is too runny it will mean that the top of the dome is too thick and the side too thin.
  9. Set aside to set. Do not put the domes in the fridge as the chocolate will lose its shine.
  10. Meanwhile dip the cooled biscuits in the remaining melted chocolate, covering them completely (you may need to melt more chocolate). You can either dip the biscuits in the chocolate or spread the chocolate onto the biscuits with a palette knife. Place the coated biscuits onto parchment paper.
  11. For the marshmallow, place all of the ingredients in a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water), and whisk with an electric hand whisk for 6-8 minutes, making sure it is smooth, silky and doubled in volume. Make sure it is very stiff, the consistency of whipped cream, so it will hold when piped – you don’t want it runny.
  12. Spoon the marshmallow mixture into a piping bag.
  13. Melt the remaining chocolate, and place into a disposable piping bag with a sealed end. Set aside to cool and stiffen up a bit, but not harden.
  14. Peel the biscuits off the parchment and place them onto clean parchment, flat side down.
  15. Pipe the marshmallow into each chocolate-lined mould just up to the top.
  16. Snip a 2cm/¾in end off the piping bag with the chocolate in it.
  17. Carefully pipe some chocolate on the marshmallow and a rim of chocolate around the biscuit base and swiftly place the biscuit on top of the marshmallow filled dome. Smooth the join with a knife.
  18. Leave the teacakes to set until completely cool and sealed together.
  19. Very carefully remove the completed teacakes from the mould – be careful of fingerprints on the glossy dome.
  20. Place on a plate and keep cool – but do not refrigerate, to make sure the chocolate keeps its glossy shine.