One year of blogging – Apricot Couronne and Cycling with Rhinos…

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The band is playing, the sign for the start is up except it says “Finish”.  We are off.  The road is closed and it’s amazing whizzing down the Nakuru high street with no tuk tuks or motorbike taxis to contend with! We take a few turns,  excited kids peddle manically in and out of us. We enter the Nakuru National Park where Andrew and Lucas cheer us on. Then we turn in to the park grounds and pick up some speed, seconds later we are forced to halt as a herd of buffalo run across the road. After we push on through the many muddy ditches caused by the heavy rains overnight, a baboon runs out in front of us as flamingos fly above us.  We are cycling in the “Cycle with the Rhinos” bike race through the Nakuru National Park. 16km later we exit the park to continue on road which must be the best tarmac I’ve seen since moving to Kenya, our tyres glide effortlessly as the equatorial sun starts to heat us up.

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Kat has GPS on her watch, it beeps at 21 miles to let us know we are half way. The road just keeps on going and going till we eventually end up back on dirt tracks. This is meant to be a loop but we seem to have been going in one direction for a very long time now.  We pass a check point, a further 10 miles later and we are still heading away from Nakuru. It’s really hot now and I think the altitude is getting to Kat, we end up missing our turning but keep on going.  I haven’t seen a checkpoint in a while and we seem to be heading in to a more remote area away from the park. As we begin to question where and what we are doing –  we become acutely aware that we are lost! As we know there should only be 10 miles to go we get out our phones and call a race organiser. We eventually manage to find the right way. Under the impression we are within 10 miles of the finish, a huge truck beeps at us.  I pull over for fear of being knocked off. It turns out it is the pick up for the stragglers! After a short argument with the driver, reluctantly (and gratefully) we climb on!

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Already half full of fellow stragglers, we get going, we hold on with our legs sandwiched between a huge pile of bikes, we duck altogether as we brush by thorny trees. The truck swings us from side to side, then we hit a deep puddle and become stuck. The driver revs and revs slipping and sliding all over the place. I get the fear factor we are going to tip over so we jump down, I really want to just grab our bikes and go but they are tangled with one another!

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Sometime later, after numerous attempts, the truck is prized out and we continue the 2hr drive back.  It’s during this time and after picking up many other cyclists, who are also seemingly tired and confused that we realise more amateur cyclists are on the truck than on the road. Kat looks close to punching an official who has said we should have prepared better. Kat, who has since checked the route and her GPS data, points out is it they who should have prepared better. They had advertised  the cycle as 64km it was actually 64miles!

Episode 6 technical challenge.

As you know I love learning new techniques and the GBBO technical challenges (complicated by our random temperature generator) so here you go Paul Hollywood! By the way it’s really fun to make, the folding technique is just great!  I can wait to do it with some savoury doughs too.

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Recipe – Apricot Couronne

Ingredients:

For the dough

250g strong white bread flour

50g unsalted butter, softened

150ml whole milk

10g fast-action dried yeast

1 large egg, beaten

For the filling

120g dried apricots, chopped

150ml orange juice

90g unsalted butter

70g light muscovado sugar

35g plain flour

60g raisins

65g chopped walnuts

grated zest 1 orange

200g marzipan

To finish

50g apricot jam

200g icing sugar, mixed with enough water to make a runny icing

Recipe

The night before, put apricots and orange juice in a bowl and set aside.  Or I just simmered in the orange juice.

To make the dough, put flour, 1 tsp salt, butter, milk, yeast and egg in a bowl, and mix together to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6 mins.

Transfer dough to a mixing bowl. Cover, then set aside to rise in a warm place for 1 hr.

Meanwhile, drain the apricots. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and muscovado sugar until fluffy. Mix in the apricots, flour, raisins, walnuts and orange zest.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it out to a rectangle, about 25 x 33cm. Evenly spread over the apricot mix, then roll out the marzipan and lay it on top. Roll up the rectangle tightly so it looks like a Swiss roll. Roll slightly, then cut lengthways along the roll, leaving 1 end joined. Twist 2 lengths together, then shape into a ring on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Set aside to rise for 1 hr.

Heat oven to 200°C/180C fan/gas 6. Bake the twist for 30 mins until risen and dark golden. Towards the end of the baking time, gently warm the apricot jam in a small pan. Brush the freshly baked loaf with the warm jam to glaze it, then set it aside to cool. Once cooled, drizzle the twist heavily with the runny icing.

Madeleine and Kat getting ready to start at the “Finish” sign which is not the finish… 

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As well as celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary, this is the one year anniversary of Eye Bake Kenya blog – happy anniversary to those who’ve joined us on the journey x

Meringue Chocolate Balls, Bat man… Kat man…

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Do you know what your neighbour is called? Do you know everyone that lives on your street? We rely so much on local knowledge when finding our study patients that we have taken for granted how well everyone knows each other. That was until we started working in the town. There isn’t the same community that we found in rural communities. I guess much like anywhere in the world, where populations are dense, people are busy, possibly too busy to get to know those they live next to. The effect on the study has been that we are finding much fewer people then we had hoped. Coupled to the mass displacement of communities in the post-election violence it is making for a challenging period in the study.

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It is baking lesson time, with requests for bread courses to promote Jamii Bakery, we have decided to start some baking classes. Jedidah from the eye team who has a qualification in hospitality and Dorothy who helps clean three mornings a week (there is a lot of cleaning with all this baking!) have both expressed a real interest to bake. We had a really fun day plaiting loaves, rolling pizza bases and making flatbreads and Chelsea buns. It was really interesting learning about the common Kenyan bakes that share names of things I’m familiar with but are actually something different. “Scones” are like brioche, Queen cakes are like cup cakes and the frequent use of an ingredient called “croma” (an oily substance I haven’t quite worked out what this actually is, possibly engine oil?). We won’t be using any of that in the bakery!

What I hadn’t realised is five other eye team members were eagerly awaiting  Jedidah’s baking lesson to be over so they could sample the results!

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We are enjoying dinner, the rains are heavy outside and Lucas is snoozing. Out of the corner of my eye I see something fly down the corridor and crash land two feet from us. We take a closer look – is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s a BAT! Madeleine screams, “you’re the man, you deal with it!”, at which point, I look over at Kat and scream, “you’re the outdoor pursuits instructor – you deal with it!” We all freeze. I heroically suggest covering it with the washing up basket (the end of my very significant involvement, apart from taking a photo). Kat picks up the purple washing basket and drops in on top of the bat, trapping it in. Next problem. How do we get it out of the flat. We don’t have anything big enough to slide underneath it (you know the old spider in a glass trick) so decide we will slide it to the door. The door frame is not flush with the floor so we can’t simply slide it outside. The bat starts fluttering around inside the basket, our hearts are already pounding near max. Kat reminds us that she hasn’t had her rabies jab, but we remind her that she likes caving and thus will be fine! Impressively, in one swift move she whips the basket off the ground, out of the door and slams the door shut. We are safe and we have a new hero in our midst! Later that evening we go to lock the door, we open it to check the outside gate, in-between the door frames is a squashed bat!  Poor Kat thought she had freed some Kenyan wildlife…

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Madeleine follows our hero with anti-bacterial spray…

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Recipe – Meringue

Ingredients

6 large eggs at room temperature

4 pinches cream tartar

350g caster sugar

Filling:

Recipe as in chocolate tractor cake icing

Flaked almonds to decorate

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 120°C

2. Put the egg whites in a very clean bowl and whisk for 20-30s or until the whites are foamy. Add the cream of tartar.

3. Whisk in half of the sugar a tablespoon at a time.  Continue whisking for about one minute until the mixture is glossy and forms a stiff peak.

4. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over and fold in with a metal spoon.

5. Pipe swirls about 3cm wide onto baking parchment.

6. Repeat 24 times and then place in the oven for about 2 hours or until firm.

7. Make the filling.

8.Once the meringues are cold peel away from the baking parchment, spoon a teaspoon of icing onto the meringue and decorate with flaked almonds.

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A Taste of Algeria, Galette with Dates and Orange Blossom

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I love it when I am inspired, I was chatting to Kate (our friends with 14 children, 9 adopted). She home schools some of her kids and has just started focussing on the food and culture of one country per week with the aim to work through 196 of them in a few years! That got me thinking and now I’m hooked on the idea of venturing into the world of unknown food! However I felt 196 countries was a little excessive so I’ve set my sights on baking/cooking inspired by all 54 African countries. Expect some of the bakes to have more African influence in the coming months. Apart from being very excited at experimenting, I thought it was a great opportunity to look out for flavours and techniques for the bakery with the assumption that the ingredients used in bakes around Kenya will be easier to source.  I hope you are ready I’m going to be slipping them into the blogs!

First up – Algeria. I was searching through a few Algerian recipe sites, as part of North Africa and the Mediterranean they have a varied cuisine. This recipe caught my eye, the thought of dates, orange blossom and sesame seeds just sounded great! I’ve got to admit I wasn’t so sure on the semolina part but I then used the filling to make some yummy treats for Lucas. I blended the date filling with cashew nuts, rolled out balls, slightly flattened them and baked them ….yummy!

Recipe – Galette with Dates and Orange Blossom

Ingredients

250g semoule fine/semouletta (fine grained semolina, but not semolina flour)

250g semoule moyen (medium grained semolina)

60mL of olive oil or table oil or melted butter

1 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sugar

230mL of tépid water

Method

  1. Mix the semolina, baking powder, salt and oil. Make sure the grains are coated in the oil.
  2. Add water to the dry ingredients  little by little. You need to adjust the amount of water to obtain a dough which is not very soft, but not too hardor crumbly either.
  3. Knead the dough a little, but not much. Just enough to make the dough smooth and even. Some people knead more. Others less. I find just a few minutes to get the dough homogenous and smooth is enough (for my taste).
  4. Let stand about 5-8 minutes. Explanation for this: although this recipe calls for yeast, the dough still requires a rest. This pause helps the semolina to hydrate. Indeed, semolina with much larger grains than flour, it takes time to absorb the water. Again, as for kneading, some people sometimes let stand 2 hours. Here too, my version is faster, express from the use of baking powder.
  5. When the dough has rested, make small balls that you flatten by hand or rolling pin to a thickness of 1 cm- ½ in.
  6. Prick with a fork all over the galette. This will help the galette not fluff or swell.
  7. Bake on a Tefal non-stick pan or tadjine without any oil or butter on a low fire.
  8. Brown  on both sides, but make sure the galette is baked all the way through – about 5 minutes in each side.
  9. Continous turn the galette, so it gets golden brown evenly without burning.
  10. Flip over and continue to bake on the other side.

Kat heading out with the advance team to find patients – good luck!

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Custard Tarts. The Great Kenyan Bake Off!

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I’m rustling up some dinner, or attempting to whilst Lucas runs in and out of the kitchen. Daddy arrives home, we have dinner, read stories, bath Lucas in the laundry tub, more stories and attempt to settle Lucas for bed. Finally, an hour later, around 10pm, I ease on to the sofa full of excitement. Cup of tea in hand, I’m about to get my Great British Bake Off fix for the week. We can’t get iPlayer in Kenya but usually someone has uploaded it to YouTube so us addicts can watch it. I browse around anticipating an hour of baking to take my mind off baking (!). I look forward to this all week.

No one has uploaded it!!

Gutted, I decide we would have to make our own great British Bake Off, so here it is staring Lucas Jeremiah!

(Click on the Video to watch Lucas in the Great Kenyan Bake Off)

As you can see by the clips we did manage to download it eventually!

Custard Tarts

borrowed from Paul Hollywood’s recipe for the technical challenge!

Ingredients

For the sweet pastry

165g/5¾oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting

25g/1oz ground almonds

120g/4¼oz chilled unsalted butter, cubed

55g/2oz caster sugar

1 free-range egg

For the custard filling

700ml/1¼ pint full-fat milk

7 free-range egg yolks

90g/3¼oz caster sugar

freshly ground nutmeg

Preparation method

1. To make the pastry, stir the flour and ground almonds together in a large bowl, then add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

2. Break in the egg and work it into the mixture with your fingers, bringing it together to form a soft dough.

3. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a ball. Flatten with your fingers to a disc and wrap in cling film. Leave to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

5. Roll out the sweet pastry on a lightly floured work surface.

6. Using an 11cm/4½in fluted cutter, cut out twelve discs and line the muffin tray moulds with the pastry circle. The pastry should overlap the top of the moulds by a few millimetres, so that you can crimp the edges if you wish.

7. For the custard filling, warm the milk in a saucepan, and beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a separate bowl until pale and creamy.

8. Pour the milk onto the egg yolk mixture and stir well, creating little bubbles.

Transfer the custard mixture into a pouring jug with a lip, then fill each of the tart cases.

9. Sprinkle a small pinch of ground nutmeg into the middle of each tart.

10. Bake the tarts in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for another 10 minutes.

11. You are looking for a very slight dome on the custard, indicating that it is baked. If the custard domes too much this indicates that you have over-cooked the custard, it will have boiled, and will sink back down leaving a big dip. If this does happen you can help rescue it by removing the tarts from the oven immediately and placing the tin in cold water on a cold surface.

12. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes and then carefully remove from the moulds.

Dishing out the tarts

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Too cool for school

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Happy birthday Gido!

Pitta Bread and Film making…

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Pitta collage

“Karibu, karibu, karibu!” Susan sings to us as we enter her small mud walled home lined by newspaper cuttings and old school books which have been made in to decorations. Susan and her husband, great-grandparents, are typical of the people we meet in the rural parts of Kenya. They have little material wealth but still want to give us so much. She is holding a 4-month old baby as sadly the baby’s mother, Susan’s daughter, died last year. We squeeze on to an old sofa and she brings us a plate of boiled corn, freshly picked from the shamba.

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We have come back to visit as we have a film crew with us who are making a mini-documentary on Peek project. The producer and director were excellent and took the time to listen to all the aspects of the project and were peppered with awesome baked goods throughout the day that Madeleine had prepared (croissants, pain au chocolat, almond crusted Madeleines, fresh bread), we were hoping we might persuade them to help promote Jamii Bakery when we get it up and running!

Joab using Peek at the patient’s home

joab using peek

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Inspired by the visit of a film crew we decided to produce and direct our own little film…

Look out for the Great Kenyan Bake Off starring Lucas in next week’s blog – watch the BBC 2 trailer here today: (click on the image to watch it)

Recipe – Pitta Bread

Ingredients:

Makes 8 or 9 

225g water

7g salt

6g dried yeast

450g all purpose flour

1 tbsp olive oil

Method

1. Mix all the ingredients together

2. Knead for 8 minutes

3. Allow to prove for 90 minutes

4. Roll in to 8 or 9 rounds

5. With a rolling pin roll out the round in one direction only to create the typical pitta oval shape

6. Leave on a floured surface for 1 hour

7. Heat a dry pan on the hob

8. Cook each pitta for a couple of minutes on each side allowing the air pockets to develop and it to brown slightly

9. Enjoy with whatever filling takes your fancy!

The perfect pitta bread, thin, airy and delicious

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Our eye clinic for the day – “The Oasis of Love Church”

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Ginger Spice Cake – Good business?

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“Screw Business as Usual”

This is the book I have just finished reading.  It was a very timely read. In all honesty I have minimal business experience so I thought I should try doing some reading.  I was flicking through this book in a shop in Nairobi and landing on a page about an organic bakery – sold! Aside from his more famous attributions, there was very little I knew about Richard Branson or Virgin Unite. I’ve read multiple examples of businesses who value doing good as well as being profitable, he advocates that by being creative and focussed on doing good that profitability will then follow. There is an emphasis on the responsibility business has in improving opportunities and health for local people.   All in all, a timely and encouraging book for what we are pursuing with Jamii Bakery!

“We need a new way of doing business to get out of the present crisis,”  “Absolute greed has come close to bankrupting the world. Thanks to the crisis that certain businesses have dumped on everyone a lot of people are going to suffer on a global scale. All of us must learn. It is all the more important that those business leaders that are left standing try to be a force for good.”

A true entrepreneur – one printer and several plug sockets. Maina provides a printing, scanning, photocopying and phone charging service. Amazing 

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Sourcing ingredients and regular supplies for the bakery is something we are taking great care with. We want to source as ethically and sustainably as possible.  Supplies may not be officially certified as “Fairtrade” but we only want to purchase from suppliers who ensure their workers receive a fair wage and provide some medical insurance – areas we need to explore much further.

My head is spinning with ideas and thoughts… Bakery design, bakery staff, low carbon footprint, preparing for the South African Film crew coming in two days, Lucas activities…

Today is a very significant day for the three of us. We welcome our very very close friend, Kat. Kat lived with us in Frodsham (North England) for a few months a few years back and she is someone we love being around. Kat has packed in her job, moved out of her house and moved to Kenya for 4 months to help us with all that is going on! I don’t think she really knows what she has let herself in for.  I’m sure just living with us three for any length of time could be permanently damaging!! Good luck and karibu Kenya!

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You may have noticed a little theme recently as I explore my way through the lovely Scandilicious baking from a book by Signe Johansen. Hope you enjoy it.

Recipe – Ginger Spice Cake

Ingredients:

125g butter

175g dark brown muscovado sugar

150ml treacle

250ml buttermilk (masiwa lala)

2 medium eggs slightly beaten

175g plain flour

75g wholemeal flour

2tsp bicarbonate soda

1tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp freshly grated ginger (The ginger here is very special, its a different variety to what we know in the UK)

1tsp ground cardamom

1/2tsp nutmeg, freshly grated

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and line a 1Kg loaf tin or 20cm square tin with baking parchment

2. Melt the butter, sugar and treacle together in a medium saucepan, stir and allow to cool slightly.

3. Beat in the buttermilk and the eggs.

4. Mix the flours, raising agents and spices together the  gradually add to the liquid in the saucepan stirring thoroughly.

5. Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 45 mins after which place some aluminium foil over the top of the bake to stop it burning and bake for a further 15mins

6. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 15 mins then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  I just left it in the tin as Lucas needed putting to bed, it seems to be very ok!

The guys knocking up lunch on the jicho stove

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We were visited by a superhero

superhero

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Half and Half Cake. Half way there!

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We are half way! Can you believe it? I’m not sure if we can. At one point it seemed like this day would never come!

Looking back over the time period of 50 clusters, we have an incredible team (Redempta, Faith, Kirui, Kimutai, Jedidah, Joel, Roselyne, Bryan, Keith, Hellen, Joab, Cosmas, Ann, Jerry, Divinah, Richard and Sam).  The team and equipment have endured bumpy journey after bumpy journey (metaphorically and literally) the outcome of which is we have retraced half of the possible 5000 we set out to retrace so far, Over 250 have been diagnosed and have or will receive cataract treatment in the near future, nearly 1,000 have been given glasses and many more have received other types of treatment.

Every morning, Lucas proudly carries the wrapped up plate of the days bake to give to Daddy just before he leaves  for the field. He looks out of the window and sees Cosmas and Redempta as they load the van, he knows that Sam the driver needs the keys and makes sure Daddy remembers both his rucksacs and likes to confirm that Daddy is wearing his “eye doctor t-shirt”, “Daddy makes peoples eyes better”.  When we arrived he couldn’t talk, now he helps unpack the shopping and constantly asks “whats that?” pointing at the different foods. When I’m in the kitchen he confidently pulls a chair through from the sitting room, places it by the counter and reaches for the spices, “Whats that Mummy?” and he sniffs the coriander powder. His latest addition to his vocabulary, is “ooooo”, which he says when he’s impressed with something, genius!

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We feel very thankful to be where we are now and for all the ongoing support and encouragement from our family and friends both new and old.  Its a blessing to be on a journey and we hope we can share that with you guys…where ever it may lead!

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There was a time when I never thought we would reach this point. If I’m being honest with you, there were times I was ready to pack up the whole thing in and leave. I’d written resignation letters in my head, told myself I tried hard but it was just not meant to be. That was over almost a year ago now when Kenya seemed like such a far away place in more ways than just geography. We had set back after set back, problems we never expected and it genuinely seemed we were trying to climb a mountain with no map, no gear and a one-year-old child…

Funny how things change.  Piece by piece, things slowly fell in to place and the project started moving, Madeleine’s unwavering strength and determination to complete what we had set out to do has undoubtedly been the single most important reason we are still here. Madeleine loves life in England and the very strong protective instinct that comes with being a parent made us question what we were doing here on more than one occasion.

Although there have been dark times here, we have felt very looked after. Redempta has been such a bright light who has shown us the most beautiful aspects of the Kenyan spirit. She has supported and shared in all our challenges, dreams, ups and downs.  We have a fantastic eye project team who are dedicated and gifted and have made friends that will be friends for the rest of our lives (wherever we are living). One very close friend who was giving us encouragement recently told us that a huge amount of resistance is needed before a plane can take off, and it is to be expected if you want to fly.

Kenya has unexpectedly become home. We are happy and enjoying the experience. Lucas is thriving and is at ease with his international lifestyle and odd parents.

We are now half way up that mountain, looking back at where we have come from, what has been achieved and baked so far. The top doesn’t look as far away and unreachable as it once did. We have already started planning the next climbs (the small matter of a bakery and Madeleine’s cook book comes to mind).

We feel truly blessed and thank ALL of you for sharing the journey with us so far.

To be continued….

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For reaching the half way point the bake had to represent this somehow so this is what I came up with!  Chocolate orange is also Andrews favourite chocolate so that’s where some of the inspiration came from!

Recipe – Half and Half cake

Makes two whole cakes. One to freeze, if it gets that close to a freezer!

Chocolate cake: please see recipe for Lucas’ Tractor in the mud birthday cake

Orange cake ingredients:

2 large eggs

160g castor sugar

100g ground almonds

200g grated carrot

200g white flour

2tsp baking powder

pinch salt

one whole orange boiled for 30mins

1tsp ground cinnamon

1tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp cardamom

Orange icing ingredients:

50g softened butter

200g icing sugar

squeeze fresh orange juice and finely grated peel of whole orange.

Method for the orange carrot cake

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line two 20cm circle tins with baking parchment.

2. Blend the whole boiled orange until slushy.

3. Whisk the eggs and sugar for 4 mins until light and fluffy.  Whisk in the grated carrot and blended orange.

4. Beat in he remaining ingredients.

5. Separate into the two baking tins and place in the middle of the oven for 25-30mins, check with a knife whether cooked by sticking it into the sponge, if its clean its cooked.

6. Let the cakes cool a little then turn onto wire racks to completely cool.

7. Meanwhile bake the chocolate cake and let cool.

8. Whilst cakes cooling make the icings.  To do this beat the butter and half the icing sugar until light and fluffly, then gradually beat in the remaining ingredients.

9. To make the compile the cakes spread icing on the orange carrot cake for the middle layer then place the choc cake on top and carefully ice half with the choc icing and half with the orange icing.  For a straight line I used a piece of cardboard to follow for the choc icing then met the orange icing next to it.  Sprinkle orange peel shavings on top for decoration.

Madeleine baking half with electricity, half without….

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The team enjoying the half way point

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The oldest man in Kenya, 100!

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Good night…

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Grissini – Optimists or Realists?

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Sometimes I wonder, are we optimistic or realisticnaive or just ready to jump.  We are just beginning to grasp how busy the time ahead is going to be.  There is a lot of preparation for the bakery, it is exciting drawing up the designs, thinking about walk ways, where to put the toilets, flow of people, access routes… well that’s what I was doing whilst Lucas was having a snooze!  The business plan is coming, thankfully we have invested in a Business Plan Program to guide us through the process.

It is amazing really, Andrew is inundated with requests to use Peek from individuals who want to use it at work, to major eye care programs who see it making a difference in their current practice.

For now I will leave you with a little quote for the day. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence”.  Helen Keller.  (She overcame being deaf and blind to be one of the 20th centuries leading humanitarians).

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Recipe – Grissini

Makes about 50. Lucas’ favourite snack currently is breadsticks dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil! That’s my boy!

Ingredients

Biga (Italian word for pre-ferment)

White bread flour 110g

Water 95g

Pinch dried yeast

Final dough ingredients

White bread flour 1kg

Water 480g

Biga above

20g salt

10g dried yeast

Toppings

Sesame seeds, linseeds, poppy seeds, sea salt flakes, chilli flakes, cayenne pepper, ground coriander, water you fancy really! Also some olive oil to brush onto the dough.

Method:

1. Mix all the ingredients for the preferment together and leave at room temp for 12-14 hours or over night.

2. Mix all the final dough ingredients together then knead for 8-10mins until well kneaded.

3. Leave for 1st prove for 1-2 hours, then turn and retold then leave to prove for another 1-2 hours with the bowl covered so a skin does not form.

4. when it comes to rolling out the dough take a handful on a lightly floured surface  shape into a round then roll out until desired length of breadstick and about 1-2 mm thick.

5. Either brush the rolled out I dough with olive oil or water then sprinkle your choice of topping over, may favourite is poppy seeds, cayenne pepper and salt.

6.  Use a sharp knife to cut into strips about 5-8mm wide and place on a floured or non-stick tray, leave to rise for about 30 mins then bake at about 170C for 15 ish minutes depending on your oven! Keep a close eye when they are snappable it doesn’t take long for them to burn! You can cook them at a higher temperature but for a shorter time, see what works best in your oven.

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Building a den…

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Hungry now…

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Time for a snooze…

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We might have found the perfect delivery vehicle for the bakery!

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Chocolate Soda Bread, beware of home brew!

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I am baffled. This is the 4th patient I’ve seen this morning who has wide open pupils like saucers. I ask the team why they have used dilating drops before I’ve seen them. “We haven’t doc, they were already like this”

I take a close look and ask Keith who has been testing visual fields to make some enquires with other patients about dietary and drinking habits in the village.

It turns out there is a popular home brew known as chang’aa which is cheap, potent and gives a quick high. We pay a local man 200 shillings (about £1.50) to buy a bottle for us. It comes in an old gin bottle with the seal broken. The smell is like paint stripper and I suspect it is laced with methanol and who knows what else. We are asking of there is a toxicology lab in Nairobi where we can get it tested. If it is methanol the blindness it causes is irreversible. There have been known to be spates of mass chang’aa intoxication with groups of party goers waking up blind and it has been a major issue in some of the slums.

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I look in to the blank eyes of the 25 year old man who is already using a stick to navigate. Sadly I explain it is highly unlikely his vision will come back. Not the kind of news I like to deliver.  We hope that by getting the home brew tested at the toxicology lab we can confirm whether it is methanol poisoning and hopefully send out some patient education.

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The eye project was featured on eNews Africa last week: watch the video

Recipe – Chocolate Soda Bread

Ingredients:

450g plain white flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsps caster sugar

25g unsalted butter, chilled and danced

75g good-quality milk chocolate, roughly chopped

75g walnuts, roughly chopped

75g dried apricots

350ml plain yogurt

Recipe:

1. Pre-heat oven to 220ºC

2. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar in to a mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub in until the mixture feels like fine crumbs. Then in the chocolate, walnuts and apricots create a well and pour in the yogurt.

3. Mix it all together adding more yogurt if the dough is dry.

4. Dust hands and surface with flour and turn out the dough then shape in to a ball. Place the ball on a baking sheet and  with a sharp knife cut a cross in top and sprinkle with flour.

5. Place in the heated oven for around 35 minutes until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow to the tap.

6. Transfer to a wire rack (not that we’ve got one) to cool.

7. Eat warm with a cuppa or sliced and toasted when it has cooled.

3. Make a well in the centre of the mix and

The photographer prepares the background and lighting…

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Caramel-Almond Topped Sponge, it is definitely the rainy season…

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The noise on the tin roof is deafening. The rainfall is so heavy now that a few droplets leak through the roof and splash by my feet. Then the noise changes to a more high-pitched barrage on the roof. Unbelievably it is hail stoning.  I’m stood in a t-shirt, looking over at the earth surrounding the van which is now hidden a shallow brown lake, the hailstones pound my exposed arms. I’ve worn more than one layer on only a handful of occasions since moving to Kenya and I’m very under dressed.

A flash of lighting and crash of thunder explodes dangerously close to us. The power cuts and the UPS backup battery starts beeping away. Then a small stream of water starts to gather by our feet. I make the decision that we have to pack up immediately and get out of here or we will be staying the night. The equipment is not waterproof and neither is the roof so we move at pace to pack everything away. Fortunately we have seen almost all of the day’s patients. We use our back up funds to pay for the patients still with us to be driven home on motorbike taxis, it will be near impossible now to pass the roads in our mini-bus and equipment van to take them home and if we wait any longer we will be all sheltering here for the night.

Very wet and cold we close up the examination centre and run for the mini-bus, all hoping that we can make it past the stretch of road that is not tarmacked and is now a series of small lakes.

We hit a dip and the front-left side of the bus tips forward, leaving me in close proximity to the ground. The back right wheel is air borne and spinning. We are stuck. We get out of the minibus and 5 of the guys stand at the back corner above the free floating wheel to bring it back down to earth and there is just enough traction for us to move forward.

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Richard, our superb team driver braces himself for one last large puddle and we hold our breath as the wheels start to spin beneath us, seconds later, the front wheels gain some traction and we are free. The road from here is much better and we safely head for home in time to watch the evening news broadcast on eNews Africa featuring the eye project.

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Andrew liked this cake so much he has just challenged me to make him one right now and if I do he said he would eat the whole thing in one sitting! Just as I was considering it the electricity went…decision made, it will have to be another day!

Recipe – Caramel-Almond Topped Sponge

From Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen (My new favourite recipe book!)

Ingredients:

Sponge

3 medium eggs

150g castor sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

150g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

75g butter melted

75ml buttermilk or I used yogurt as usual!

Praline

125g light brown muscovado sugar

150g flaked almonds

50ml whole milk

3/4 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and lightly oil a 23cm round cake tin.

2. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy.

3. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl, then gradually add the melted butter, buttermilk and dry ingredients to the beaten egg mixture in stages, alternating between them and folding in with a large metal spoon.

4. Gently pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin and tap it once or twice against the surface to remove any big air bubbles.

5. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30mins until golden brown and firm to touch.

6. Start preparing the topping about half way through the baking; put all the topping ingredients into a medium saucepan and simmer for 3-4mins stirring continuously and allowing it to thicken a little.

7. Remove the cake from the oven and turn i up to 220°C.  Use the hot praline to glaze the cake whilst it is still in its tin, then put the cake back in the oven on the upper shelf and cook for a further 5-10mins until crispy and golden brown.

8. Allow to cool slightly before running a blunt knife around the edges to separate the sticky praline from the sides of the tin, then allow to cool on a wire rack.

Just in case you ever wondered who took the photos of the bakes…

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