Chocolate Soda Bread, beware of home brew!


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.


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.


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

Recipe – Chocolate Soda Bread


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


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…



One thought on “Chocolate Soda Bread, beware of home brew!

  1. I remember reading about chang’aa in the Lonely Planet and the bad batch that killed 48 people near Machakos and hospitalised nearly 100 people in 2005. How very sad to read about the effects of chang’aa on Kenyans’ eyes. On a happier note, the news clip is brilliant! George and Jack sat with me whilst I watched it and they loved seeing you, Baz, and other team members! Jack shouted out ‘Auntie ‘Dempta!!!’ Miss you all. Donna x

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