Chilli Chicken and Sweetcorn Pie | Andrew let loose in the kitchen…

20140127_231054

The sun has set and I step in to the apartment shortly before 8pm covered in dust.

I take a shower whilst the various things I need to tick of my to-do list this evening run through my mind. The list is long, but top of that list and there is no avoiding it now…. I have to bake.

The team has had 81 unique bakes for 81 villages visited. I can not break this impressive feat so close to the end.

When cooking for others, Madeleine and I have always been a good team, I do main meal, Madeleine the pudding so I’ve never really needed to bake.

I’d like to think I’m a pretty good cook but baking is undoubtedly out of my comfort zone. I decide to play to my strengths and bring out some chicken that I picked up from the butchers, spice it up with chillies, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, pepper and add some sweetcorn. It tastes great but I’ve procrastinated long enough, this is not baking, I have to turn this in to a pie…

I find a pastry recipe that is suitable for children and it goes surprisingly smoothly. I pulse blitz some flour and butter in the blender till it forms a breadcrumb like structure then roll it in to a ball and wrap it in clingfilm, leaving it in the fridge to cool for half an hour. Feeling pretty proud of myself, my confidence growing, I make a cup of tea and bask in the glory of making homemade pastry.  Madeleine is peppered with messages and pictures of how well it is going and I plan out the final simple steps in my mind… Roll out the pastry, line a greased tin, lay the pastry in the tin and save a piece to go over the top once the delicious filling is in. The oven is warming up nicely and I return to the kitchen, a baking warrior ready to complete the task. I unleash the rolling pin, the ball of pastry ready to submit to my culinary powers.

Following the final steps in the book with some nice pictures showing a few rolls of the pastry with moderate pressure on the rolling pin resulting in an even sheet of pastry. As I applied pressure to the golden buttery ball of pastry it spectacularly fell apart, back to the crumble like state before I massaged it in to a ball a little earlier. It was making no attempt to obey the laws of baking and stick together, instead becoming a pile of floury, buttery mess.  I never really understood how baking could leave Madeleine in a state of meltdown but now it was making sense… I had to finish the task, the pressure was mounting, it was getting close to midnight and it still needed 20 minutes in the oven, I had to be up at 5.45am so I had to make a decision. Despite the pastry’s best attempts to spite me I could not be defeated, it had become personal! Taking clumps of pastry mess I plastered them to the wall of the baking tin with a few gaps as I hadn’t made enough to cover the whole tin. Thankfully one piece had rolled out nicely to go on top, so at least it would resemble a pie, I carefully started lifting it from the work surface but it stubbornly decided it didn’t want to be parted with the kitchen surface. The behaviour of this pastry had now become highly unacceptable, it refused to stick to itself so I could roll it out but was more than willing to glue itself to the work top! I found I was talking to myself and brandishing a knife, if anyone had seen me they might have considered me a risk to myself and had me sectioned. With some surgical precision I amputated the pastry from it’s best friend the kitchen surface and in five pieces haphazardly placed it on top of the chicken mix.  With a finale of glazing the mess in front of me with some egg, defeated, I placed it in the oven, set the timer and slumped on to the sofa. My mind temporarily wandered to preparing for fieldwork the next day when the timer cruelly reminded me that the mess was ready.

To my surprise, it actually resembled a pie, not something you’d spend money on but by most definitions, I had baked and this was a pie!

The next day the team politely looked at my effort, their actions speaking louder than words, an uncustomary stop on route to the clinic was made to stock up on food supplies… I hadn’t worked out how the pie would actually be eaten, given it was actually a chicken stew with pastry on top and we had no cutlery but the general feedback was positive, not that they would have told me otherwise…

Fortunately there are some pre-prepared bakes so the team and I won’t have to suffer for the next few days.

Hmmm… 20140127_223846

Recipe – Chilli Chicken and Sweetcorn Pie

I wont be offended if you choose not to replicate this masterpiece

Ingredients:

For the pastry

  • 200g plain flour or all purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110g butter, cubed or an equal mix of butter and lard
  • 2-3 tbsp very cold water
  • Makes approx 300g

For the filling

  • 3 chicken breasts – diced
  • Half tin sweetcorn
  • Chicken stock (50ml)
  • Milk (50ml)
  • 2 finely chopped onions
  • 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • Spices to taste – chilli (don’t be shy), cumin, coriander, pepper and salt

Methods

For the pastry

  • Place the the flour, butter and salt into the bowl of the processor.
  • Using only the pulse setting, pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Avoid over mixing if you can,
  • Through the funnel on the top of the processor, slowly add the water a little at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Wrap the pastry in Cling-film and leave to cool for 30 mins
  • Roll out (not how I did it) and line the baking tim and place on top

For the filling

  • Sauté the onions and garlic in a little olive oil
  • Add the chicken and cook on a slow heat for ten minutes
  • Add the spices
  • Finally add stock and milk and leave the flavours to get to know one another for around ten minutes
  • Add in to the pie

I wasn’t too sure about that pie…

SONY DSC

Tartine Bread | It is very quiet in Kenya…

SONY DSC

“Daa-deeee” Lucas’ loud, yet little voice welcomes me home from the field. Madeleine smiles, holds me gently and tells me about her day and I tell her about mine. Not today though. I get back to an empty and quiet flat. It’s incredible how different it feels not having my family around me. I don’t think I’ve ever taken for granted how lucky I am to have such a beautiful family but the vacuum left by them not being in Kenya is huge. It’s not even been 24 hours…

I should be grateful that the sofa cushions are not on the floor and I’m allowed to sit down, that I’m not tripping over tractors and then having a book thrust in my face and being told in no uncertain terms to “read it!” But, I’m not, I miss them, I miss the noise, the chaos, the fun.

What’s more, I have to bake! I have a huge pile of work to get through and the thought of messing up some attempt at pastry, cake or bread is not particularly appealing. Fortunately the team did not have to suffer today and one of Madeleine’s pre-prepared bakes was taken with me to the field. You can appreciate my attempt at baking in the next blog…

Recipe – Tartine Bread

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t even understand the recipe so I’ll let Madeleine fill this in when she gets chance!

If you can’t wait it is about 20 pages long in the book “Tartine Bread” by Chad Robertson

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Tart au passion | Flying visit

SONY DSC

“Ping”

If you have a Mac or iPad, or iPhone you’ll know the ping I’m talking about, it’s the noise that indicates a new email has just arrived.

Yesterday whilst putting Lucas to bed, my computer pinged and in my inbox was a mail titled, “invitation to interview”.  That little innocuous noise can indicate a time for change.

I’m really thankful to have been offered an interview, it is however in less than a week so we’ve booked flights back to the UK for a few days. Lucas and I are flying out this Sunday (tomorrow) and leaving Andrew to fend for himself as well as have to bake! I think he is genuinely concerned (about the baking) and so I’ve knocked up a few in advance for emergency cover.

Lucas is packing his own bag (full of tractors leaving no room for clothes, he considers anything non-tractor to be surplus to demand).

We’ve reached another major milestone of 80 villages complete, just 20 to go…

—————————————

I couldn’t resist making a passion fruit tart with so many passion fruits available you can get about 20 for 80p! It went down so well it was all eaten before they even got to the field so I’m sure a lemon tart will be on its way soon!

If there are any unusual looking bakes in the next week or so, you know why…

Recipe: Tart au passion

Ingredients:

Pastry:

175g plain flour

100g cold butter cubed

25g icing sugar

1 large egg yolk

1tbsp icy water

Filling:

5 large eggs

150ml double cream

225g castor sugar

About 10 passion fruit

Methods:

1. Line a 23cm tart tin with non-stick baking parchment.

2. To make the pastry put the flour, butter, icing sugar in a blender and blend until fine bread crumbs, then add the egg yolk and water.  Tip the mixture onto the worktop and gather it into a ball and knead just 2 or 3 times.  Wrap in cling film and chill for 30mins in the fridge.

3. To make the filling  beat together the cream and eggs.  Scoop out all the passion fruit, pips and all and add to the egg cream mixture with the sugar and blend well.  Put all mixture through a sieve, keep squeezing through until all you have left in the sieve are some dry looking pips.

4. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface and wrap around the rolling pin to gently put into the tart dish with about 1cm extra all the way round.  Make fork marks on the base of the pastry, put a layer of tin foil and baking beans and place in the oven at 200°C for 10-12 mins, remove and using a knife cut the excess pastry off the sides and remove the tin foil and baking beans, return to the oven for 10-12 mins, remove  and leave to cool.

5. Pour the filling in and return to the oven at 160°C and bake for 30mins, when ready the filling is just set with a slight wobble.  Leave to cool, cut and serve.

Sunflower and Honey Bread | Frustrations…

SONY DSC

The alarm rings repeatedly. Madeleine jumps out of bed, puts her head torch on (the same one she uses for baking in power cuts) and sets off in to the dark at 5.45am to get her run in. We are having to start our days early at the moment to reach some of the more distant villages. On autopilot, I stumble in to the kitchen, prepare a thermos of strong coffee and bottle of drinking water, unplug the various phones and gadgets on charge and pack them in my bag. Madeleine returns from her run and from under his mosquito net, Lucas points her towards the shower, “you dusty, you going to have a shower?” He proceeds to organise his tractors for the day. The bake is laid out on the table, professional lighting set up using a phone. We snap various photos for the blog then downstairs to get a ride in to town and meet the team.

Over two hours later when the rough roads have taken their toll we arrive at the clinic site.

Not a patient in sight…

A month before each clinic, a team member has visited the area, met the local chief and established a guide. Together they go through the list of study patients ticking off which are still around and the details of the study explained. A week before the clinic, the same team member visits again and establishes a suitable building for the examinations and prepares the way for the advance team. The day before the clinic, the advance team arrives and with the designated guide visits every single person on the list in his or her own homes. They explain the full study, examine them using Peek and advise them on the time and location for the following days clinic.  If any have mobility issues, transport is arranged for them.

Given the amount of preparation, you can imagine our surprise and disappointment to arrive and find nobody waiting. We call the guide and various patients on the list, none of whom answer. Eventually a handful of patients turn up, sometime after 11am, at which we point we discover there is a local farmers meeting on all day, which our guide has organised and most of the patients on the list are in attendance! I think it was fair to say I was a little frustrated. Reluctantly we are going to have to revisit unless we can persuade them to attend a neighbouring clinic.

We eventually get home at 8pm, put everything back on charge whilst Madeleine juggles getting Lucas to sleep, preparing for an interview, planning a bakery and baking for tomorrow morning. It is easy to think you’ve cracked something and get complaisant but Kenya and life in general has a habit of throwing up surprises. We love it really.

Recipe – Sunflower and Honey Bread

from Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf
Makes 1 small loaf

Ingredients

200g white bread flour
50g millet meal
100g sunflower seeds, lightly toasted (the original recipe uses twice this amount)
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
50g honey
100g white leaven (*see note above)
3/4 teaspoon fresh yeast, crumbled
100g water at 20 degrees C.
1 egg, beaten (for glazing the loaf)

SONY DSC

Method

In a large bowl, combined the bread flour and millet meal with the toasted sunflower seeds and salt.

In another bowl or jug, whisk the leaven with the honey, yeast and water.

Pour the liquid ingredients in with the dry ingredients and stir well with your hands until you have a soft smooth dough.

Put the dough back into the large bowl, cover with clingwrap and set aside for 10 minutes.

Rub a teaspoon of olive oil in a work surface and knead the dough for about 10 seconds, shaping the dough into a smooth ball.  Clean and dry the bowl, rub it lightly with olive oil and put the dough back into the bowl. Cover with clingwrap and set aside for another 10 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead again on the oiled surface, returning the shape to a smooth ball and placing it back into the oiled bowl. Cover with clingwrap again and this time, set it aside for 1 hour at room temperature.

Lightly flour the work surface and knead the dough for 10 seconds. Shape it into a smooth ball, turning the dough and cupping it under itself to create tension on the top of the dough and a seam in the bottom of the dough.  Sprinkle a tea towel with a handful of flour and put the dough inside it, seem-side up. Place the tea towel with the dough wrapped in it, into a large deep bowl. This will help to force the dough to rise upwards rather than outwards and give height to the loaf. Leave to rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until almost doubled in height.

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C. Turn the loaf out onto a baking paper lined baking tray (so that the seem is facing down), and brush the loaf with beaten egg. Cut a deep cross in the centre of the loaf and bake for about 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 190 degrees C. and bake for a further 15 – 20 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

————————————-

Soon we won’t need to use on of these

SONY DSC

Instead we will use one of these

SONY DSC

So we can go to them

SONY DSC

Chocolate-Vanilla hidden tractor cake | On Kenyan time…

SONY DSC

“I will be there in five minutes”

Ten minutes later we phone again…

“I am here now”

I look around bemused, are we in the wrong place? We have arranged to pick up a patient we’d seen in the clinic earlier in the week,  we want to follow up on how he was doing. I’m in a bit of a rush as I’ve got a load of things that need finishing this afternoon and Madeleine is waiting for me at home.

I ask one of our team to call again and check where he is.

“Just coming down the road,…” he tells us.

We decide to intercept him on his journey to speed things up. It has already been nearly an hour from when we were due to meet. I pull in to the petrol station on the corner of the road where I’m given a translation of Kenyan timing.

Five minutes = some time today

I am here now = I’m thinking about setting off shortly

Just coming down the road = my journey has started

Eventually the gentleman arrives and skips in to the back of the van, happy as Larry, not a mention of being over an hour late. It transpires that just before starting his journey, he was closing up the shop and a friend popped in for a cup of tea. Rather than saying he was already late for a meeting, he put some water and milk on gas and prepared a cup of tea to enjoy with his friend. When he eventually started the journey he bumped in to two old friends whom he spent time chatting to.

The irony is, although no one ever seems in a rush, as soon as a motorised vehicle is involved it becomes a life-risking race to get to a destination as quickly as possible, only to arrive and chill out for hours on end…

There are some traits that are hard to adapt to. Having had punctuality drummed in to us from birth (myself more than Madeleine – she is very Kenyan in this respect and was 45 minutes late for our own wedding), constantly checking the time and sacrificing being polite to be on time makes it hard to understand when others are less bothered about keeping to time.

Then again, what is more important? Spending time with a friend or being on time? Maybe it us who have our priorities mixed up.

p.s. Madeleine says she was only half an hour late and it wasn’t her fault….

Recipe – Chocolate-Vanilla hidden tractor cake

I asked Lucas what Cake I should make, he replied, “one with a tractor hiding in it” – So I did…well I have attempted to!

Ingredients

For the  chocolate cake: (adapted from Delia Smith’s Choc Beer Cake)

50g cocoa powder

200 ml milk

110 g very soft butter

275 g dark soft brown sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

175 g plain flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing: See tractor in the mud cake

For the Vanilla Cake (I used a Victoria Sandwich Recipe adapted from the River Cottage Handbook No 8): 

Unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing
4 eggs
Golden caster sugar
Self-raising flour, sieved with a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
A little milk, if necessary

For the chocolate cake:

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 180°C

First of all, cream the butter and sugar together, beating thoroughly for 3 or 4 minutes until pale and fluffy.

Now gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Next, sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda

Then weigh the cocoa and put it in a separate bowl, gradually stirring the milk into it. Now carefully and lightly fold into the egg mixture small quantities of the sifted flour alternately with the cocoa-milk liquid.

Then, when both have been added, divide the cake mixture equally between the 2 tins and level it out. Bake the sponges in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes. The cakes should be flat on top and feel springy and will have shrunk slightly from the side of the tin. Leave them to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool further, carefully stripping off the base papers.

Craft a tractor shape by using a cardboard cut out stencil and carve the cake to the required tractor shape.

To make the icing, beat the icing sugar and butter together until blended, then gradually add the stout, making sure it is thoroughly mixed in after each addition. Now melt the chocolate in a bowl set over hot water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Then, when it’s melted, remove the bowl from the water, and carefully fold the chocolate into the icing mixture.

For the Vanilla Cake:

Keep the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease two 20cm sandwich cake tins with butter, and line the bases of each with baking parchment.

Weigh the eggs in their shells and weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. In a bowl, beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, adding a tablespoon of sifted flour if the mix looks as if it’s going to curdle. Beat in the vanilla extract, then gently but thoroughly fold in the flour. Now check the consistency of the batter. Scoop up a tablespoon of the mixture and hold it over the bowl. If it drops down fairly easily, it’s just right. If it sticks stubbornly in the spoon, fold a tablespoon or two of milk into the mixture.

Place the mixture into 20cm square tin and gently smooth the tops with a knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cool  cut the 20cm cake in half and use each half for sandwiching the tractor, use the tractor stencil to cut the reverse (top and bottom halves) of the vanilla cake which the chocolate tractor will sit between. Place the butter icing around the chocolate cake and sandwich within the vanilla. Finally coat all the surfaces in the chocolate icing  and voila…

It is very important not to waste any ingredients…

SONY DSC

Picasso Jr at large again…

20140115_085255

Today’s clinic – a cinema showing films and live football for 30 pence

20140113_104504

20140113_144233

20140113_104328

The vision chart reflected in the lens of a patient examined on the slit lamp

acuity chart in lens on slit lamp

Pumpkin Pie | Bakery Progress…

SONY DSC

It has been a frustrating time with the bakery. We are being taught again that patience in abundance is necessary and things don’t always work on our time frame. We are in a position where we have managed to fundraise start up costs, the market research has been very positive and in fact we are being asked when the products would be ready, we have a fab artisan baker from E5 bakehouse in London at the ready to come and train staff and we have a director in place who has a heart of gold and management skills to match. As well as all this we still have the incredible offer of land and a purpose built building, seemingly many doors are open but it is still not happening.

For one reason or another the land has not progressing, and nor has our registration as an NGO, even with all the hard work we put in to the constitution and the business plan. As Christmas time approached we were feeling really downhearted, despite all our efforts, we still have no head baker and no building to start in.  I had an exam to prepare for and it seemed the right thing to just be patient… to let go.

Christmas passed and we reached the end of 2013 with little prospect of getting the bakery started before we finish our time in Kenya. We were reflecting on this time last year: the eye project had been challenge after challenge as we “patiently”awaited for the slit lamp in the hope we could start the project. This year we found ourselves in a similar position. Then, on new years eve, 2013, we received a phone call from Charles, the director of Ujima, explaining he would be at Maili Saba Camp on New Years day. The tented lodge is our favourite place in Nakuru, it overlooks the crater and has an air of serenity like nowhere else in the area. It is run as an income generating program for the Ujima Foundation who provide young adult orphans with skills in hospitality and the opportunity to be independent as well as support their own families. We had nothing planned so we decided to spend the first day of the year overlooking the Menengai Crater.

Unbelievably, as Charles shared the exciting plans Ujima has for the coming three years, there seemed to be so much synergy with our plans for the bakery. So much of our visions overlap and we have huge admiration for how Ujima runs and what it stands for. Andrew and I looked at each other as the conversation went on, we both had had the same thought. If the bakery became an Ujima project it would benefit them and help us achieve our vision. We explained that we would be happy to effectively run the bakery under Ujima’s umbrella provided the focus on health and profits were to be used for eye care and supporting employment to vulnerable people (their speciality) .

Amazingly, Charles jumped up, brimming with enthusiasm and showed us three potential sites at Maili Saba Camp that could be used as a bakery. Somewhat in shock at this incredible development, we called our architect friend on the off chance he was free to come and take a look, he was. One of the buildings looks perfect and with two weeks work can be transformed. Suddenly the doors are open again. We are just awaiting the go ahead from the board of directors then, hopefully, we can begin to put the wheels in motion…

The Bakery?

The Bakery

The bake is a pumpkin pie something I have been meaning to do for a long while pumpkins are in abundance here and we always pass the lady who sells them on our way home.  This is a Anthony Worrall Thompson recipe.

Recipe – Pumpkin pie

For the Pastry

  • 500g  plain flour
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 250g  butter, cut into small cubes
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 splash milk

For the filling

  • 450 g/1lb prepared weight pumpkin flesh, cut into 1in/2.5 cm chunks
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk (use the white for another dish)
  • 3 oz/75g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 10 fl oz/275 ml double cream

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Use a shop bought sweet crust pastry case, about 9 inch/23 cm diameter and 1½ inches/4 cm deep.
  3. To make the filling, steam the pumpkin then place in a coarse sieve and press lightly to extract any excess water.
  4. Then lightly whisk the eggs and extra yolk together in a large bowl.
  5. Place the sugar, spices and the cream in a pan, bring to simmering point, giving it a whisk to mix everything together. Then pour it over the eggs and whisk it again briefly.
  6. Now add the pumpkin pureé, still whisking to combine everything thoroughly.
  7. Pour the filling into your pastry case and bake for 35-40 minutes, by which time it will puff up round the edges but still feel slightly wobbly in the centre.
  8. Remove the pie from the oven and place the tin on a wire cooling rack. Serve chilled (stored loosely covered in foil in the fridge) with some equally chilled créme fraïche, but warm or at room temperature would be fine.

Pumpkin and Steak Pie | Pingu?

Image 1

I glance over my shoulder and see Lucas has scribbled all over the picture in his Paddington Bear puzzle book.  “Lucas do you know what you have done wrong here?” “Mummy I made it better”. Not wanting to stifle his creative growth, how could I argue his beautiful Picasso like scribbles are anything but great art? However I still felt he needed to learn not to draw in books. “Yes it is a beautiful drawing but we cannot draw on books, I can get you some paper to draw on” “Mummy I didn’t draw on the book I drew in it”. At this point Andrew can’t contain the laughter and my attempts to discipline our son fail as I’m clearly being outsmarted by a two year old!

In recent weeks we’ve done some “pre-school mornings”. Often centred around tractors it has been amazing to see Lucas soak up new things like a sponge. Whether its been making pies for the team, digging for white beans with letters drawn on buried in fake mud (Tanzanian ground coffee which went off) with all his toy tractors and diggers or painting or reading. Lucas continues to be an unintentional comedy genius.

Our close friends Sian and John are expecting their second baby any day now and we asked Lucas if he’d like a little brother or sister one day? He pondered the question for a while and responded,”mmm, no I want a rabbit”

These same friends recently introduced us to Pingu which Lucas loves and has taken to mimicking.

We had been noticing some new unusual behaviours such as putting his cardboard pot for bricks over his head then proceed to bang it with a stick as he happily potters around the flat, opening up his shoebox and putting the lid and bottom on like shoes and skating around and the pinnacle was his over enthusiasm for imaginary fishing at the weekend which resulted in him falling in the swimming pool! All behaviours we accepted as unusual but probably normal for a 2 year old, that was until we travelled to Nairobi on Friday for my exam and we let him watch Pingu on the way (which he hadn’t watch for a few weeks!) and I soon realised he is a growing clone of Pingu!

Some of the behaviour learnt from Pingu has been very sweet

images

Others less so…

imgres

20140103_202320

There are very few films I’ve watched in their entirety and only one film I have ever watched back to back. It was on an aeroplane pre-Lucas! Julie and Julia (Julie sets herself the task of cooking all Julia Childs 300+ recipes in a year and writes a blog about it)  in it the Beef Bourginion takes centre stage as the pinnacle of Julia Childs “The Art of French Cooking”.  So it of course had to make part of a bake here. I have adapted it slightly as instead of mushrooms I’ve used pumpkin… a little more Kenyan! I think TV/films are a bit dangerous in this family…

Recipe – Pumpkin and Steak Pie

Ingredients

Pastry

250g Plain flour

110g Cold cubed butter

Pinch salt

Icy water

Beef filling

1kg Rump steak, diced

200g back bacon diced
300g cooked pumpkin cubed
1 large onion, chopped
3 small garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp soy sauce
350ml red wine
2 tbsp cornflour
Handful chopped fresh parsley.

Method:

1. Make shortcrust pastry as in twice baked tomato, feta and walnut tart.  Once chilled roll out to 3mm thick and cut out circles slightly bigger than the pie cases or dish.

2. To make the filling place all the ingredients apart from the parsley and corn flour into a large piece of greaseproof paper and make a sealed bag around it, wrap in tin foil then place in an oven dish (incase of any leakages!).  Bake for 1.5 hours at 180ºC

3. Remove from the oven and pour the juice into a saucepan and add the corn flour, stir until thickened then add in the remaining cooked ingredients and the chopped parsley cook gently for 20mins.

4. For the pies, I made small ones in tin foil separate cases but you may wish to make a big one and just use which ever dish you feel most appropriate.  Fill each pie case with filling to the top.  Brush beaten egg on the underside of each pastry top and crimp around the sides of each case until well sealed, then brush the top with beaten egg.  Prick the top with a fork to allow steam to escape.

5. Place in the oven for about 20mins until crispy and golden brown.

Hot out of the oven

Image

The team tucking in

20140114_120843 20140114_120858

The building on the right is where I sat my GP exam, apparently I was the only person in Kenya sitting it…

20140110_104712

Twice baked tomato, feta and walnut tart | Kenyan Traffic

SONY DSC

It’s an early start, today’s village is over two hours away and most of the journey is off road. We meet in town at 6.45am to start the journey in plenty of time. The government placed an ongoing curfew over Christmas forcing all public transport to be either off the road or not carrying passengers by 6pm. Anyone founded breaching the curfew is very heavily fined. This has resulted in people being forced out of buses and matatus on the highway when 6pm arrives, left to fend for themselves and somehow get home. The idea is to reduce road traffic accidents but it is causing havoc and has also had an impact on the project. Getting home before 6pm is tough going and some of the team still have up to another hour to reach home from town. Technically we are using a public vehicle as a private one, but technicalities don’t always work here so we are doing our best to start and finish early.

We are making good progress on the journey and tarmac seems like a distant dream. There are not many advantages to the dirt roads which break you back, but one bonus is the lack of traffic. That is until today when a very intelligent lorry driver thought he’d attempt a three-point turn in a road that was narrower than his vehicle…

20140108_085409

As expected this didn’t end well. An hour away from our destination and over an hour and a half from town there was no way through. As fortune would have it, a knight in shining armer (a yellow CAT to be more accurate) happened to also be in the traffic and kindly dismounted from its horse (Tractor carrier) and saved the day.

20140108_090046_HDR

20140108_090501

20140108_090522

We were on our way again…

20140108_171035

Public transport in Kenya is an experience like few others. It is somewhat like going to an adventure playground and going on the adrenaline bursting roller coasters without wearing the safety belts and having to share your seat with three other paying customers.

On a recent matatu (minbus) journey leaving Nakuru, I was fortunate enough to set off with a front seat to myself. Inside the matatu you have three seats in the front (one for the driver), and three rows of three in the back with a small divide separating them in to twos and ones, allowing passengers to slip through the divide to their designated seat. As the journey progressed, the drivers assistant is half hanging out the vehicle touting for more customers as other matatus drive at us head on, undertake us and motorbike taxis dart in and out from all directions. Unbelievably the driver stops not just once or twice but on a further six occasions picking up eight more passengers! There are 20 of us crammed intimately in to this 12 seater minibus. The divide which has a plank of wood over it serves as a seat and five or six squeeze on to each row. Initially having been in the protected relatively spacious front window seat, I now have the driver on my right and two more passengers to my left. The driver has to lean against the door (which he doesn’t seem to mind in the slightest) and stick his arm between my legs to reach the gear stick.

Twice baked tomato, feta and walnut tart:

Ingredients:

Shortcrust pastry:

250g plain four

110g butter cold and cubed

3-4 tsp cold/icy water

Filling:

12 Big tomatoes

Tsp cumin

Tsp ground coriander

Half tsp salt

1/2-1 Tsp cayenne pepper

Tbsp olive oil

4 Eggs

Tbsp tomato puree

100g feta cheese cubed

50g walnuts lightly crushed

Method:

1. Clean and wash all the tomatoes, cut in half place on a non-stick baking tray and sprinkle the salt, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and olive oil over the tomatoes and place in the oven for 60mins at 180C.

2. Whilst cooking prepare the short crust pastry add the butter to the flour and salt then rub in-between cold finger tips until a crumb like consistency is reached, add a little icy water gradually until a not sticky but well formed dough is reached.  Wrap in cling-film and place in the fridge.

3. When the tomatoes are ready remove from the oven, they should be a little crisp and full of flavour.  You can let them cool and bake them a further time if you wish to increase flavour.  Blend 8 for the whole tomatoes with tomato puree until a paste like consistency then add the 4 eggs and mix well, put aside.

4. When the dough is cool enough to be rolled out, grease your 20cm tart tin with a removable bottom and put aside.  Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface and roll out the dough, it should be 2-3mm thick.  Roll it bigger than the tart dish.  To place in the dish you can either roll it our on greaseproof paper and slide it or flip it in or lightly sprinkle it with flour then gently roll it round a rolling pin and sort of roll it into the tart dish with plenty to spare around the edges as it will shrink.  Prink the bottom all over with a fork, place a piece of tin foil over the bottom and put some dry beans or baking beads over the top.  Cook at 180C for 10 mins, then remove from the oven, take the tin foil and baking beans out, brush the base with egg and return to the oven for 5-10mins, keeping a careful eye the crusts do not over cook.

5. Remove from the oven and fill with the prepared filing.  Sprinkle walnuts over so they sort of sink, carefully place the remaining roasted tomatoes over the top followed by the feta cheese cut into cubes.

6. Place back in the oven for 15-20mins, again taking care the sides of the tart do not over cook, if they do you can cover the sides with tin foil part way through the cooking.

7. Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin before removing.

Jon – this blog is a dedication to your recent journeys!

Oat and Raisin Biscuits | A family from Kenya…

SONY DSC

Its funny the little coincidences in life.

There was a little girl; she loved where she grew up. It was not until years later that she realised her love of the outdoors must have been from her beautiful childhood surroundings. Every day she would go with her Dad to buy milk and a paper from a little shop just around the corner. Later, as she grew, the girl and her brother got up in the dark and delivered these papers from the shop around the local streets.  The girl grew up and left home and so did her siblings. Her Dad, 30 years on continued to buy his paper on the way to work at 6.30 in the morning.  Everyday though the years, through the ups and downs a family spanning across three generations in a shop just a stone throw away from the home would smile and asked how everyone was. One day, the once little girl was married just down the road in this village and a few years later, her husband with their son in his arms, popped in to the shop to buy a homemade curry, “I recognise that accent” he said. It came to light that the family running the store had moved from Kenya many years ago.

——————————————

Our favourite fruit seller, Virginia (the one in the Christmas Video) disappeared last week. We had been accustomed to her warm greeting and insistence on only giving us the sweetest, ripest fruit available. She would expertly pat the water melon, squeeze the mangos and smell the papaya, years of experience giving her clues that we have never developed. These last two weeks her stall has gone, we asked the neighbouring street seller where she had gone but they replied with a blank look and a shrug of the shoulders. Lucas suggested, “Virginia gone on an airplane to England? Maybe she is on holiday?” Although the former is unlikely and we hope that wherever she is she is okay, it brought in to our awareness how fragile things here are. A new supermarket opened up in town not so long ago, and with it has come many of the pressures on smaller sellers that we have seen in the UK over the last few decades.  When we shop in our supermarkets, whether British or Kenyan the scanner bleeps as the green beans, tea and flowers goes on the conveyer belt, immediately this information is computed to a central computer and processed to the farm managers in Kenya, the order is altered to the consumer demand, crop picked and flown out that day to the supermarket central store and driven to the specific stores to fill the aisle and be awaiting the next drove of consumers the following day.  The farm is under pressure to meet these orders.  As we pass Naivasha, imbetween Nairobi and Nakuru, we see the expanse of white greenhouses covering several miles, the heavy farming is clearly showing its negative impacts on the lake, the workers are hired and fired according to international demand, something we’ve seen directly as part of the eye project. In one of the communities there was a very poor turn out of patients seen five years ago, it transpired that in this particular flower farm, the workers were hired for no more than 3 months at a time and for less than 30 pence for a full days work, not to mention all the potentially dangerous chemicals they have to work with. After three month periods lapse the workers can be released so the farm does not have to pay national insurance as they have not technically been “fired”. This works as a significant cost cutting exercise to meet the competitive prices forced by the consumer demand and supermarket price competition. The reason we had such a  low turn out was that the farm owner decided as policy to release anyone over the age of 55. With the loss of job, loss of false hope and security they are left homeless and forgotten.

——————————————

We shop in the big supermarket, the convenience and choice in our busy lives helps us justify it. It does however nag away at us and whenever we can we buy locally and try to support smaller family businesses. The little girl who grew up by the shop received a message last week to say Tesco was about to open in her old  and beautiful small village where she grew up, got married and her parents still live could be changed forever. We are all connected in every part of the world and sometimes, whatever the circumstances we have to speak up for the smaller voices. Petition link

Recipe – Oat and Raisin Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 250g salted butter, room temperature
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 230g porridge oats
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 200g raisins

Method:

Just preheat the oven to Gas 4/160ºC. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the flour, porridge oats, vanilla extract and cranberries and mix together until combined, using either your hands or the mixer. Form into balls about the size of a walnut and bake in the centre of the oven, on a tray, for about 10 – 15 minutes depending on how crunchy you like your biscuits. Leave on the tray to cool as they’re still fragile when they’re warm.

The Eye Project is in to the final phase – here we go again…

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC