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…
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.
We were on our way again…
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:
250g plain four
110g butter cold and cubed
3-4 tsp cold/icy water
12 Big tomatoes
Tsp ground coriander
Half tsp salt
1/2-1 Tsp cayenne pepper
Tbsp olive oil
Tbsp tomato puree
100g feta cheese cubed
50g walnuts lightly crushed
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!