Onion and Bay leaf Loaf | Driving Blind… | 9 to go


“Are you able to work?” The well dressed man points to his left eye and tells me he doesn’t see so well from this eye but it does not stop him working.

I look at the measurements of his vision. His left eye is blind and his right is also very poor. He can make out the top line of the vision chart only, effectively ten times below “normal” vision.


He has cataracts (clouding of the natural lens) in both eyes, more so in the left.

This is not an uncommon finding in the older population in Kenya, what is surprising (and maybe not uncommon?) is that he works as a driver for a living and drove to the clinic!

In disbelief I asked him several times if he actually drives? He responds that he drives every day.

I ask if he’s ever been in a car accident? He responds that they are very few…

I explain at great length that he is a danger to himself and other road users and that we will urgently arrange surgery for him. Having seen the disasters on the road in Kenya I really beg him not to get behind the wheel until his surgery has been done. A friend has accompanied him to the clinic and so I also take the opportunity to press on his friend the dangers of driving with such poor vision and I ask that he ensure this man doesn’t drive until he has had treatment. They both smile and agree that they will stay off the road.

Half an hour later I see the almost blind man and his friend climbing in to an old Toyota and driving out of the car park…

Recipe – Onion and Bay Leaf Loaf

Taken from Dan Lepard’s “The Handmade Loaf”


For the onions:

140g white onions, diced into 1cm pieces

350g whole milk

3 bay leaves

For the dough:

100g strong wholewheat flour

475g strong white flour

1.5 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp (6-7g) dried yeast, crumbled

325g milk from the onions

280g cooked onions


Place chopped onions, milk and bay leaves in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 30 minutes. Pour through a strainer to separate the onions and bay leaves from the milk. Reserve the milk for use in the dough

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. In another bowl, whisk the yeast 325g milk from the milk in which the onions were cooked. Beat in the leaven until the mixture is smooth, then finally add the onions and stir. Pour the wet ingredients in with the flour, and stir until you have a soft sticky dough. Scrape any dough from your fingers in to the bowl, then cover and leave for 10 minutes.

Rub one tsp of olive oil on the work surface and knead the dough on the oiled surface for 10 seconds, ending with the dough in a smooth, round ball. Clean and dry the bowl, then rub with a tsp of oil. return the dough to the bowl and leave for a further 10 minutes. Remove the dough and knead once more on the oiled surface, returning the shape of the dough to a smooth round ball. Place it back in the bowl, cover and leave for 1 hour in a warm (21-25ºC) place.

Line a deep 20cm diameter bowl with a flour-rubbed tea towel. Lightly flour the work surface and shape the dough in to a ball. Place the ball of dough seam-sided-upwards in the cloth, then cover with exposed corners of the tea-towel. Leave the bowl in a warm  (21-25ºC) place for 1.5 hours, or until the loaf has doubled in height.

Preheat the oven to 210ºC. Upturn the loaf on to a semolina dusted baking tray. Spray the upper surface of the dough with a fine mist of water, then place the tray in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 190ºC and bake for a further 30 minutes, until the loaf is a golden colour. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Dan Lepard recommends eating this loaf toasted to serve with a good smoked kipper, grilled field mushroom and melted butter (not likely in Kenya but sounds delicious!)


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