The Bakehouse in the Guardian

E5 Bakehouse in east London has teamed up with an African foundation to provide eye care, jobs and loaves of bread in the Nakuru region

Ujima bakery, Kenya
The healthy loaves ready for sale at Ujima bakery. Photograph: Ben Mackinnon

One is a hipster meeting place in the middle of east London, the other overlooks the Menengai crater in Kenya and is staffed by orphans. But these two bakeries, E5 Bakehouse and Ujima Bakehouse, seemingly worlds apart, have come together over a sourdough starter and a shared passion for healthy bread.

Situated in the Nakuru region, a four-hour drive from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Ujima is the brainchild of Andrew and Madeline Bastawrous, British doctors who were overwhelmed by the demand for eye operations to treat blindness in the region and wanted to find a sustainable way to fund them.

Madeleine Bastawrous, a keen baker who trained at E5 in Hackney, had the idea to sell bread to support checkups for the patients, provide local employment and extol the virtues of healthy eating.

The couple had noticed rising rates of diabetes – which can cause blindness – and high blood pressure, which made them determined that the bakery would make and sell a healthy product. They turned to sourdough.

Sourdough loaves, popular among British foodies, contain no fat, oil or sugar, unlike many mass-produced breads. Also, making sourdough requires a period of fermentation before baking, which is said to make the bread healthier and easier to digest.

The couple asked E5 to provide strategic guidance and the Kenya-based Ujima Foundation, which trains orphans for employment, to provide the staff.

The story of head baker Jastan Kimani is typical of those supported by the foundation. He was orphaned at an early age and left with the responsibility of supporting nine siblings.

Head baker Jastan Kimani at Ujima Bakehouse

After discovering a flair for kneading, Kimani became the site’s master baker. He was recently invited to carry the flame, in the form of a sourdough starter, to Rio as part of an initiative to teach cooking skills and feed people for free during the Olympic Games.

Acclaimed chefs David Hertz and Massimo Bottura, whose social kitchens have previously attracted some of the world’s best chefs to Brazil’s favelas, or slums, invited Kimani after being inspired by the story of the bakery. He is due to travel at the end of the week.

Social enterprise

Profits from the Kenyan bakery are divided between the local eye hospital and the foundation. Some of those involved, such as Kimani, work at the bakery, while others work in hotels and shops nearby.

According to Andrew Bastawrous, eight out of 10 people who go blind do so due to entirely preventable causes. In Kenya, the biggest problem is a lack of access to treatment.

“The figures would be the same in the UK if you removed 99% of eye care,” adds the doctor, who also invented Peek, a smartphone app that offers a low-cost alternative for detecting vision problems.

Since the Kenyan bakery opened, the Bastawrouses have raised enough money to restore the sight of 60 people – a figure they hope will increase if they can start selling more bread.

They have also raised enough for 60 orphans to take a six-month employment-training programme through the foundation, which says it has an 80% success rate in getting its trainees placed in full-time employment.

The journey of the starter

The founder of E5 Bakehouse, Ben Mackinnon, has made three trips to Kenya – one with E5’s 200-year-old starter yeast – to support the bakery.

There was almost a disaster when air pressure on the plane forced open the jar carrying the starter – a fermented mixture of water and wild yeast that is used to help the bread rise. Almost all of it escaped, “but there was enough left in the pot to get going. They are remarkably resilient cultures”, Mackinnon says.

Mackinnon says that Ujima’s bakes easily passed the taste test. “There is a farmer a few miles from the bakery growing wheat and milling it in an Austrian stone mill, which is almost identical to ours here at E5,” he added.

Ujima has to use a special technique for “proving” the dough – letting it rest so the yeast can make it rise – to help preserve the loaves in Kenya’s heat, but otherwise the bread-making process is the same.

Back in the UK, E5’s special loaf is the ”Hackney Wild”. In Kenya, it’s the Afya, which is Swahili for healthy. The team are encouraged to promote the health benefits of sourdough to their customers.

Some of the customers have taken a bit of time to adjust to the taste, which is very different from the processed white loaves available on the supermarket shelves, said Andrew Bastawrous.

The average loaf at E5 costs between £3.50 and £5, and Ujima’s loaves are also at the higher end of their market, priced at about 200 Kenyan shillings (£1.50). “We are targeting people with a disposable income … like Robin Hood without actually stealing,” he says.

Next, the bakery wants to tackle diseases such as diabetes by creating an affordable product that can be sold by street vendors.

You are invited!

e5-Ujima Bakehouse Supper Club Poster 4

You are invited to e5 Bakehouse on the 4th, 5th, and 6th of August for East African food and music. All proceeds going to support the Ujima Bakehouse in Kenya and the opening of the Ujima Bakehouse Cafe.

We will be in London on the 4th (Thursday) to do a short talk and give an update on the bakehouse and plans going forward. We also have some exciting news to share on the day!

Hope to see some of you soon and feel free to share with any one who might be interested.


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Another great reason to visit e5!



The Ujima Bakehouse Café…

The Ujima Bakehouse on TED

Jastan and Alphonse walked us through their 19-hour process for producing the perfect sourdough bread. We could not have felt more proud of them. The passion and care they demonstrated, their willingness to work through the night to produce fresh bread first thing, their frequent calls to the electricity board to keep the oven on through the night… the list goes on. It was clear to us that the strength and potential of the bakehouse was with these two.

Jastan and Alphonse preparing sourdough hot cross buns for Easter


Working through the night (after several calls to the electricity board)


As we met old and new friends in Nakuru it was great to hear that the bread was a hit. This was usually followed with a question of how they could get hold of it more regularly?

With the Bakehouse being out of town and the market being in town we have a supply-demand issue, plenty of demand but too many challenges to supply. We’d been scoping out potential outlets for a while and nearly invested in an old ice cream shop in town to set it up as a café but it fell through at the last minute, it just seemed like doors kept closing.


In January, on our latest visit back to Kenya, we met a couple who’d moved to Nakuru shortly after we left. They had an amazing vision for setting up a co-working space for businesses and individuals to have access to good internet and opportunities for collaboration. They were also well on the way having secured land in a prime location and half completed renovation work. Turns out they were looking to set up a coffee shop at some point in the future. It was a goosebump moment when everything seemed to align. They were looking for us and we were looking for them.

We agreed to partner and set up the Ujima Bakehouse Café on their co-working site! Now we needed someone who could project manage the set up…


A couple of months earlier, in a taxi to the airport, we headed to Spain, where we would be speaking together at an eye care conference discussing both Peek and the Ujima Bakehouse, we got chatting to John, the driver (and husband of our daughters child-minder). He mentioned his son Dave, a Chef, working for the soil association in Bristol who he thought might be interested in helping us out. A few weeks later we met Dave and amazingly he decided to leave his job, pack his bags (which in fact turned out to be a large Visual Field Analyser, a load of bread bannetons, a bag or his own belongings and a guitar).


Dave has now been in Kenya since February working with Jastan, Alphonse and the Ujima team and is now spearheading the set up of the café.


We are hoping to open very soon with simple sandwiches and provide, premium, locally sourced coffee. Plans are in place to develop a kitchen garden so food can be picked fresh for amazing sourdough sandwiches and toasties, all washed down with a fresh coffee.

Watch this space for further developments….

An overdue update…

“Where are you from?”

“Kenya” Lucas replies without a second thought. Despite being born in the UK his earliest memories were from our time in Kenya.

It’s been over a year now since we left but our time there continues to impact almost every area of our life: our children, our work, our conversations, our friends and our dreams.

A lot has happened since we left  and since we last wrote on the blog. Elena (made in Kenya) is about to reach ten months old. Lucas has just had his last day at pre-school and will start primary school in September, Madeleine is wading through hundreds of online forms in preparation to returning to doctoring after three years out of the system and I’m continuing to work with multiple amazing people at growing Peek and working on several things all eye related.

The Ujima Bakehouse in Kenya is growing and we are actively trying to secure a coffee shop in town to sell bread from to help build our customer base in preparation for Ben (the awesome baker from E5) and his team to fly out and train the bakers in new breads, croissants and various baked delights.

So far the Bakehouse has given more than £5,000 over the last 6 months split between St Mary’s Eye Hospital and the Ujima Foundation supporting both local eye care and providing dozens of young adult orphans with employment opportunities. There is still some way to go to ensure long-term sustainability and what we hope will be higher levels of giving for many years to come. Despite the challenges the Bakehouse team continues to work hard and push boundaries to make this a success.

The Bakehouse now has it’s own website, please sign up to the newsletter for updates at

Inspired by our beautiful (and crazy) friends, Kate and Johnny in Kenya who continue to challenge convention and make incredible things happen we decided to make our mini-Bakehouse at home, a wood fired clay oven in the garden that the most incredible pizzas and sourdough can be made in. We were lucky enough to enjoy some home made pizzas from their oven on our last visit in January and think it may be Elena’s fault that they got broody and are now expecting another!

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Work with Peek is growing exponentially. We now are involved in eye research or programs in eight countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Mali, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and India with the hope that we can support eye care all over the world, particularly in the areas of greatest need. If you are interested in following what is going on with Peek we are providing regular updates through the Peek newsletter at Some of our data from the Peek work in Kenya has recently been published and we hope to have our first public app live very soon!

All in all things are happening at 100 miles an hour and yet again, everything seems to be changing…

An Eye Hospital with a difference….

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The team behind the eye care in Kenya

“Why has nobody been feeding her?”

Mama Jane, an elderly grandmother was skin and bone. Jane, her daughter assured the eye care team that despite her mother being blind she was well fed and cared for. With a short hug she waved goodbye as her mother climbed aboard the truck.

She arrived at St Mary’s, greeted by Roselyne’s beaming smile that she could not yet see. She gently guided her to the female ward where a meal of fresh vegetables, fruit and stewed milky Kenyan tea awaited her, all produce from the hospital grounds including the milk. There was no doubt despite her frail frame, she had a very good appetite. Everything was gobbled up which raised suspicion further that she was not being fed at home.

The following morning, Dr George expertly operated on her and she was retuned to the ward to rest and she soon demolish another mountain of fresh fruit and vegetables.

After a hearty breakfast and education on post-operative care, Mama Jane was taken home where she would see her daughter Jane’s face for the first tome in many years and see her multiple grandchildren who didn’t understand what the fuss was about. A member of the hospital team gently mentioned to Jane that they were concerned her mother was being neglected as she ate so well at the hospital and yet was painfully skinny. Jane claimed her mother ate really well but must have some condition that meant she couldn’t put on weight.

The hospital truck left with advice on coming back to the hospital for follow up and with a plan to keep a close eye on the situation.

That night, Mama Jane settled back in to her routine but now appreciating the familiar and new sights in her world. As the sun went down, a large bowl of corn maize and vegetables was put in front of her to enjoy. As soon as Jane was out of the room, four of her grandchildren creeped in to the room, spoons and bowls in hand and started to help themselves to Mama Jane’s meal. For a moment she watched as the stealth operation unfolded in front of her now seeing eyes and a wave of realisation as to why her belly hadn’t been full for so long hit her like a poke in the ribs. As the oldest child went in to load his spoon, she grabbed his wrist with surprising strength, looked him in the eyes and asked what he thought he was dong? Nobody was more surprised than her eldest grandson who dropped his bowl and ran outside, the other three following. Mama Jane was heard laughing as she filled her belly with Jane’s cooking.

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The Ujima Bakehouse has committed to providing a minimum donation to St Mary’s Eye Hospital and the Ujima Foundation which will cover the costs of ten sight-restoring operations and ten training places for young adult orphans on the Ujima Hospitality training program every month for at least six-months. The hope of course is that this minimum figure will be far surpassed and that the bakery will run for years and years.

The Maili Saba Wild Sourdough test batch – Real Bread

Maili Saba Wild

The four of us enjoying a ride to the nearly ready bakery in a tuk tuk




Heading back to Kenya…

Peek EyeBake Mazda Video 1


4am: “Is it morning?”

“No Lucas, it’s the middle of night, go back to sleep”

“Can we go to Kenya now?”

We never got back to the sleep, the house in chaos, our plans of packing early never happened and a three year old beside himself with excitement about going back to Kenya.

The excitement, anticipation and frustration over the last few days has resulted in Lucas become an untameable ball of energy leaving general destruction in his wake: unfinished conversations, piles of toys and clothes, unpacking packed bags and leaving us no time to think.

We got out for a drink in a café near home (Lucas had somehow decided to be an angel for the dentist so this was his treat) when Elena started crying for milk, only at this point, having not had a moment to think all week, did I realise I was inappropriately dressed wearing a knee length knitted jumper dress that required me to practically strip off to give her some milk…

We are on our way back to the country that became our home for the first time since completing the eye project and the baking challenge, and this time, we are four.

There is a bakery to open, old friends to hug and a new eye project starting

Before we get there we have to somehow encourage our constipated four-month old daughter to shift one before we get on the plane (we don’t want a repeat of the Lucas poonami incident [link chocolate log]), she is becoming increasingly agitated as we attempt to pack, we try massaging her abdomen, filling her up with milk, singing rhymes that we think might for some reason encourage a bowel motion, all the while Lucas is chomping at the bit and becoming more and more like a caged animal.

After lunch, granddad arrives. He is kindly taking us to the airport and has picked up some oven insulation that Ben the baker requested. It is a little bigger than we’d anticipated. Oversized baggage here we come. Elena still hasn’t pooped and the situation is getting concerning. We are half packed, it’s time to go, Elena is threatening us with making a huge mess on the plane, we have oversized luggage including a bag full of phones, gadgets, tractors and two large rolls of insulating wool for the oven.


Eventually we make out the door and head to Heathrow. Once through security our flight was being called but we figured we had at least 20 minutes before we needed to get on. Time for us to enjoy a much anticipated coffee and a breather at Carluccio’s.

We all sit down together, almost smug that we had made it through with no dramas, our coffees arrive and simultaneously Elena decides to release the biggest poo of her young life so far. Her nappy made a poor attempt at containing the escaped four day build up, it had somehow managed to find its way over every part of her body, hair included. Normally this would call for a dunk in the bath but with our flight being called and Lucas now deciding he wanted to do a wee (nearest toilet a two minute run away) we left our coffees to go cold so we could split the workload and deal with the delights nature had brought us.

Lucas takes his time to piddle, the days of “Are we going on the plane now?” seemingly forgotten at the very moment we do need to be getting on NOW. Despite an impressive effort using baby wipes, our beautiful little girl has a baby poo yellow tinge.

The relaxing drink and moment to reflect before what is undoubtedly going to be an emotional return never happened, we made it to the desk, no queues, just the familiar look of flight crew impatiently waiting for us to get on the plane.


Seeing his grandchild for the first time…


Peek Macaroons to celebrate the launch of the Peek Retina campaign

I sat at my desk with a sense of disbelief. What had we done? We’d accepted a project and research funding which would involve Madeleine and I having to move out to Kenya, putting our NHS jobs on hold and at risk, and somehow we would have to get a £100k of expensive and fragile equipment, find and train a team and set up eye clinics in over 100 locations across Kenya, many of which with no roads or electricity.

We didn’t know that between accepting and going to Kenya we’d be blessed with a child, move home and start a journey that would change the direction of our lives.

Over the last three years Madeleine has become accustomed to me coming home armed with eye drops, a gadget to look inside her eye and a big grin. Not once has she refused providing her eyes for medical science but I did get in trouble once when the drops didn’t wear off as quickly as usual and she was left to walk the streets with a pupil the size of a frying pan.

With an amazing and gifted team now working on Peek we have managed to prototype and test a device which could change the way we deliver eye care.

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Philip, a tall man with a broad smile is a leader in his community, someone that his peers look up to and his family are proud of. He has always relished the responsibility and has a gift with communicating and supporting those around him.

Philip built his own modest traditional home, as well as two adjacent homes for his daughters of whom he is fiercely protective. They live within the central area of a disperse rural community in Kenya, several hours from the nearest town.

In recent years, Philip’s sight has started to fail him. Tasks, which were second nature to him, have become more and more challenging and he has found himself losing confidence and spending more time on his own.

Two years ago, Philip became dependent on his daughters and although delighted to have become a grandfather recently he has never seen his grandson’s face. He feels a deep sense of shame at not being able to help his growing family and community.

Everything changed for Philip when a community healthcare worker came to his home with nothing more than a smartphone. The healthcare worker, working as part of the Peek team, assessed Philip’s vision and took images of his eyes using the low-cost Peek Retina adapter that makes it possible to see inside Philip’s eyes. The information was shared with the nearest eye doctor based three hours away who arranged for him to come for treatment.

Along with twenty-three other visually impaired people in Philip’s community, they were taken by bus to town, three-hours away. As often happens in this situation, Philip began recognising the voices of some of his peers on the bus, friends it turned out had also been silently losing vision.

After what seemed like only minutes on the operating table with the compassionate hospital staff, Philip and his friends were sat together on the ward, with a patch on the operated eye, excitedly discussing what it might be like to see again.

The following morning was a familiar joyous scene. Patient’s smiling, cheering and dancing as their eye patches were removed. The buzz in the bus back home is a mix of wonder and recall. The identification of scenery that had become distant memories and then, approaching home, the recognition of faces not seen in a long time.

As Philip, now holding his stick in the air, rather than as a prop, marched down the path to his home, his family were there to greet him. His grandson, crawling and oblivious to the situation smiles at his grandfather. This time, his grandfather smiles back.

Watch Philip’s story and our 2 minute video:

We now at the exciting stage of moving from prototype to produce, and for this we are needing to raise £150,000 to set up the production pipeline. Thankfully, the support we received to win the recent Mazda/TED award means only a further £70,000 needs to be raised to start producing the adapters.

After only 10 days of our campaign we are 75% of the way there!

We have received generous offers of investment, however at this early stage we feel maintaining a focus on a social mission is a priority and hence we are crowd funding.

Fundraising this way means we are able to keep the cost of the adapters low as we work towards reducing needless blindness.

If you are struggling for ideas this Christmas, you can if you would like pledge for a Peek Retina adapter to be sent to a healthcare worker who will help find people like Philip or even pre-order one for yourself.

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To view our campaign go to:

Thank you for all your continued support on this journey.



Peek Macaroons recipe:


140g egg whites

180g caster sugar

160g icing sugar

160g ground almonds

natural blue colouring



150g plain chocolate minimum 70% cocoa

70ml double cream



I found this youtube link very helpful:

The tops I just stuck a large dark chocolate button on with ganache and piped some white icing for the white cross.

‘Stiff peak’ demonstration


Piping the macaroon mixture


Checking a skin has formed on the macaroons



Taste test…



Everything seems to happen at once…

We find ourselves lost in the miracle that is our beautiful baby girl, staring at her face and being overjoyed when she smiles back at us. Then we turn around to see boxes everywhere, emails arriving by the bucket load, builders calling about the work on our new home, a film crew asking if they can film us baking in our house that doesn’t really resemble a place that people live in and we stick the kettle on, brew some coffee and enjoy the ride…

I think it would be fair to say that our lives have in no way settled in to any kind of rhythm or normality, but then again we haven’t been looking for it. This is a brief recap of the last couple of weeks:


Following the amazing support of friends and family pushing hard for us to win the Mazda grant, the film crew who will be following up on the work with Peek, the Bakery, Ujima and St Mary’s Hospital called to ask if they could do a little interview at our home and get some action shots of us baking.

Normally (not that this is a normal happening anyway!) that would have been absolutely fine. However, it was the day before we were due to move home, we had a baby who was not yet 6 weeks old, the house we were moving in to was covered in paint, plaster, tools and the flat we were moving out of had boxes being unpacked by Lucas in search of his tractor-digger faster than we could pack. To complicate matters a little further, Andrew was in Mexico (another story for another day) until the day before they were due to come round.

At the same time, the renovations for the Bakery were getting close to completion and flights had been booked for Ben (possibly the most amazing Baker on the planet and dubbed the “Jamie Oliver of baking” by the film crew) from the e5 Bakehouse to fly out to Kenya and start training the team.

The film crew, who are a great bunch of guys and seem to have got to the core of what we are trying to do, visited us in the depth of our chaos and spent several hours filming as the Lucas show took over. His mastery in the kitchen ended up absorbing most of the time as he cracked eggs, scattered flour and educated everyone on the multiple types of farm machinery and tractors that can drive through piles of flour. A set of short (2 minute) documentaries are being made on the progress of the bakery, eye care and the various strands involved and this was filmed as an intro to them.

Ben and the film crew were to fly out on the Saturday and a timely message popped up on our phones on the Friday (the day we moved home) notifying us that the renovations for the bakery building had been completed.

We looked at each other, so excited and relieved that progress was being made. Equally, we know that there are no guarantees this will work but we will work as hard as we can to support the team who are making it possible.

We’ve had regular reports from Kenya this week. Ben has been training the team and it seems that things are working well so far. This Tuesday (tomorrow) the much anticipated delivery of the equipment is expected. This is no simple job. The 4-deck oven ways a ton and the road to the bakery is really tough going. Then there is the issue of if we can fit the equipment in to the building with out having to take a wall down. We will let you know how it goes…honestly I feel nervous!

We have managed to start unpacking and our house is starting to feel like home, at the same time, the dream of a bakery that supports the community is beginning to look more like it may be a dream come true?


At home with the Bastawrous family…  lucas

Training at the Ujima Bakehouse

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Bakery renovations being completed

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Moving house

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