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.

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…

Thank you with spiced apple cake



Well done everyone who managed to navigate the Mazda site and vote for Andrew, it was so close which means every vote really did count, so thank you!

As we feel you are very much part of the Peek, eye care and bakery journey we thought we should perhaps keep up the blog and bit by bit explain these crazy happenings that we really hope will support eye care and the community.

We have been absolutely humbled at the support during the voting for the Mazda grant.


‘I got Madeleine’s e-mail I didn’t realise how close it was, I was doing a training session and we put the instructions on the big screen, we struggled with the internet and all morning we tried to vote’ Kisumu Kenya

‘I was running a training session and got everyone in their coffee break to get on line and vote’  Leeds, UK

‘I ran down the corridor getting all my colleagues to vote, we saw Andrew take the lead, it was so exciting’ School in the UK

‘I e-mailed it to all the contacts in the Liverpool Hospitals and have asked the Royal college of Ophthalmology to send it out to every member’  Enthusiastic eye doctor and old colleague of Andrew

‘I should have been in bed hours ago but hey, I can live on empty for a while.  I THINK YOU CAN STILL WIN.’ – Artisan baker, UK at 2am (had to be up at 5am)

‘It went through all my families networks back home in Canada …America …Australia  …Peru  …Egypt’


We are all connected and when the collective effort can lead to positive things it is awe-inspiring. The ripple effect was at work, each person voting and sharing with all his or her contacts. It truly was a case of every person’s effort combined towards this.

Of the grant 70% will go towards Peek development/manufacturing costs which means the team can keep autonomy at an early stage and keep driving the social mission above anything else.  20% to St Mary’s mission hospital which goes directly to eye care there and eye care education in the surrounding communities and 10% to the bakery set-up fund which will hopefully lead to long-term sustainable support for St Mary’s and multiple other benefits too.

As part of the Mazda grant they have employed a production team to take a series of small documentaries on the whole story and projects so these guys and Ben who runs E5 bakehouse in Hackney will be flying out in mid-November.

The above and many other strands all seem to be moving with some pace and we have yet to tell you the stories that have unfolded in the last 6 months, we will endeavour to tell over the next few blogs but for now this is our big thank you for supporting the story so far. Written in a rare opportunity whilst Lucas and Elena are sleeping!

As anyone who knows me well, also knows my addiction to apples! As it was October when I wrote this! and the plentiful month of English apples the bake had to be a spiced apple cake…


Spiced apple cake


150g dark brown sugar

115g butter, softened

2 large eggs

4 medium apples, peeled, chopped and heated into apple sauce

65g molasses

1 tsp. vanilla

200g self raising flour

125g whole wheat or spelt flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. allspice

pinch salt



1. Preheat oven to 170°C

2. Butter and line a 20cm deep cake tin

3. In a medium bowl mix together the dry ingredients

4. In a large bowl beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then applesauce. Add molasses and vanilla and mix until well combined

5. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until well combined

6. Spread in the prepared pan and bake for 50-60mins minutes until knife clean when poked into the cake


Vote for Peek

Since we last blogged a few things have happened…

The bun in the oven was cooked and we are now a very happy family of four!

We are about to move house.

The Cholsey community has been amazing and run several events already as part of it’s “Big Project” for the year to support the bakery.


Peek is now being showcased as one of four inspirational projects in an online video campaign for TED.

The project with the most votes will be awarded a €100,000 grant and we are currently in second place with two days to go…

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How you can help

1. Vote for us

The voting system is a little challenging – to make sure your vote counts you need to register on the site, click on the link emailed to you to verify the account and then click on the link again.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to voting.

2. Share the link with your network

What will Peek do with the money if it wins?

The grant would be used to:-

  • Accelerate the production and distribution of Peek to those who need it
  • Support a hospital in Kenya to provide more treatment
  • Help a social enterprise bakery which is providing a long-term sustainable solution to the local eye care programme in Kenya by creating investment and employment.

Here is the video:

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 21.07.39Direct link:

Thank you to those who have already voted – we really appreciate it!



Epiblog | Cluster 101


The sun has been up just half an hour, the air cool and as usual we met in town ready for one final eye clinic. However, there is no final eye clinic, we had already completed it the day before, the project is over but as far as the team believes, today is the final one. We have packed the van and gathered for what we have told everyone is a short one hour journey to set up the final clinic, business as usual. We move in convoy towards the Lake Nakuru Safari Park, a beautiful national park of Kenya that has been on our doorstep for so long but inaccessible to most who are not tourists. As we enter the gates the mumbles of surprise and questioning start. We arrive at the park gates and everyone is asked to leave the project bus and equipment van and get in to the three parked safari vehicles awaiting us. We are not going to work today, today is safari!















We enjoy a day searching for animals and admiring the beautiful lake before arriving at the Lodge for 5* service and food and a chance for us all to reminisce on the 18 months that have gone before and prepare for the next chapters in all of our lives.


In the aftermath of Cluster 101, there was very little time to sit back and soak in the fact that we had finally finished what we felt for so long was beyond our reach. There was a TED Talk to give and a Bakery to open before we moved back!

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In the week after TED, we spent our time between packing, goodbyes, moving eye equipment, acquiring bakery equipment and running a workshop at the Maili Saba Camp where the Ujima Bakery is soon to open.

Teaching some healthy recipes to the bakery team


Meet the Ujima Bakery Team



The Nakuru Eye Study equipment in its new home in Kitale for future Peek studies



The goodbyes…

Lucas and Elowyn


The Brookes Family (with 14 children!), we will miss them and other many close friends


The Eye Team and families – who made it all possible



There were so many good friends we said goodbyes to in those last two weeks, not something we enjoyed but we took heart from a wise nine year old boy who once said to us, “don’t be sad for the goodbyes you have to make, be happy for the times you had together”. We plan to be back in Kenya pretty regularly now to support the ongoing eye projects in Kitale and  St Mary’s Hospital, the Ujima Bakery and to see our friends who became our family.

We came with a dream of living in Kenya, completing an eye study and sharing our adventures through a blog about baking. We never expected the highs to be so high and the lows to be so low, neither did we dare to dream of all that has happened. Thanks to the amazing and inspiring people we have met in our time here we hope with the help of Peek so many more people will get access to eye care all over the world and that the Ujima Bakery will be a model of sustainable healthcare delivery with the community at the core of supporting itself. We will continue to dream…



Ginger Bread Eye Clinic | We’ve done it!

Eye Bake - Kenya


It started off like any other day, we packed the van and I hugged Madeleine and Lucas goodbye for the day, Lucas shouting “I love you Daddy, look for some tuk tuks” as I made my way down the stairwell, his little voice echoing of the concrete walls. We hoped this day would come and we’d imagined it time and time again in the hope that it might be a reality, there was however always the very real possibility that we wouldn’t make it. A single vital piece of equipment failing, a police officer impounding the vehicle, getting stuck but not getting unstuck, team members being sick. In fact they all happened but somehow this final day had come and it didn’t feel like it did on our imaginings.

The clinic ran as usual but as we looked around at the incredible people who have become our family, we knew…

View original post 881 more words

Sticky Toffee Pudding | David Beckham in Kenya…


Three hours later we arrive in a shanty town west of Naivasha. We are met by cheering and waving. Children amass around the minibus desperate for a glimpse of the superstar with us in the field today. As soon as he gets down from the minibus they flock towards him pushing each other forward till one of them has the courage to touch his arm. There is a moments pause to see how he will react. When he smiles the floodgates open and he is mobbed, everyone desperate to touch his white skin and play games with him. Our really good friend, Antony is visiting us this week. Admittedly not David Beckham, but it is hard to imagine a more welcoming response even if it were goldenballs himself. Antony had the pleasure of being sardined in to a twelve seater with twenty other passengers yesterday preparing the village for the examination team’s arrival today. His persuasive powers came in very handy when two ladies in their nineties, both in need of eye care took their chances on taking advantage of the kind looking stranger. One insisting on him buying her a  kilogram of sugar before she’d come to the clinic!

Antony and Richard (team driver) returned an hour or so later with more patients and helped them in to our temporary clinic. A tin roofed shack surrounded by litter and children peering in the door to get a glimpse of what must be a very alien site to them: shiny eye equipment, flashing lights and smartphones.

Cosmas, our team engineer fixing an electricity supply for the equipment


The eye clinic






Antony and the village guide



An grandmother being guided by her grandson to the clinic. Blindness affects more than the individual…



Recipe – Sticky Toffee Pudding



  • 190g plain flour
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 120g soft brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 120ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Toffee sauce

  • 125g butter
  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 6 tbsp double cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC
  2. In a large bowl sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the sugar and mix well.
  3. In another bowl add the milk, eggs, vanilla and melted butter. Whisk together until a light frothy foam forms on top.
  4. Add the milk mixture to the flour and mix together until smooth.
  5. Pour into greased baking dish and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until cake is firm on top; start checking after 20 minutes.
  6. For the sauce, add the butter, sugar and cream to a large saucepan and simmer over medium high heat until sauce is smooth and dark brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes before serving with pudding.