Double Chocolate Biscotti | What about those we can’t help?

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Her husband carefully guides her to where I am sat. I’ve just seen the last of our study patients and the long queue of people who have heard an eye team is running a clinic are now welcomed in for an assessment and treatment.

She is 24 and her husband looks younger, he is gentle and caring and full of hope that his wife can be helped. Before examining her closely I see she has a familiar appearance. One eye pointing outwards and her stare is one of someone who is in near complete darkness. Despite this there is overlaying those blind eyes the familiar look of hope.

They have been married just two years and have a daughter. Shortly after delivering their child she became seriously unwell and during her recovery her vision went. I examined her closely and found the back of her eyes were badly scarred and in that instant knew that nothing could be done. It is heart wrenching to bring hope to someone then take it away. A recent discussion last time I was in the UK was enlightening, why are eye surgeons, generally speaking, focusing their attention on people who are visually impaired and can’t be “fixed”. We concluded that is makes us feel small and not as great as we’d like to think we are. We see people like the young lady with her whole life in front of her, as our failures and so cope with it by passing the responsibility elsewhere. Fortunately in the UK, there is an “elsewhere”. Social services, groups for the blind, low vision aid clinics and more. In a UK hospital clinic I can walk down the corridor or write a referral letter knowing that this patient will be looked after and supported to manage as best they can with what they have.  Here, support is minimal and although a few pioneers have established low vision centers, for most these are unreachable.

Feeling completely deflated at the end of a hard day with a definite lump in my throat I started to write down some ideas. Maybe we will be in a position not so far away from now to extend the services of Peek to not just those whom can have their blindness prevented or cured but as a “vision assistant” to those who will have to cope with poor vision for the rest of their days.

Recipe – Double Chocolate Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped
  • 125g chocolate chips

Method

  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in cocoa and baking powder. Beat for 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in flour by hand. Mix in white chocolate and chocolate chips. Cover dough, and chill for about 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 190ºC. Divide dough into two parts, and roll each part into a 23cm long log. Place logs on lightly greased baking tray, about 10cm apart. Flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool on tray for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool for one hour.
  4. Cut each loaf into 2cm wide diagonal slices. Place slices on an ungreased baking tray, and bake at 160ºC for 9 minutes. Turn biscuits over, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

The clinic getting ready to see all the patients

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Imagine the scandal if one of these were in an NHS hospital roaming around the eye clinic…

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

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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.

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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…

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Tart au passion | Flying visit

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“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…

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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…

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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)

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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.

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Soon we won’t need to use on of these

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Instead we will use one of these

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So we can go to them

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Baked mandazi, Nakuru – a town on the brink…

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We regularly revisit the fundamental question of why are we opening a bakery? We aim to have a sustainable business whose profits we can put into eye care for those in the local population who cannot afford it.  However, the vision is wider than just this and we want the bakery to encourage health on all levels.

In the UK £7m is spent by the government each year promoting healthy eating

In the UK £700m is spent by the food and drink industry promoting unhealthy food per year

Nakuru is a town on the brink. On the brink of great success and growth and on the brink of an epidemic of food related diseases. If we only pursue profit margins for an apparently noble cause  we will soon find ourselves compromising on the quality of our products and having many other long-term negative consequences. We could make more profit by using lower quality ingredients, however it is exactly this compromise that rules the food and drinks industry which in turn rule our eating behaviours. Combined with reduced physical activity that comes with more and more people moving in to sedentary jobs and lifestyles has brought us close to an explosion in diabetes and related diseases, a pandemic across the world.

Diabetes, heart disease, and stroke are all together termed as Non Communicable Diseases (NCD), in other words, diseases you don’t catch off one another, ironically we do “catch” our lifestyle choices from one another and our environment.   80% of people living with diabetes are in middle and low income countries such as Kenya, Type II is preventable and can be well controlled with services for all the complications such as having a regular eye examinations.  Half a million people are blind due to diabetic retinopathy, one million have amputations a year due to nerve damage and many have serious kidney problems. Unfortunately most African countries don’t have the infrastructure to support and preserve health for this growing population of patients.  Just the simple fact that very few people have access to a fridge means that its difficult to store insulin (A diabetic treatment) at home.  To complicate the issue diabetes also increases risk of TB and using Antiretrovirals (HIV/AIDS medication) increases diabetes risk, the peak age of onset is between 20 and 40 years in low and middle income countries consequently and not surprisingly the disease burden (disability, death and loss family wage earner) is much higher than in wealthier countries.

The problems with highly refined, processed foods are the hidden fats and sugars. The fats increase the likely hood of obesity and leads to diabetes and damages heart vessels. Processed food are bulked out with many refined carbohydrates which are very quickly converted into high levels of sugar in the blood stream.  Fats and sugars make the food sweet, last longer in the home and far cheaper to produce. If you are on a limited budget, low-cost is the only affordable option.

Unfortunately the effects of a more processed diet and lower levels of physical activity are damaging the world over, but the burden of this is higher in countries like Kenya.  If we can provide delicious, healthier alternatives to currently available food, maybe, just maybe we could have a small effect on the direction we are headed.

We are aiming to have two ranges from Jamii Bakery. The speciality high end bakery products appealing to those with disposable income and a Jamii basics range; a cost neutral, healthier alternative to Kenyan staples. One of which is the mandazi, eaten everywhere from road side stalls, a triangular shaped donut fried in  lot of low-cost oil.

mandazi fried

Heathy food will not be eaten just because it is healthier. It needs to be familiar, similar in price and better tasting if there is any hope of them being accepted in the community. This bake was all about trying to do just that.  Rather than the oil rich mandazi I tried to make mango filled baked ones. The mango (very cheap and plentiful when in season) is to add a little flavour that is lacking from not using any oil. I heated the mango with a little cardamon and piped a blob inside each one. Amongst our team at least, they went down really well.

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Chef Sam cooks on the Jiko as Bryan gives education on diabetes and high blood pressure

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Recipe – Baked Mango filled Mandazi

Admittedly I used the mix the Kenyans used.  The ingredients say white wheat flour, sugar, edible oil (!) baking powder, flour improver’s.  We were a little busy packing so I didn’t get the chance to make and compare my own version with rapeseed oil (a healthier oil which is farmed locally) but actually I very much wanted to make them this way so that the only difference is the cooking method and mango addition.

Ingredients:

500g mandazi mix (Give me a little time and I will have a recipe for use in a UK kitchen!)

1 cup of water to form a firm dough

1 beaten egg to glaze

1 mango, cut, boiled with a pinch of cardamon

Method:

1. Mix the mandazi mix and flour then knead a little into a firm soft dough. Leave in a covered ball for 30mins.

2. Divide into 4 and roll out each then cut into 4 quarters about 1cm thick each

3. Place on a floured tray or non-stick baking sheet and bake for 12-15mins at 180C

4. Once cooked cool on a tea towel or wire tray and make a small hole in the mandazi with a teaspoon handle then pipe a blob of mango puree into the middle

Chocolate Brioche, Sesame Snap Tractor Wheels. Blindness doesn’t just affect the blind…

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“Do you go to school?”

“Only sometimes but I have not been much for 3 years”

“Why are you not able to go?”

“My father is blind and I must look after him”

Being blind does not only affect the individual who has lost their sight but has a profound effect on that person’s family and community.

We have in the last couple of weeks seen the familiar scene of an old man or woman treading the earth very carefully; stick in one hand and the other hand resting carefully but firmly on the shoulder of a young child. At first glance this may simply appear to be a child supporting a parent or grandparent attend the eye clinic. The reality is, the clinic is on a weekday, schools are active and this child is missing out on an education and many of the other things we take for granted as part of childhood. It is not a one off but the norm that this child is acting as the eyes for his father.

Foreground – Father with hand interlocked with his son, background, the same situation

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Those children will one day be adults and the odds are firmly stacked against them breaking free of poverty.

The community can also be deeply affected. If the blind individual is no longer able to earn a living, those who are supported by them have to find alternatives and frequently, with the very little they have need to support the person who has become blind. The trap is a very hard one to break free from.

80% of blindness is avoidable

It turns out this man is blind from diabetic retinopathy. Excessive sugar in the blood vessels leads to the retina inside the eye becoming very leaky, eventually leading to retinal bleeds and scarring. An entirely preventable condition!

It is times like this, and there are many, that the stark contrast of where we have come from and where we are now hits us square in the face. The truth is, if he were born in to different circumstances, it is very unlikely he would be blind and his son would be sat in school now enjoying a normal childhood.

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Lucas just loves tractors and was very excited at eating a tractor wheel!

There is no doubt where the inspiration for this blog came from!

Recipe – Chocolate Bread Tractor Wheels

Ingredients:

Pre-ferment:

225g White strong flour

280g water

3g dried yeast

Final dough:

320g white bread flour

35g cocoa powder

175g water

All of the pre-ferment

30g slightly beaten egg

20g milk

15g unsalted butter

5g dried yeast

salt 6g

70g sugar

130g dark choc crushed pieces

50g dried cranberries, cherries or raisins

Method:

1. The night before making the final dough mix together all the ingredients of the pre-ferment and place in a plastic tub at room temperature covered.

2. To make the final dough the following day, combine the bread flour, cocoa powder, water, pre-ferment, eggs, milk, butter, yeast and sea salt and knead for about 4 minutes the gradually knead in the sugar for a total of 10minutes kneading.

3. Place in a lightly floured bowl and leave to prove for 1 hour, turn and flatten gently knock the air out of the dough and leave to prove for a further 1 hour.

4. Fold in the choc small chunks/pieces and the raisins.

5. Divide into 14 pieces.  Then divide into three and roll each 1/3 into a long roll about 15cm, join at the ends and plait, then bring round to make a crown shape/wheel, repeat 14 times! then leave to prove for 1 hour until an indent of your finger is left in the dough when you press it.

6. Bake at 200 C for anout 12-15 mins

7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.  Glaze with warmed apricot jam and a little water.

8. Sprinkle sesame snap in the middle (Recipe in next blog).

 

Meringue Chocolate Balls, Bat man… Kat man…

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Do you know what your neighbour is called? Do you know everyone that lives on your street? We rely so much on local knowledge when finding our study patients that we have taken for granted how well everyone knows each other. That was until we started working in the town. There isn’t the same community that we found in rural communities. I guess much like anywhere in the world, where populations are dense, people are busy, possibly too busy to get to know those they live next to. The effect on the study has been that we are finding much fewer people then we had hoped. Coupled to the mass displacement of communities in the post-election violence it is making for a challenging period in the study.

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It is baking lesson time, with requests for bread courses to promote Jamii Bakery, we have decided to start some baking classes. Jedidah from the eye team who has a qualification in hospitality and Dorothy who helps clean three mornings a week (there is a lot of cleaning with all this baking!) have both expressed a real interest to bake. We had a really fun day plaiting loaves, rolling pizza bases and making flatbreads and Chelsea buns. It was really interesting learning about the common Kenyan bakes that share names of things I’m familiar with but are actually something different. “Scones” are like brioche, Queen cakes are like cup cakes and the frequent use of an ingredient called “croma” (an oily substance I haven’t quite worked out what this actually is, possibly engine oil?). We won’t be using any of that in the bakery!

What I hadn’t realised is five other eye team members were eagerly awaiting  Jedidah’s baking lesson to be over so they could sample the results!

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We are enjoying dinner, the rains are heavy outside and Lucas is snoozing. Out of the corner of my eye I see something fly down the corridor and crash land two feet from us. We take a closer look – is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s a BAT! Madeleine screams, “you’re the man, you deal with it!”, at which point, I look over at Kat and scream, “you’re the outdoor pursuits instructor – you deal with it!” We all freeze. I heroically suggest covering it with the washing up basket (the end of my very significant involvement, apart from taking a photo). Kat picks up the purple washing basket and drops in on top of the bat, trapping it in. Next problem. How do we get it out of the flat. We don’t have anything big enough to slide underneath it (you know the old spider in a glass trick) so decide we will slide it to the door. The door frame is not flush with the floor so we can’t simply slide it outside. The bat starts fluttering around inside the basket, our hearts are already pounding near max. Kat reminds us that she hasn’t had her rabies jab, but we remind her that she likes caving and thus will be fine! Impressively, in one swift move she whips the basket off the ground, out of the door and slams the door shut. We are safe and we have a new hero in our midst! Later that evening we go to lock the door, we open it to check the outside gate, in-between the door frames is a squashed bat!  Poor Kat thought she had freed some Kenyan wildlife…

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Madeleine follows our hero with anti-bacterial spray…

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Recipe – Meringue

Ingredients

6 large eggs at room temperature

4 pinches cream tartar

350g caster sugar

Filling:

Recipe as in chocolate tractor cake icing

Flaked almonds to decorate

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 120°C

2. Put the egg whites in a very clean bowl and whisk for 20-30s or until the whites are foamy. Add the cream of tartar.

3. Whisk in half of the sugar a tablespoon at a time.  Continue whisking for about one minute until the mixture is glossy and forms a stiff peak.

4. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over and fold in with a metal spoon.

5. Pipe swirls about 3cm wide onto baking parchment.

6. Repeat 24 times and then place in the oven for about 2 hours or until firm.

7. Make the filling.

8.Once the meringues are cold peel away from the baking parchment, spoon a teaspoon of icing onto the meringue and decorate with flaked almonds.

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Half and Half Cake. Half way there!

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We are half way! Can you believe it? I’m not sure if we can. At one point it seemed like this day would never come!

Looking back over the time period of 50 clusters, we have an incredible team (Redempta, Faith, Kirui, Kimutai, Jedidah, Joel, Roselyne, Bryan, Keith, Hellen, Joab, Cosmas, Ann, Jerry, Divinah, Richard and Sam).  The team and equipment have endured bumpy journey after bumpy journey (metaphorically and literally) the outcome of which is we have retraced half of the possible 5000 we set out to retrace so far, Over 250 have been diagnosed and have or will receive cataract treatment in the near future, nearly 1,000 have been given glasses and many more have received other types of treatment.

Every morning, Lucas proudly carries the wrapped up plate of the days bake to give to Daddy just before he leaves  for the field. He looks out of the window and sees Cosmas and Redempta as they load the van, he knows that Sam the driver needs the keys and makes sure Daddy remembers both his rucksacs and likes to confirm that Daddy is wearing his “eye doctor t-shirt”, “Daddy makes peoples eyes better”.  When we arrived he couldn’t talk, now he helps unpack the shopping and constantly asks “whats that?” pointing at the different foods. When I’m in the kitchen he confidently pulls a chair through from the sitting room, places it by the counter and reaches for the spices, “Whats that Mummy?” and he sniffs the coriander powder. His latest addition to his vocabulary, is “ooooo”, which he says when he’s impressed with something, genius!

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We feel very thankful to be where we are now and for all the ongoing support and encouragement from our family and friends both new and old.  Its a blessing to be on a journey and we hope we can share that with you guys…where ever it may lead!

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There was a time when I never thought we would reach this point. If I’m being honest with you, there were times I was ready to pack up the whole thing in and leave. I’d written resignation letters in my head, told myself I tried hard but it was just not meant to be. That was over almost a year ago now when Kenya seemed like such a far away place in more ways than just geography. We had set back after set back, problems we never expected and it genuinely seemed we were trying to climb a mountain with no map, no gear and a one-year-old child…

Funny how things change.  Piece by piece, things slowly fell in to place and the project started moving, Madeleine’s unwavering strength and determination to complete what we had set out to do has undoubtedly been the single most important reason we are still here. Madeleine loves life in England and the very strong protective instinct that comes with being a parent made us question what we were doing here on more than one occasion.

Although there have been dark times here, we have felt very looked after. Redempta has been such a bright light who has shown us the most beautiful aspects of the Kenyan spirit. She has supported and shared in all our challenges, dreams, ups and downs.  We have a fantastic eye project team who are dedicated and gifted and have made friends that will be friends for the rest of our lives (wherever we are living). One very close friend who was giving us encouragement recently told us that a huge amount of resistance is needed before a plane can take off, and it is to be expected if you want to fly.

Kenya has unexpectedly become home. We are happy and enjoying the experience. Lucas is thriving and is at ease with his international lifestyle and odd parents.

We are now half way up that mountain, looking back at where we have come from, what has been achieved and baked so far. The top doesn’t look as far away and unreachable as it once did. We have already started planning the next climbs (the small matter of a bakery and Madeleine’s cook book comes to mind).

We feel truly blessed and thank ALL of you for sharing the journey with us so far.

To be continued….

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For reaching the half way point the bake had to represent this somehow so this is what I came up with!  Chocolate orange is also Andrews favourite chocolate so that’s where some of the inspiration came from!

Recipe – Half and Half cake

Makes two whole cakes. One to freeze, if it gets that close to a freezer!

Chocolate cake: please see recipe for Lucas’ Tractor in the mud birthday cake

Orange cake ingredients:

2 large eggs

160g castor sugar

100g ground almonds

200g grated carrot

200g white flour

2tsp baking powder

pinch salt

one whole orange boiled for 30mins

1tsp ground cinnamon

1tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp cardamom

Orange icing ingredients:

50g softened butter

200g icing sugar

squeeze fresh orange juice and finely grated peel of whole orange.

Method for the orange carrot cake

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line two 20cm circle tins with baking parchment.

2. Blend the whole boiled orange until slushy.

3. Whisk the eggs and sugar for 4 mins until light and fluffy.  Whisk in the grated carrot and blended orange.

4. Beat in he remaining ingredients.

5. Separate into the two baking tins and place in the middle of the oven for 25-30mins, check with a knife whether cooked by sticking it into the sponge, if its clean its cooked.

6. Let the cakes cool a little then turn onto wire racks to completely cool.

7. Meanwhile bake the chocolate cake and let cool.

8. Whilst cakes cooling make the icings.  To do this beat the butter and half the icing sugar until light and fluffly, then gradually beat in the remaining ingredients.

9. To make the compile the cakes spread icing on the orange carrot cake for the middle layer then place the choc cake on top and carefully ice half with the choc icing and half with the orange icing.  For a straight line I used a piece of cardboard to follow for the choc icing then met the orange icing next to it.  Sprinkle orange peel shavings on top for decoration.

Madeleine baking half with electricity, half without….

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The team enjoying the half way point

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The oldest man in Kenya, 100!

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Good night…

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Grissini – Optimists or Realists?

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Sometimes I wonder, are we optimistic or realisticnaive or just ready to jump.  We are just beginning to grasp how busy the time ahead is going to be.  There is a lot of preparation for the bakery, it is exciting drawing up the designs, thinking about walk ways, where to put the toilets, flow of people, access routes… well that’s what I was doing whilst Lucas was having a snooze!  The business plan is coming, thankfully we have invested in a Business Plan Program to guide us through the process.

It is amazing really, Andrew is inundated with requests to use Peek from individuals who want to use it at work, to major eye care programs who see it making a difference in their current practice.

For now I will leave you with a little quote for the day. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence”.  Helen Keller.  (She overcame being deaf and blind to be one of the 20th centuries leading humanitarians).

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Recipe – Grissini

Makes about 50. Lucas’ favourite snack currently is breadsticks dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil! That’s my boy!

Ingredients

Biga (Italian word for pre-ferment)

White bread flour 110g

Water 95g

Pinch dried yeast

Final dough ingredients

White bread flour 1kg

Water 480g

Biga above

20g salt

10g dried yeast

Toppings

Sesame seeds, linseeds, poppy seeds, sea salt flakes, chilli flakes, cayenne pepper, ground coriander, water you fancy really! Also some olive oil to brush onto the dough.

Method:

1. Mix all the ingredients for the preferment together and leave at room temp for 12-14 hours or over night.

2. Mix all the final dough ingredients together then knead for 8-10mins until well kneaded.

3. Leave for 1st prove for 1-2 hours, then turn and retold then leave to prove for another 1-2 hours with the bowl covered so a skin does not form.

4. when it comes to rolling out the dough take a handful on a lightly floured surface  shape into a round then roll out until desired length of breadstick and about 1-2 mm thick.

5. Either brush the rolled out I dough with olive oil or water then sprinkle your choice of topping over, may favourite is poppy seeds, cayenne pepper and salt.

6.  Use a sharp knife to cut into strips about 5-8mm wide and place on a floured or non-stick tray, leave to rise for about 30 mins then bake at about 170C for 15 ish minutes depending on your oven! Keep a close eye when they are snappable it doesn’t take long for them to burn! You can cook them at a higher temperature but for a shorter time, see what works best in your oven.

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Building a den…

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Hungry now…

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Time for a snooze…

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We might have found the perfect delivery vehicle for the bakery!

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Coffee and Walnut Cake, designing a bakery…

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We have a blank canvas, well actually, a slightly crumpled up sheet of A4 paper. It is time to put the bakery designs on paper. Building from scratch means we actually have almost limitless possibilities for the design. We’ve spent the morning brainstorming with the architect. Lucas may have added some extra walls in when we were chatting so we will have to double check the blueprint!

Our minds are spinning with the possibilities for the interior layout, the styling and finish. Never mind what we will serve.

Last week I had the idea of a library and quiet corner for children to read, (we would laminate all the books!). I feel particularly inspired by this as unfortunately there are no libraries in Nakuru and books are so expensive. Having a library is certainly an incredible service I know I took for granted in the UK.

Then there is the playground… I’ve no idea what it’s called, but that stuff that looks like concrete but is actually soft and springy under all the playgrounds we find in the UK, we are going to have to find some!

The team are expecting a couple of film crews in the field with them tomorrow so we are planning on sending out some extra baked goods, maybe we can start generating some interest in Jamii Bakery.

Recipe – Coffee and Walnut Cake – Gluten free.

One of Harry Eastwoods from Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache

Ingredients:

Cake mixture

200g rice flour

120g walnuts
3 eggs
160g light muscovado sugar
250g of finely grated carrot
2t baking powder
1/4t salt
1tbsp of coffee granules in 125ml water

Icing:
50g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar
1 tbsp yogurt
1 tbsp of strong coffee

Method:

1. Blend up the nuts and flour in a processor until like fine breadcrumbs
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar, preferably with an electric hand blender, for about 3 minutes, until smooth and increased in volume.
3. Beat in the baking powder, salt, and coffee, then also add the carrot and flour/nut mix.

4. Divide mixture into tins and bake 30 mins at 180ºC.

5. Cool for 10 mins in tins, then remove and allow to cool completely.

6. Soften the butter with the beater in the mixer then add half the sugar and beat for a few minutes, followed by the remaining ingredients.  Add yogurt according to consistency required.

7. Sandwich the icing with two cakes and decorate with walnut halves.

“Where’s your smile Lucas?” – “Here it is!”

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