Lunch with Juju

A journey through food in Kenya following fresh produce from farm to fork, scrumptious ingredients that make up delicious meals, and healthy options for those who love food and the kitchen!

Top Tips for a Zero Waste Life

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With Kenya banning plastic bags last year (hurrah Kenya!!) we found ourselves becoming increasingly aware of how much waste there is in our lives, and in particular with our use of plastic. Thankfully the government helped us stop using plastic bags pretty much overnight, but that doesn't mean there aren't other things that are incredibly wasteful - that we could easily do without! So I've had time to think about what my top tips would be and here they are:

BE PREPARED
Don't leave the house without a kikapu, a cardboard box or something that you can put your shopping in. Supermarkets don't always have spare cardboard boxes to use, and the nylon bags they use nowadays for carrying shopping bring their own burden on the planet (how they are made, and how short a lifespan they tend to have). Also, avoid the net bags for your vegetables - when they end up in the ocean they are a real threat to a lot of marine life.

EMBRACE MINIMALISM
There are so many things out there that we think we need (thanks to clever marketing and advertising) but do we?? Ask yourself three times before you buy something: do I have to have this or could I live without it? Move away from excessive living and embrace a simpler way - and tread lightly on the earth.

SEPARATE YOUR RUBBISH
We live in a neighbourhood where rubbish pickers come and sort through our rubbish to collect their specialist material - we have Paul the tin man, and another chap who comes to find the plastic. They take this waste and sell it by the kilo into the recycling market, but we can give them a little more dignity by pre-sorting the waste for them. Alternatively, sort the waste at home and take it to your nearest recycling depot. 

CLEANING PRODUCTS
Go natural with your cleaning products and you'll be doing everyone a favour. There are a few options in Kenya including Cinnabar Green and Grounded, and if you can move to buying in bulk then so much the better (more product for less plastic). 

ECO-FRIENDLY CUPPA
Get yourself one of those fabulous reusable mugs for your cup of tea in the morning, it will save you buying a cup of tea later and using a throw-away cup. Also - look out for cafés that use compostable or recyclable cups. 

REJECT THE STRAW (AND THE PLASTIC BOTTLE)!
Straws are a such an unnecessary part of drinking - but if you must have one, you can get awesome metal ones now that can be reused. But when you go out for meals and drinks, you'll probably need to make a point of asking for no straw, otherwise it may just come as a matter of course! Since I gave up single use plastic bottles at New Year, I've found myself asking cafés and restaurants if they bring their water in glass or plastic bottles. The more we ask, the more pressure there is on the venue to change the way they are doing things. 

BUY IN BULK
The more you can buy in bulk, the less you have to drive your car to and from the supermarket, and the fewer containers you will end up buying. So consider looking for dishwashing soap in 5 litre mutungis, large packets of household staples like rice, rather than smaller packets. These small decisions build up to making a big difference if enough of us start doing them.

reject, reduce, reuse, recycle - ROT
Start a compost bin where all your compostable waste can be thrown and put on a compost heap to make fertile compost for your garden. And on that note: if you have space to grow your own veggies you can be sure there will be no nasties on them!

SHOP CONSCIOUSLY
When I set up greenspoon I realised there were more people than I realised who were super keen to shop consciously - whether that be conscious of provenance, conscious of the impact of buying from a particular supplier, conscious of supporting local producers, or conscious of the quality of the products. Let's not go blindly through life when every single decision we make impacts the people around us. 
 

A taste of Tapendoi

Daisy Shann knows about entertaining. She's effusive in her welcome and extraordinary in her attention to detail once you arrive. In fact it starts before you arrive, with text messages asking if you'd prefer to be in the spare room or in the tent a little further away, and a special phone call to enquire as to Saskia's favorite fruit whilst she was doing her shopping. It made us feel super special. When we arrived, after a long hot day in the car, tea was on tap and Saskia was scooped up by Daisy's immensely hands-on staff and whisked off to help in the kitchen. Bliss.

We chose to sleep a bit further away, in one of the two tents that Daisy has listed on her new website Umbrella Tree. Two reasons really: I was desperate to try out these beautiful new rooms that Daisy has put so much work into, and secondly I had an inkling that sleep was not high on Saskia's agenda, so the further away the better for Daisy & Roger's sakes.

Built on a raised wooden platform, with a permanent mabati roof, these tents are a far cry from the imagination of our foreign friends who usually envisage a waist high pop tent with barely space to bend your knees as you roll over in bed, and a healthy dollop of freezing condensation plopping onto your forehead in the morning. No no no! Just as Kenyans don't keep stables in which they are familiar with the tack, so they do not have tents that can be put up in five minutes. Everything here is big,  space is an appreciated luxury but not at a premium (at least not in Laikipia). 

Each tent has a beautifully made up double bed with scrumptious crisp linen and a super comfy mattress. There's enough space to swing several cats and no risk of hitting your husband around the head as you do so. I can also confirm that there is enough space for three… that is, a small third person; in our case ten month old Saskia. A serious power shower blasts out hot water within seconds and double sinks mean you don't need to worry about scrapping over who cleans their teeth first. The bathroom is quite open, so those with an aversion to such set ups should be aware that they will need to close the tent flaps between bathroom and bedroom for privacy. Otherwise, just send your partner on their way to go and explore the farm or listen to the many yarns of Daisy. 

If you were staying more than one night, Daisy would ensure you were kept busy with a visit to the Lolldaiga Farm, Ol Pejeta, Nanyuki or countless other nearby excursions that will ensure you return tired out and ready for the three course meal that awaits. We feasted on incredible chicken soup to start with - the kind that is so thick and tasty you don't need much more. But I can always rely on my tummy to make space, and so for the slow cooked lamb tagine with couscous and green beans, there was most definitely space. And just as we were ready to roll towards the warming fire, out came a bubbling apple crumble with vanilla ice cream! We squeezed it all in, and on reflection I probably burnt off half those calories just bemberezering Miss Saskia later that night for hour… after hour… after hour. Somehow breakfast could not have come quickly enough, and we were duly awarded for our nighttime efforts with the full monty English breakfast. Yummy.

Daisy pressed us to take a packed lunch, and this is what you will get if you go and stay at Tapendoi, which is about so much more than the tent, and the food. It's really about spending some time with Miss Daisy, whose tales of finding the land, and singlehandedly building their house as a safari widow will keep you enraptured by the embers of the fire. Daisy doesn't really stop, she's a ball of energy and an endless fount of knowledge, not to mention local gossip which is always fun even when you have no idea who she's referring to! 

Rock your working lunch with a wrap from Lime Catering

We've all struggled with what to have for lunch on a work day; most of all when you're nowhere near home and don't have a wife ferrying warm quiches up to your office (that stopped when the askari ate it thinking I'd dropped it off for his benefit!). It looks like Karen / Langata may be graced with the answer.  It comes in the shape of a wrap, nicely packaged and securely rolled, and best of all: DELIVERED! I've sampled them all last week, so here goes:

Day 1
GRILLED BEEF WITH CARAMELISED ONIONS, MUSTARD & HORSERADISH

ThIs wrap was delivered at precisely 12:45pm, just when the grumbles from my tummy started to be impossible to ignore. There was no confusion over where to deliver, so no phone call from a bewildered bodaboda driver shouting down the phone for directions. That's important because it means my blood pressure had no reason to rise pre-lunch. It came in a brown paper bag, and was then wrapped in smart white greaseproof paper, with a nice sticker from Lime Catering. I cut it into three, to see how evenly the ingredients were distributed. It looked good - lots of green (tick healthy), a decent amount of medium rare grilled beef (tick tasty), some caramelised onions layered in (tick sweet) and a bit of mustard and horseradish spread throughout (tick tangy). My eyes were ready, and so was my tummy. The first bite was delicious. I realised that with the amount of lettuce in this wrap, it wasn't going to be a quick 'swallow' of a meal, and that is also good - eating slowly is important for your digestive system. The flavour got better and better as I ate, although perhaps a touch more horseradish and mustard would be good. All in all I'm giving this 9.5 out of 10. The 0.5 is only because there could be a touch of mayo or extra mustard in it. 

DAY 2
THE CHICKEN TIKKA WRAP

I'm a big fan of a good chicken tikka. And there's no shortage of exceptional Indian restaurants and fast food joints that do a mean tikka in Nairobi. So this one is a challenge to get right. The first thing I'll say about it is that the tikka element is well judged - the chicken was charred and flavoursome, but at the same time really really tender. It wasn't stringy or dry, and had been lovingly sizzled in the Cookswell Jiko charcoal fired oven. The end result shows respect for a chicken that probably would have wanted to go this way, it's a decent send off. Again this wrap had a generous helping of lettuce, which I like, and a decent amount of sauce ensuring comfortable rumination and flavour. You can see in the images below how evenly the ingredients are spread through the wrap, making each mouthful delicious.  

DAY 3
THE ROASTED VEGGIE WITH FETA WRAP

Roast veg is not always a winner - sometimes the peppers can be slimy or insipid, and they definitely need to be offset with a sharp, dry texture and flavour. Lulu and Graham have definitely put some thought into this wrap, because it was spot on. The roast peppers were charred beautifully, not over done but with the lingering taste of char dancing on the tongue before the sharp hit of feta took the taste buds in another direction, all backed up by a reliable, neutral layer of lettuce. Singing out from mouthful to mouthful came the distinct pesto part, which slipped in and out of premier position depending on the bite. There was also a bit of extra crunch in the form of a few pieces of carrot - not grated (which grates badly with me) but thinly sliced and rolled into the wrap to give another subtle but important dimension. All in all a 10 out of 10 for me with this one. 

For more information or to place an order, call Lime Catering on 0722 393 158. 
If you get on with it and order 24 hours before, you'll get a 10% discount. 

 

Going Nuts about Nutrition

Those of you who follow this blog will have noted that there is no shortage of cream, butter, sugar, and all the naughty stuff that makes food taste so good… however, I have discovered that there is a new way. The way of Nuts about Nutrition.

I went along to Heather Cuthbert's talk on Nutrition today. If you'd put a barometer on me this morning it would have said "definite skepticism; cloudy outlook". But I was pleasantly surprised. Heather's food is tasty. It is sugar free. It is dairy free. It is gluten free. So what's in it? A load of super healthtastic ingredients that will leave you full but not bloated, sufficiently sweetened but free of dental decay. 

Heather is a super qualified nutritional therapist, she has a BSc in Anatomical Science, and then lots of complicated letters after her name. She started by jazzing us up with a fresh juice of carrot, apple, cucumber and ginger, which has immune boosting properties, gastro-intestinal soothing agents, potassium, a ton of hydration and more more more. It was yummy. She explained that 75% of the immune system resides in the gut so when there's something wrong, look at what is on your plate first. Changes in the gut affect the detox system (your liver, kidneys etc) which in turn can mean that you attract every lurgy under the sun. 

If you call Heather in to help you out with your health, she will also scrutinize your lifestyle. Eating at your computer is frowned upon because the stimulation means your body is in sympathetic mode (i.e. ready for flight or fight) and this means your digestive system won't be working at optimum levels. She'll look at what you're snacking on and when you exercise, as well as your stress levels.

Does this sound like a life overhaul? It could well be! She wants you to change your attitude towards sugar, towards refined foods, towards fats. But I reckon if you give it a whirl you'll be surprised at how easily you can make those changes. I mean look at this delicious spread for starters… not bad eh?

For lunch, Heather gave us:

  • Sukuma Wiki Crisps
  • Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Tart
  • Spinach roulade with a mushroom, sun dried tomato and herb filling
  • Mung bean and quinoa salad with coriander and walnuts
  • Butternut and beetroot salad with rocket and pine nuts

And get this: she even gave us PUDDING!!! It was a scrumptious raw banoffee pie, gluten and dairy free. 

Call Heather on +254 722 305 876
Email her on nutsaboutnutritionco@gmail.com
Check out her website here.

Kenya's new cake queen

When it comes to cakes, I'm confident that my skills stretch to a tasty teatime treat. But when it comes to big events, you need cakes that make a big impact, and I usually don't have the patience to put together a beautiful and sophisticated number. So when a major milestone in my mother's life presented itself, I turned to Kenya's new cake queen for a statement piece. 

Helena Mortensen comes from the right stock when it comes to cake. Her grandmother Molly is famous for her delectable Christmas cakes amongst other things, and Helena's artistic side comes from her mother Susannah Mortensen whose paintings are renowned. I described my parent's lifestyle a little - retired, model farm in Naivasha, relaxed life - and asked Helena to come up with some ideas. She cottoned on to Mummy's love of the bovine beast, and came up with this fabulous design which pretty much perfectly represents Bess, the favorite cow of the herd. Bess lounges comfortably in lovely green grass with a couple of chickens running around and a milk pail on one side, with a fence made of candles. 

We presented Mummy with her beautiful cake, and after she'd overcome her unwillingness to cut it ('I can't cut into such a beautiful piece of artwork!' she protested), we dug into the delicious chocolate sponge with buttercream icing. Yum!

Helena can be contacted on 0721987184 or helenamortensen@gmail.com. 

are you ready for a sophistication renaissance?

When Lali Heath and Jane Corbett arrived in Nairobi last weekend, it signalled the dawn of a new sophistication for East Africa. Lali and Jane brought with them a selection of their creations, suitable for all those who want to sway into a room with panache and elegance. The final punctuation on your perfect outfit. What am I talking about? Oh yes, hats.

Hats, hats, hats. Just like shoes, or handbags, in terms of accessorising your perfect outfit, but with the crucial difference that hats are now a rarity. Elongating your neck, lifting your chin and generally making you more beautiful, hats are a life long investment into grace. 

I'm afraid I couldn't resist; and my excuse is that I have a wedding in March - just five weeks after my baby will arrive - which means I will probably still be the size of a house. So with this elegant piece atop my head, I hope to distract the eye upwards, and give the impression of being just slightly taller than I am! There won't be pictures from that occasion ;-) 

Lali is based in Arusha, but returning to Nairobi for an exhibition in February 2014; make sure you book in to see her when she's here!  

Details: 

Lali Heath Millinery
 http://www.laliheathmillinery.com 
lali@laliheathmillinery.com

Jane Corbett 
 http://www.janecorbett.co.uk

who knew? the best mushrooms in Kenya

I've always loved the robust earthy flavours of a mushroom (see my ode to Mushroom Pie here), and I think part of that comes from childhood wonder at the way that mushrooms grow in dark, dank places, whereas every other vegetable seems to need bright, well-lit spaces with a good view of the sky. 

Larissa's oyster mushrooms are a project borne of a throwaway comment made by her step-father, now an idea that has grown into a business, albeit at its early stages. She showed me to her shed, where row upon row of wooden shelving systems housed cylindrical shaped mushroom bases, in which grow the mycelium. 

The process starts with a mound of steaming ... straw (I know what you were thinking, stop it), which has been warmed for about an hour in a big drum, over a fire. Once the straw has cooled slightly, it's put into large plastic bags for a few weeks, with the mushroom seeds thrown in. A couple of weeks later, Larissa cuts the top of the bag off and a few weeks after that the mushrooms start to push out. Look at these beautiful creations that result, and check back in a day or two for my first cook off!

To order your oyster mushrooms, call Larissa on +254 716 576 074 or email on larissahoops@hotmail.com

a taste of the kenyan art scene

Kenya is a mecca for artists. They say it's the light, and the colours. I think it might just be the great weather and the freedom. So like most of us, it's a heady combination, and for the artists, it equals inspiration.  

Last week, three of Kenya's great female artists exhibited together at a packed out house party where all the beautiful people mingled with other mere mortals, jostling around spilling wine, oohing and aaahing at the art and snatching snippets of gossip as they went.  

The combination of the three worked some magic. Juliet Low Designs  exhibited beautiful silver jewellery - her style is eclectic, detailed and innovative.

Using high quality silver, Juliet takes elements of Africa to create jewellery that speaks of the environment and wildlife of this continent. Her green resin sea urchins are a favourite of mine, but there's a lot of choice!

Katy McIntyre Brown paints on fabrics, but this exhibition showed off more of her recent oil work - enormous animal pictures looked down from above the fireplace, smaller creations depicting a classic Nairobi dusk stood humbly near the door.

An enormous Secretary Bird inspected each guest on their arrival, from it's position on the wall opposite Katy's front door. 

But what caught my eye, and eventually my wallet,  were Sophie Standing's fantastically intricate textile designs, such an original way to depict subjects on a canvas. Using scraps of beautifully patterned material, Sophie sews them onto a canvas and then uses her technique to enhance the shapes and shadows of the subject. I fell for this beautiful, cheeky Jersey Calf, who has a mouth full of grass! Living on Ololua Ridge, which is where we used to live, Sophie is essentially surrounded by farmland, and some beautiful cows... I love this chap.

fluorescent garden in the rains

The long rains have arrived in force, and as true Kenyans we measure every drop. Our rain guage measures either in inches or millimetres, and at the moment we're regularly having over 40mm of rain in one night! Nairobi has been hit hard by torrents of water from the sky, trees have been felled by wind and rain, electricity is erratic and red mud runs with the dogs through the house, trailing filth.

We're lucky to have an amazing garden full of incredible flowers - below are a small selection of four. I think these are

Top Left: Aloe Candelabra
Top Right: Purple Wisteria
Bottom Left: Bottle Brush Tree
Bottom Right: Hibiscus

Have I got these right?! Please comment below and let me know!

blooming in the sunshine

Flowers in the midst of a lush, colourful, garden, might be seen as gloriously excessive, but nothing should get in the way of a great party setting. Even the pineapple, wonkily keeping company with my wine glass, provided an eccentric addition to the jardin. 

There is a language, little known,
Lovers claim it as their own.
Its symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by nature's wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of the flowers.

The Language of Flowers, London, 1875

food waste for supper? hmmm...

Would you accept an invitation to dine on food waste? I must admit that when the invitation landed in my inbox, there was a tension in my stomach, some butt clenching, and nervy teeth grinding, but I decided this was probably going to be a one off. Besides, I've watched those people on 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here' eat slugs and other unidentifiable objects, so how bad can it be? 

We were dining on food waste to highlight the global issue of what you 'toss in the trash'. I'd been helping Tristram Stuart from Feeding 5k try and source food waste for the event, and wasn't as successful as I'd hoped to be. On calling Gilani's Nakuru, I was told 'my dear, we don't even supply enough bones for demand'. When I spoke to a rabbit farm near Karatina, they told me most of what they produce goes to China. Art Caffe for some of their delicious bread - 'no, I was told, we can't even bake enough bread for demand'. Meanwhile, unsubstantiated reports tell me that even copper is recycled on Dandora's enormous dumping grounds. I turned to vegetables, and finally had success in this arena: large scale farms that would rather not be named reject many tons of vegetables every year because they don't match the requirements demanded by a greedy export market. 

Is your bean straight enough, green enough, short enough? No? UK and western supermarkets are catering to such an imbecile market that they won't buy our vegetables unless they look like the pictures in their storybooks. What's the result? Kenyan farms sometimes reject as much as 40 tonnes of fresh vegetable produce - perfectly fit for human consumption.

What happens to the rejects? In some cases they end up in landfill, but in many cases in Kenya they are sold on for the local market or for animal feed. Which essentially means they aren't wasted. I've heard of small cattle herds subsisting very comfortably on rejected pak choi, runner beans and strawberries, though sadly it didn't result in strawberry flavoured milk.

In the UK, the average family throws away nearly 1/3 of what they buy. That equates to about 15 million tons. I think it's worth repeating: 15 million tons. And all the food that the west throws away could go towards feeding an extra 200 million people around the world. Given that the Zero Hunger Challenge launched by the UN at Rio+20 last year claims that nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry every day, that's something of a sobering thought. 

So think a little harder about what you put in your shopping basket. Embrace leftovers and innovative ways to use produce that could be considered as waste. It's not difficult to make a delicious stock or soup from leftovers, and for the next few weeks I'll be talking more about that. But here are some tips to start with:

Frequent and Small – that’s the message from Jonathon Bloom (author of American Wasteland: How American Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food) when it comes to shopping. Plan meals, make a detailed shopping list and stick to it.

Upgrade your refrigerator – and if you can’t, look around for gadgets that keen food fresher for longer.

Store food carefully – and learn the rules. Butter can be frozen for up to six months; milk doesn’t do well being frozen (but there’s always UHT). Leafy greens do well in a damp towel, and grains need to be kept clear of condensation.

Love your Leftovers – when you plan a meal, think about what might come afterwards. If it’s a roast chicken, plan to make stock. From stock, make soup. If you’re having gammon for supper, leftovers would make a tasty ham risotto the next day.

Do some research before you throw things away – there’s usually a website that will give you advice whether it’s leftover cheese rind or slightly off grapes.

Oh and by the way, the meal with UNEP was delicious. Here's what we had:

  • Smoked beetroot carpaccio with crumbled feta, broccoli-slaw, egg ribbons and honey mustard vinaigrette.
  • Thai grilled chicken breast with lemon and chilli confit, sweet garlic, french beans and sugar snaps, with steamed rice and a coconut & lemongrass broth.
  • Mangomisu (tiramisu with a tropical twist)