Sunday, November 18, 2012

Baking and running

These are my two new past-times. Baking and running. One might think they are contradictory but to me they are synergetic. The more I run, the more calories I burn and the more cake I am allowed to bake. And eat. Or so I tell myself.


I've always need a goal when it comes to running. I really enjoy running but getting out of bed before 6am to go for a run is made a lot easier when I know that I have a race coming up. With that in mind when I re-started running a couple of months ago I quickly set my sights on the Nairobi Marathon. Or rather, the 10k event as part of the Nairobi Marathon Sunday; there is a full marathon, half marathon 10k and family fun run of 5k run on the same morning.

The brave marathoners line up for their race.
Despite my few weeks of training I was uncharacteristically nervous before the start of the race. Luckily for me, and in spite of the crowds, I managed to bump into my friend Harvey before the race and we lined up at the start line together.

Harvey and I before the race.
After a couple of kilometers we decided to split up (as I was running a wee bit faster than Harvey) and arranged to meet at the finish line. So for the next 8km I was by myself. And it was wonderful. There was a great deal of weaving in and out to avoid the many, many walkers doing both the 10km and half marathon distances but I still managed to finish well under an hour so I was delighted with myself.

Harvey and I after the race (notice the wide shot
in order to hit some of the sweaty, redfaced-ness)

Breakfast of champions

And I celebrated the only way I know how. With food. And lots of it. I have firmly regained the running bug so I have set my sights on the Kilimanjaro Half Marathon next March. Anyone else up for it?

And so to my other new pastime, baking. Here's a little round up of what I've been baking over the past 6 weeks.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake/Rocky Road Cake

Ok, so this was not strictly baking as I did not use the oven to make these but I did melt chocolate. And butter. And golden syrup. See photograph below of the aforementioned 'heart attack over a bain-marie'.

And I crushed biscuits, and chopped almonds and ... opened a packet of marshmallows. It was hard work I am telling you!

Verdict - These were very well received at the variety of occasions I brought them to. I made two huge cakes so they were brought everywhere with me for almost a week - hiking, picnics/music festivals, the office.

Lemon Cheesecake

Lemon cheesecake as it sets in the fridge

Once again this was not strictly baking as I chose a non-bake cheesecake for my first foray into cake making. But it was a good call. Though it's hard to go wrong with a buttery biscuity base and  a topping of cream cheese, condensed milk and shedloads of lemon juice and zest. Unfortunately I have no decent photos of the lemon cheesecake so the above will have to do.

Verdict - Brought this to a BBQ at my friends' Nick and Nicole's place and it was rated very highly. I personally wish it had been a little less liquid-y so I am going to try another variation for my next cheesecake.

Lemon Squares

This isn't a very appetising picture but I
can assure you it tasted really, really good.

I love lemon. I love the smell and I love lemony flavoured goodies so these were an obvious next choice. Using a recipe from my old housemate, Sandy, I made a tray of these for a picnic day at the races. They have a shortbread-y base (butter, sugar, flour) and a gooey lemon-y topping (lemon juice and zest, sugar, eggs and a wee bit of flour). The first time I baked them they were a little over done and not lemon-y enough for my likely. After putting in the zest and juice from two lemons in the second batch and only leaving them in for the bare twenty minutes they were yum.

Verdict - Both batches proved very popular. However by this point I am starting to worry that people are going to start sending their dentist's bills to me.


Another Sandy recipe which once again proved that you can't go wrong with lashings of sugar and butter. This time the magic ingredient was lots of cocoa powder too but the next time I make them I'm going to try following a recipe that uses real chocolate. I'm sure the results will be posted!

Verdict - Whipped these up for another BBQ and they went down well for dessert. I wish I had had walnuts to add to them for some texture but I know for next time.


One of my happiest moments in Kenya so far.

This was without doubt my proudest baking moment so far. Not because it was a particularly difficult or technically challenging recipe. This is because I baked something that I really, really wanted. For those of you unfamiliar with it, brack, or tea brack, or barm brack or báirín braic, is a cake/bread traditionally associated with Hallowe'en in Ireland. Back in the day the brack used to be baked with a number of charms inside it, whoever found a specific charm, that would foretell their upcoming year. These days the only charm that remains inside the brack is the ring. Whoever finds the ring will be married within the year, or so it is believed. I didn't put any rings in my bracks as I didn't have any cheap, gold rings lying around. I'll know for next year.

I have since baked two more bracks - and I am currently soaking the dried fruit for a fourth. I have a problem. But they just taste so good.

Verdict - It turns out that bracks are cross-culturally appreciated. Having been sampled by British, American, Spanish, Sierra Leonian, Somali, Kenyan, French. I am seriously considering how I might be able to mass produce and sell these here in Kenya. Brack Obama, anyone?

Sponge Cake

A couple of weeks ago I spent a lovely lazy Sunday afternoon with my friend Sean who taught me how to make a sponge cake, and more specifically, a pineapple sponge. Using just four ingredients (self raising flour, caster sugar, butter and eggs) and a whole lot of elbow grease we made not one, but two, sponge cakes.

Verdict - One of the sponges turned out to be the tiniest bit under-done, and one was a little over-done but both were delicious. The cake I brought into the office disappeared within seconds.

Online Resources
My new baking buzz has given me an appreciation of good food blogs and recipe websites. My colleague Kim introduced me to - a massive compendium of thousands of internet recipes. I apologise in advance for how much time you may spend looking at beautiful pictures of food on this site.

My absolute favourite food blogger has to be Stuart Heritage. While not strictly a food blogger as his website contains the links to his other work (which mainly involved Live Blogging X Factor in the most hilarious way possible - see here for an example) when he does blog about his exploits in baking I cry laughing. Good examples here and here.

For more serious food blogging/recipes you can't beat Delia Smith. Her website is amazing and her Information Centre has answered many of my rudimentary baking questions. And I'm also a fan of the Irish chef Donal Skehan. Not just because he is cute and looks like he could be in a boyband (actually he was in a boyband) but because his recipes are fairly straight-forward and tend to use fairly accessible ingredients. I recently made these chickpea burgers and they were gorgeous!

Next up on my 'to bake' list is a proper traditional Christmas cake and also a lemon meringue pie. Results and pictures will, no doubt, follow.


  1. I use a pack of jelly to help my cheesecakes set solidly. Just melt it as usually and beat the liquid jelly into the cheesy mixture. Yum-o.

    1. Oooooo, thanks for the tip Clare! I will definitely try that next time!