I have often heard that one of the worst things for a blogger is to break their blog schedule or routine. For new and seasoned bloggers alike the golden rule is to blog and blog often. It is this that keeps visitors coming back. I am told that nothing is more frustrating for the keen blogger than failing to make the deadline for their new post.

Many bloggers, I am told will spend long sleepless nights worrying about how their readers will visit their blog only to find that nothing new has been posted for a week. The more they worry, the more difficult it gets to write. This causes even more worry and feeds further anxiety. As days and weeks go by the worried bloggers, loners by definition, become unwell quite quickly. Enlightened doctors up and down the country have come to recognise certain symptoms. If a patient visits a doctor presenting with insomnia, temperature fluctuations, nervous twitches, poor appetite, weigh-loss, amnesia and sometimes substance abuse, the first thing doctors will ask these days even as they take your blood pressure is whether you have updated your blog.

I got to Woolie’s front door, clutching a small bag of groceries. It was a cold evening and the streets were full of people rushing home before the rains came again. I picked up some small pebbles and threw them at the first floor window above me. There was no response and so I tried again with a larger pebble. There was such a loud crack that I thought I had broken the window. Moments later my friend’s angry face appeared at the window shouting some very naughty words. He recognised me and tossed the front-door key down with a loud mscheeeeew.

The first-floor bed-sit looked much smaller than it had been the last time I was there. Perhaps it was all the clothes, bags and other rubbish lying about all over the room. His unmade bed was at the far corner of the room. An overfull ashtray lay in the middle of the bed. Against the far wall the tv was tuned to Al Jazeera with the volume turned down. It was stuck on the same image of the Westgate mall. With shoes, socks and underwear strewn all over the floor space it was quite difficult to move in the room. It pained me to see my friend living like this. He looked rough and unshaven and it may have been a while since he had washed. We cleared some clothes from the large sofa where I sat down carefully.

“I have to write something. My blog is crying out….” Woolie said.

“Look at all this madness…”. He was scratching his groin and staring at the telly which was showing different scenes of the Westgate now. Helicopters hovered above the mall as armoured personnel carriers appeared driving down deserted side-streets. Now we saw a group of terrified civilians being led out of the building by plain clothes policemen. Woolie reached for his pack of cigarettes and lit one. I could not help looking at his shaking hands. His gaunt features were frightening.

“Have you had something to eat?” I asked, looking around for evidence. I noticed several empty cheap whisky bottles under the table. There was also a litre bottle of mineral water containing an amber liquid which was by the door and next to it dried banana peel.

Woolie shook his head wistfully. He turned to me and said “No energy to cook or go shopping. I’ve had nothing all day except whiskey ha!”

“Well then you are in luck, Woolie my boy.” I said.

I explained that we would tidy up the room together and then while he got himself washed up shaved and dressed I would prepare something small for our supper. He thought it was a good plan so we switched of the telly, cranked up the music and got to work.

When Woolie went off to the bathroom taking away the big mineral water bottle I headed for their shared kitchen which was at the end of the corridor. The cold building had six bed-sitting rooms all occupied by “professional tenants.” There were 2 small well-equipped kitchens where they made their meals. The tenants were expected to clear up after using the kitchen. Some did and some did not.

I found that everything I needed was here and I was ready to go. I could not get the image of my suffering friend out of my mind. I would have to make him something that he could eat today and perhaps for 2 or 3 more days. I racked my soft brain for inspiration wondering idly if chefs suffered from cooking block. Eureka! I thought. I would make Woolie a jua kali chicken and mushroom pie

From my shopping bag I took out a small tray of diced chicken pieces. There was a small onion on a shelf marked Woolie which I took and finely chopped before frying it with some ginger and garlic in a wok using a couple of spoons of vegetable oil. I dropped the Kuku pieces into the wok now and fried them for several minutes, sprinkling a bit of Rosemary and Thyme and ground white pepper. I also added a pinch of salt to this and after a couple more minutes I added 100g of chopped mushrooms. I added my secret ingredient now and 300ml of chicken stock and brought it to the boil. I let this simmer for a bit before turning off the fire.

the filling

The next step was making the pastry from scratch. People often say this is difficult but I found it very easy. I sifted 400g of plain white flour into a bowl adding a pinch of salt. To the flour I added 80g each of butter and lard. Using clean hands I mixed the floor and fats together squeezing between the fingers until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs. I added 2 tablespoons of ice-cold water and brought the mixture together into a dough. I remembered not to knead the mixture. I rolled it into a small piece of cling film and placed it in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes.

flour butter and lard

Let’s roll

As I waited for the pastry to cool I took a small 100g bag of frozen mixed vegetables – peas, carrots and sweetcorn and added them into the chicken and mushroom filling. This was useful because it helped to cool the filling even further. The pastry needs to be worked when very cold to avoid melting the butter and breaking everything down.

I got the pastry out of the fridge. It was nice and cold now and easy to roll out. I rolled it into the shape of a baking dish and placed it inside. I rolled out another piece of pastry to use as the top. I poured the filling into the pastry and then covered it. I had enough filling and pastry for 2 more pies because Woolie’s pie dish was quite small.

all filled

ready to go

I placed the pies in the middle shelf of a hot oven at 220 degress celsius (gas mark 7) for 30 minutes until the pastry was golden brown. The pies were now ready.


Jua Kali pies

I went back to the room and found Woolie seated at his desk typing away at his laptop. He looked clean and smart and like a man without a care in this world

“What you typing?” I asked…..