because you never forget that funny smell

Category: cooking and baking

King’s treasure and the rogue zero

They arrived at the venue with moments to spare. It had been hurriedly arranged, almost at the last moment. Weeks ago Babu had offered Woolie a pair of tickets to a public presentation by the National Archaeology Unit. The event had been billed as “A show that will blow your mind.”

Woolie had wanted so much to take Rubina to this thing, whatever it turned out to be. This would be quite different. He felt unsure about asking her. He hardly saw her at all these days and when he called her on the phone she was always busy. It just rang and rang. She never returned his calls, which displeased him. He considered, with some irritation, how this new guy at the office opposite had just breezed in and had now managed to take Rubina to the cinema one weekend and then to play tennis, yes Tennis! On the following one. The new boy was clearly a mercenary! Would Rubina really be interested in going to some stuffy lecture about bones and stuff, he wondered. He waited almost two weeks, putting off asking her, like it was some ordeal.

When he finally asked her, just two days before the event, she said it was a lovely idea and she’d love to go. “Yay!” Woolie thought, totally delighted.

So here they were now at the National Museum. They run up the stairs and entered through the big doors to join the others in the beautiful Louis Leakey Auditorium. Once everyone was seated the Director, Professor Aden welcomed them all. She went on to introduce the Curator, Mr Shu Kabatt who drew up to the stage in his electric wheelchair. At his signal the lights were dimmed. The curtain went up and everyone looked at the huge cinema screen expectantly. The curator introduced the show in a deep, steady and sombre voice.

“laaadiees and geeeentle meeeen, it gives me great pleasure toniiiiight to welcome you all as you join us in our first showing of what is a truuuuuuly amazing story.”

The music playing in the background was an instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s Earth Song.

“As you all know, “ The curator continued, “The SafariGone Railway Coorporation won the contract to build and operate a South to North train service between Namanga and Juba in the Republic of South Sudan. Construction work in the Rift Valley was progressing steadily until about six months ago when the contractors reported that they had stumbled upon something quite unexpected.”

On the screen the audience now looked at what seemed like footage taken by the construction crews. The advance party had come to a halt before a dry and rocky plain upon which stood a hillock which was right in the path the proposed railway line. The engineers decided to tunnel through the hill. They had enough explosive to blow up the whole hill if it was necessary. They prepared their dynamite charges, cleared the area and blew open a big hole at the front of the hill. The loud explosion echoed across the plain sending flocks of huge birds flying in all directions. The dust soon settled and the contractors came back to survey the results.

The film footage showed clearly how the dynamite had smashed the large rocks at the front of the hill into small pieces. It soon became clear that the hillock was quite hollow inside. They had blasted open an entrance into a huge cavernous space. The ground sloped gently into the earth as the men ventured cautiously further into the cave. The men wore helmets with powerful torches attached which lit up the cold, damp space inside. The inside was huge, like a large cathedral. The audience were watching open mouthed when the leading men stumbled upon the first human remains. There were audible gasps as the camera panned the cave to reveal more human and animal remains, There were skeletons belonging to humans, goats and camels. Woolie glanced across to see Rubina completely engrossed in the unfolding drama.

Meanwhile back in the cave, the Chief Engineer suddenly blew his shrill emergency whistle and called out. “Stop! Stop where you are. We cannot carry on like this. You, turn off that camera. This is probably an ancient burial ground. We do not want to desecrate it. Don’t touch anything. Let us turn round, right now and walk back the way we came.” The men muttered to themselves but they did not argue. They turned around and walked out of the cave to the bright sunshine outside.

“And this is where we come in.” Said curator Kabatt, importantly. SafariGone were astute enough to realise the gravity of the situation. They reported the discovery immediately to the National Museums and we are able to secure the site. As you know we have executive authority over all areas of Natural, Scientific or Historical interest in the country and our powers can only be revoked by Executive order and Only in matters concerning National Security.”

The next piece of film on the screen looked more professionally done. As Kabatt continued to narrate the story the audience saw a team of archaeologists arrive and take control of the entire hill. They went into the cave again, photographing and documenting all their findings. They retrieved the remains of about 900 men, women and children inside the hill. There were also hundreds of farm animals – goats and sheep, chickens, pigs and cattle, It now looked as if the people had gone into the cave to seek shelter from some natural calamity. Radio Carbon dating put the remains at 1000 years old meaning that the tragic events leading to the deaths of an entire community took place in the year of Our Lord 1015.

The film continued to explain how further investigations by archaeologists showed that around AD 1015 there had been a series of huge earthquakes in this region. The land all around was flattened and some mountains had been swallowed back into the earth. The scientists bagged and tagged the stuff that they found amongst the human remains. One day they came to a depression in the ground. It looked almost like a shallow pit. In the darkness they struggled to see what was inside. The film crew then shone their powerful halogen lamps into the pit. The audience was silent as they beheld the breathtaking view. A deep pit nearly 10 metres wide by 10 metres long and 10 metres deep and full of gold bars. They had found the King’s treasure.

“Take me home, Woolie. I’m tired and hungry.” Rubina said. In the darkness of the auditorium, Woolie took a moment to process this. He had forgotten where he was. The story of the caves and everything had arrested his imagination.

“ Yes, yes of course.” He said. “Let’s go at once.”

They stood up and made their way carefully through the darkened auditorium. In the car Woolie asked, “what do you fancy for supper?”

“ Haha, can you make me something?” I don’t really fancy take away, Rubina said.

“You don’t mean cook right now, surely, Rubina. It’s so late.”

“ Late shmate Woolie, you’re not even working tomorrow you can stay up as long as you like. Unless you don’t want to cook for me.”

Woolie put his foot down hard on the accelerator and said “I’ll make you anything you like, Rubina. Just name it.”

“Anything? Anything at all?” Rubina was not sure if Woolie was being serious. He was driving quite fast now down the highway towards South B, where he lived.

Woolie said, Ok then I’ll make you a surprise dish.
The arrived soon after and by force of habit, Woolie went round the house, drawing curtains and checking that windows were locked. Rubina hung her coat on the hook by the door and came back into the living room.

“I want to help.” said Rubina, “What can I do?”

Woolie opened the glass cupboard and brought out two glasses. There was a bottle of Blue Nun in the fridge and he filled their glasses, rolled up his shirt-sleeves and washed his hands. He found a block of mild cheddar cheese which he asked Rubina to grate.

Woolie found a pan with a heavy base and placed it on the hob on medium heat to melt 80g of butter. He then took 80g of plain white flour and stirred it into the melted butter as Rubina watched. She fished out a whisk from the drawer and passed it to him and he added milk whisking the mixture quickly to produce a smooth thick pasta sauce. Rubina added salt and pepper when the heat was turned down.


“Now pass me the big pan in the fridge, please, Rubina.” In the pan was the Bolognese sauce which Woolie had made earlier like they did in the cookery shows. He brought a large glass pasta dish and started by placing a layer of Bolognese sauce at the bottom.

Pasta sheets

He placed dried pasta sheets to cover the sauce and then poured white sauce over the pasta sheets. He then put another layer of meat sauce and repeated the process another couple of times. He placed a final layer of pasta sheets on the top and covered that with white sauce. He then sprinkled a generous amonut of the cheese that Rubina had grated.

white sauce

all covered


With that done they placed it in the middle shelf of the oven at 180 degrees to cook for 25-30 minutes.

“ Now while we wait for your lovely lasagne, perhaps you can tell me why you don’t call me any more, Woolie.” Rubina was smiling as she said this. Woolie looked puzzled. He said, “I call you nearly every day. You never return my calls. I’ve been wondering about that.”

It was Rubina’s turn to look puzzled. She said, “I haven’t seen any missed calls from you, sir and It is you who doesn’t answer or return my calls.”

“Wait…” Woolie thought a moment and said, “ Do you have your phone nearby?” Rubina nodded. “Call me right now then”, continued Woolie. “I know we can get to the bottom of this.”

Rubina got her phone, looked up Woolie in her phone-book and pressed ‘call’. It indicated that it was dialling and shortly after there was a sound to suggest that the dialled number was ringing, Woolie’s own phone, meanwhile, lay quietly on the table quite oblivious to these proceedings.

Rubina asked Woolie to call her number, which he did and as before the phone made a ringing sound to say the dialled number was ringing but Rubina’s own phone remained silent.

Curiouser and curiouser, they both thought. How does this happen on a Friday evening in the month of May?

Shortly after, Woolie said, “ I must turn off the oven. Look up the number you have under my contact details and write it here. I’ll do the same.”

And just as they thought. They both had wrong contact numbers for each other. The digits were all correct except for one What made this mystery even more puzzling: It was the same editing. The last number had been altered to a zero

Woolie had growing suspicions. He refused to accept that it was just coincidence that his calls to Rubina had been sabotaged soon after the new guy had arrived in the office. How easy was it to edit someone’s contacts via an email application on the work computer, he wondered. They were always walking away from their desks and leaving everything logged on.

Woolie did not want to spoil the evening. They agreed to revisit the problem the next morning.
The lasagne was gorgeous. After they had had two helpings each Woolie brought ice-cream. They retired to the sofa where they settled to watch the late film.

Rubina had been right. They could stay up as late as they liked.

The end

nobody gives up something without a reason

The beautiful restaurant was perched high on the side of a hill. Our party were lucky enough to get a table by the large windows and we were hit by the breathtaking view overlooking the busy high-way many feet below. We watched cars, lorries, buses and matatus speeding away in both directions. We were too far away to hear the traffic noise and the silent picture seemed unreal, like watching telly with the sound turned down. Beyond that and to the south, the huge lake spread away, as far as the eye could see. Continue reading

erstwhile kindly landlady(iii)

Every lie is two lies — the lie we tell others and the lie we tell ourselves to justify it. ~Robert Brault

It was all settled. I would be staying for supper. It was a situation which, when I thought about it, was most excellent; Rubina was said to be a wonderful hostess and her house was warm and comfortable on this cold and miserable evening. I felt honoured to be asked to stay and I was also a little curious to find out what the evening ahead would reveal. I made myself useful and helped with final preparations, tidying up the sitting room while Rubina laid the table. Continue reading

In conversation with Alex

Dear reader today it gives me great pleasure to present a conversation with Alex, The blogger of Kai ni kii fame. This special interview was recorded live using the wonders of modern science. So without further ado, to The conversation.

Alex, hi there!

Hey Woolie.

You run a very popular site on the Kenyan blog scene Kai ni Kii.

Umm, popular is not the word I’d use...

Well it is certainly very well received in many quarters.
Continue reading

Add a bit of spice

On Monday last week a long stretch of the River Thames from Oxfordshire through Berkshire and down to the outskirts of London had 14 severe warnings( with the potential for loss of life) in place and over four hundred properties along the Thames were evacuated. There were fears that thousands more were at risk.

image from dailymail.co.uk

Continue reading

The unlikely host

There are few things that I fear more than driving myself to Nairobi. When I first learned to drive I was living in a foreign country where they all drove on the wrong side of the road. The cars there were funny left-hand drives and that was what I became accustomed to. My sojourn in the foreign land soon ended however and I returned home to find that traffic rules were rarely obeyed and in any case matatu drivers were a law unto themselves. Driving into town became a nerve racking ordeal and to this day I avoid it as much as possible.

My Babu’s office had scheduled an early morning meeting for me last Thursday with one of their lawyers about an ongoing land tussle. The plan was to meet at their offices near the 20th Century down town. Parking anywhere in the CBD is always a nightmare and so I decided to take an early bus into town from my digs about forty miles away on the Nakuru highway. It was just before dawn and still quite dark when I boarded the warm bus. My fellow passengers seemed to be city worker types – all in suits and ties. Many were fast asleep, some with earphones plugged in. To my surprise and delight there were no bags of vegetables or live chickens on board and the trip into town was smooth and pleasant.

The lawyer was waiting for me at the entrance to the large building. She was in her mid-thirties, smartly dressed with a confident manner. We shook hands and she told me that her name was Rubina as she ushered me towards the big lifts. I was delighted to note that she already knew my name and had pronounced it perfectly. She asked whether I had encountered any difficulty in finding them and I replied that her directions on the phone had been first-class. The lift door opened at the 7th floor and we crossed over to her office.

Rubina ordered tea for me and coffee for herself. She was friendly and easy going and we chatted about this and that for a bit. She was expecting visitors at home later that afternoon. Her nephew and niece were visiting from Mombasa all on their own for the first time. They were sensible kids and Rubina had promised to bake them a nice cake.

We settled down to discuss the legal issues at hand and it soon became apparent that Rubina would need to take a look at the actual site that was in dispute. I had brought photographs and plans but Rubina would need to see it first hand before deciding whether to engage the services of a surveyor. I knew that she was right. She said we could go down there right away and I was quite happy to do that. I warned her that the area was at the bottom of a valley where it was always very swampy. She would need some strong wellingtons. Rubina did not see any problem with that. We would stop by her place, pick up her wellies and head off to my shamba. I now realised why Babu had recommended her.

A valet quickly brought up Rubina’s car from the car- park deep in the bowels of the building. She negotiated the city streets with a relaxed ease and soon we were heading up the Valley Road. At the top of the road Rubina turned to join the Ngong Road and after a few minutes we turned off into a quiet lane which brought us to the entrance to her apartment. She eased the car into a parking space and we went together to her apartment on the first floor.

She led the way into the well furnished flat and threw her keys on the table. She offered me a beer got herself one before turning on the pc in the corner of the room. She was looking for some important email when there was a knock at the door. She went to answer it and stood at the door talking to someone for about five minutes.

When she came back I knew there was something wrong. She explained that her neighbour’s boy from the block just across had come to tell her that his mum was unwell. Rubina told me she would quickly pop over to see her and then come back so that we could be on our way to my shamba. I suggested that perhaps I could leave and meet some other time but she would not hear of it. She promised to be back in twenty minutes. She asked me to feel at home and help myself to more beer.

After about half an hour I was getting slightly anxious. She had said 20 minutes. Where was she?. I started wandering about the flat and getting more impatient. Perhaps she had taken the poor mama to hospital. She would be back soon, I figured and poured myself some more beer. I switched on the telly and after fiddling with the remote control chanced upon a Mexican soap. I watched that for a few minutes before switching it off in dismay. I was pacing my beers now – half an hour to each beer. Nice and slow.

Another hour went by and I feared the worst. Should I call Rubina on her cell-phone? I did not want her to think I was unduly worried but she really should have got back by now. And why had she not called me? Here I was all alone a stranger in a strange house. What if someone – friend, lover should come and find me here slowly drinking the afternoon away?

I walked into the kitchen realising that I was a bit hungry. I spotted a couple of chapos in the fridge which I placed on a plate ready to warm in the microwave. Wait. Chapo now and I could say good bye to beer. Ha! The hunger would have to wait. I smiled at my own intelligence and took a long sip of the amber nectar.

On the counter top lay a recipe for the cake that Rubina was going to bake for the children. She had printed it straight off her lappy. I looked at the ingredients list again and performed a quick inspection of the contents of her store. I was in luck – I had everything that I needed to make a beautiful sponge cake.

I don’t know whether it was the beer or just my carefree attitude. I rolled up my sleeves and found an apron hanging on a hook behind the kitchen door. I gathered all the ingredients together and checked the cupboards for baking trays. Hidden in there was a dark green bottle of London Dry.
I blessed Rubina and all the planets and stars and got to work.

The first thing that I did was to mix a little oil with 180ml of cold water and 3 medium eggs.

eggs, oil, water

I then added the cake mix, a little at a time, whisking the whole lot together for about 3 minutes to give a smooth and creamy mixture. I stopped to open the bottle of gin and poured myself a generous glug. It was getting near to the time when the visitors were expected. I needed to move fast and nothing helped to focus the mind like a good gin.

Next I greased the two cake tins with margarine using a piece of grease-proof paper. The instructions say grease the tins evenly and completely – I was in a hurry and the consequences of not reading that bit properly would only become apparent later.

Grease the tins

I poured the cake mixture into the 2 tins dividing it out as evenly as possible. The tins were then placed in the middle of a preheated oven at 160 degrees. I baked them for 25 minutes until they were well risen. Once baked I removed them and turned them out of the tins. The importance of even greasing now showed itself. One of the cakes had stuck to the bottom of the tin and I had to be very careful when reconstructing it.

turning out

I spread some butter icing on the first cake and strawberry jam on the other. I placed one on top of the other to join them together. Finally I dusted the top with fine icing sugar for a frosted finish



the sponge cake

I was still admiring my handiwork when the kids knocked at the door. I had been expecting them so I knew what to do. I got rid of the gin and beer bottles and invited them in, explaining that I was the cook. I told them that their aunt had been held up at work but she had wanted to make sure that somebody would be here to meet them when they arrived. Come and see the cake that aunty wanted us to have when she got back. That broke the ice. Soon they were telling me about their journey and how they had seen elephants, giraffe and baboons on the way.

It was nearly six pm now and I was getting anxious again. Kids are remarkable in so many ways. In a few moments they had forgotten that they were in a strange house. The young boy switched on the telly to his favourite channel. Moments later we were all 3 of us sitting there watching TV quite happily when a completely stressed out Rubina walked in. The kids jumped into her outstretched arms and she was genuinely pleased and relieved to see them.

The young girl told her aunt that cook here had baked a nice cake and could we have some now that she was home. Rubina looked at me and smiled. We had tea with lots of cake. Rubina then told the children that we would all get into aunties car to take cook back to his home.

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