During the month of December we celebrate “Jamhuri Day” (Republic day) on the 12th. This year this falls on a Friday and results in a big action filled fun weekend.
Although only roughly half of the population in Kenya are Christians, Christmas or Krismasi is a very special time in Kenya. Most Schools close earlier in the month so there is lots of time for preparations for the big 2 days: Christmas Day, followed by “Boxing Day”.
Boxing Day of course is traditional in England and hence here since colonial days. No one is quite sure about the origins but most believe it was the day one boxed up the unwanted gifts to exchange at the store and boxed all the extra food to give to the poor.
We don’t have the traditional spruce trees that make such beautiful Christmas trees in Northern Hemispheres. So, depending on where we are, we invent and decorate other trees made from whatever can be found: Banana Leaf, Sticks, Thorn trees, Driftwood, etc.
A few years ago one of my “Fundies” (Craftsman) carved a replica of a Baobab Tree which we painted white and decorated. It is a family favorite I want to share with you.
And since this season is all about sharing, I have persuaded my good friend Jane McKeand to share her secret recipe for the best Christmas cake we have ever tasted, so here it is:
- 2 pounds cooking apples
- 3 ounces currants
- 3 ounces sultanas
- Grated zest of 1 lemon & 1 orange
- 1 heaped tablespoon soft brown sugar
- Half teaspoon ground mixed spice
- Half teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 ounces pecan nuts, chopped & lightly toasted
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 4 sheets filo pastry
- 2 ounces melted unsalted butter
- 2 ounces lightly toasted flaked almonds1 ounce white breadcrumbs
- Icing sugar
- Soak the currants and sultanas in the brandy overnight
- Prepare the apples: peel, core and slice thinly into a bowl.
- Mix in the soft brown sugar
- Mix in the currants, sultanas, orange & lemon zest, mixed spice, cinnamon, and toasted pecans.
- In a separate bowl mix the toasted almonds and breadcrumbs together.
- Melt the butter.
- Lie one sheet of filo pastry on a large baking sheet which has been greased…..
- brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with some of the breadcrumb and nut mixture.
- Place the second sheet of filo over the top and repeat as for the first sheet……
- then the third sheet and again the butter, breadcrumb/nut mixture. Place the fourth
- and final sheet of filo over the top and brush with the melted butter. Leave some butter to spread over the strudel before baking.
- Spread the apple mixture down the centre of the pastry lengthwise, leaving a good margin around the edges.
- Fold one side of the pastry over the center, and bring the other side up and over the first side.
- Carefully turn the whole strudel over so that the join is underneath on the baking sheet.
- Tidy the ends by folding under the strudel.
- Brush over with the remaining melted butter and bake in a preheated oven, Gas Mark 5, 190 C, until golden brown, approximately 40-45 minutes When the Strudel is cool dust generously with icing sugar.
NB: The dried fruit can be replaced by 8 ounces of Christmas fruit mincemeat which is readily available in supermarkets in America.
While you are at it you may want to bake two of these, believe me. One never seems to be enough, and there would be nothing left to give away…. I.H.