Tag Archives: Zanzibar

Second-Hand Car Dealer’s Meat Loaf

When I came back from my six-month stint in Zanzibar I needed a cheap and reliable car so my brother took me to his car dealer’s place in Kilmarnock. I got a lovely 7 year old sunshine-blue Citroen C3 with 12,000 miles on the clock for £3,000. That was less than five years ago and I drove it very happily for three years. Now I go back to the same dealer, Alan, whenever I need to talk car.

The-Secrets-of-Selling-Like-a-Skeazy-Slimy-Used-Car-SalesmanHowever there was an unexpected bonus to my customer loyalty when Alan told me he’d been a butcher in a former life. He still makes his own meat loaf, and willingly gave me the recipe. I have cooked it several times (and so has my brother) and it turns out great every time. As you will see, it’s very straightforward and lends itself to variations in flavouring, seasoning, even meat type; and also, if you fancy, some veggie additions (I usually add a grated carrot or courgette or a finely chopped onion). I’ve made it for my Oldies several times and it goes down very well with them – since it hails from an age of thrift and skill and appreciation of proper food. Alan says he found an old-fashioned meat loaf mould (basically, a tall tin cylinder) for maximum authenticity but I just use a loaf tin.


“It’s easy,” he says, “just five ingredients to remember: a pound of best steak mince, half a pound of smoked streaky bacon, an egg, half a packet of cream crackers crushed up, and a good skoosh of broon sauce. Mush it all up, bung it in a tin, and bake it.”

For readers further afield, ‘broon sauce’ is a Scottish staple, sort of fruity, spicy and vinegary, the most famous brand being HP. But I wouldn’t worry too much about getting the exact ingredient – I’m guessing any relish-type thing would do. ‘A good skoosh’ – well, it’s up to you. I don’t measure it but I think I probably put in a couple of tablespoons.

‘Half a packet’ of cream crackers is similarly vague as packets come in different sizes. I use standard size. Again, I don’t think it matters too much – you want to get all your ingredients into a big bowl and mush it up with your hands, and you’re aiming for a good firm mixture that you can easily form into a loaf shape. The crackers of course help the meat stretch further and they give it a nice texture. Make sure you pulverise them sufficiently before you add the meat because recognisable shards of cream cracker aren’t especially appealing.

Line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper, pat your mixture in, lay another piece of paper on top, then wrap the whole tin in tinfoil. Put it in a roasting tin half full of boiling water, and bake at 170 (fan oven) for about an hour and three quarters to two hours. It slices better if you leave it till the next day. Keep any juices/jelly as it comes out of the tin and use them to make gravy, if you like it that way, and serve with mash and some simple veggies. Leftovers are nice served cold with a bit of pickle and some crusty bread.

Acid Attack

I was shocked by the story of Katie Gee and KiIsrael and Palestine Nov  2012 219rstieTrup,two 18 year old girls who had acid thrown in their faces last week, as they were coming to the end of a month-long stint of voluntary work in Zanzibar.  Shocked but not overly surprised.

The last time I wrote a blog it was from Zanzibar where I spent six months volunteering with VSO.  It was a steep learning curve.   The culture of the island is heavily imbued with its predominantly Muslim faith; with its history as a hub of the Arab slave trade; and with its post-colonial socialist history.  I came to understand that the tourist trade is effectively less than 20 years old – until then there was only one hotel on the entire island, and it was run by the government.  It’s a stunningly beautiful island with enormous tourist potential. However the local people are understandably cautious about some of the implications of tourism.  In 2010, the highest proportion of tourist jobs went to people from Kenya, or mainland Tanzania; yet youth unemployment on the island stood at over 50%.

I was working in a project that aimed to equip local unemployed young people with the starter skills and knowledge they need for working in the tourist industry.  As well as the usual range of subjects (customer service, English language, etc) we also had to address the values issues, such as attitudes to women, gay people, alcohol and states of undress.  At that time, homosexuality was illegal and in the neighbouring country of Uganda it was a capital offence.  Girls in Zanzibar theoretically had the same rights to education as boys; but something like 75% of them had to leave school each year to have their first baby.  You can’t change a culture just by a short training course and the hope of a job; it’s a long game, and meantime the behaviour of some  tourists continues to challenge and antagonise the local people.

I wonder which organisation was behind Gee and Trup’s volunteer placement? Were they given a proper understanding of what to expect, and how they would need to moderate their behaviour to keep themselves safe?  We for instance were advised to keep our shoulders and knees covered in public, at all times.  Don’t hang your underwear out to dry where men can see it.  If you want to go swimming, go to a private beach run by a hotel (which we generally couldn’t afford) because it’s not acceptable for women to use the public beaches, unless fully clothed.

All of this took a bit of getting used to.  Six months wasn’t long enough, and one month certainly wouldn’t be.  I do wonder at the wisdom of organisations that set up such short placements – it leaves volunteers very vulnerable.  Everywhere we went we were hassled by men wanting to speak to us.  In my case I didn’t feel this was a sexual threat, more often it was about money.  But it was unwelcome and unpleasant.

My brief experience of Zanzibar leaves me feeling it’s a bit of a tinder-keg in terms of potential violence.  In 2010 there were general elections for the whole of Tanzania, and VSO evacuated all their volunteers for a whole month around election time – because three people had been killed at the previous election.  Maybe Ramadan was an especially tense time for volunteers to be present.  I never witnessed any religious extremism while I was there but obviously there are risks.  I hope Gee and Trup are able to come to terms in due course with their trauma; but especially I hope that agencies which send youngsters out to dangerous places look to their policies and procedures and consider ways of keeping people safe.