Cooking with MSF: Sierra Leone Cheesecake

9 Jul 2017
Blog post
Related Countries
Sierra Leone

Chris Sweeney is a nurse on his second assignment with MSF. He's currently in Sierra Leone working with children under five as part of a mother and child health programme run by the Ministry of Health. Here he teaches us how to make a tasty cheesecake, using limited ingredients and a little ingenuity...

To make a cheesecake MSF-style, you will need the following ingredients:

• One skinny Scotsman, preferably named Chris.
• An MSF t-shirt to use as apron. You don’t want to dirty one of the two shirts you brought with you on assignment, after all.
• Two metal tins: one smaller that can fit in the other. The larger tin shall act as a water bath, or, for those who heeded MSF’s advice that learning French would be a good idea, a bain-marie.
• 45 cheese triangles - and a supermarket that sells them.
• White chocolate. Or dark chocolate. Or whatever chocolate someone is kind enough to bring to the assignment.
• Somewhere to hide the chocolate so it doesn’t get eaten.
• Half a pack of digestive biscuits. (If you don’t have digestives, use a flour, butter, and sugar base – just remember to sieve the flour to remove all the beetles and larvae).
• Butter or margarine.
• Sugar, best placed in the sun to get rid of the ants.
• Three eggs. These can be laid by the hen you named after the last midwife, or you can buy these at the market.
• Vanilla extract.
• Condensed milk.


1. Mix the ingredients for your biscuit base and press into the foil-wrapped love–heart-shaped tin.

2. Turn on the gas oven. It has two settings; “is the oven working?” and “I can’t enter the kitchen because the stove is propelling heat across the room like a jet engine”. I recommend the second option.

3. Place a thick tray on the bottom shelf so that the flames don’t touch the cheesecake, but instead lick around the tray.

4. Unwrap cheese triangles. At triangle 30, start to think this was a bad idea.

5. Beat the cheese. After 30 minutes of profuse sweating in the 40 degree kitchen, a colleague will see you and share that there is a blender in the cupboard.

6. Place beaten cheese into the blender with everything else (minus the chocolate).

7. Apologise to your colleague who cannot hear her Nigerian soap operas because the blender sounds like a motorbike.

8. Melt chocolate by taking it out of the fridge. Squeeze into the mix.

9. Scoop the mix onto your biscuity base. Place on the middle shelf of the oven. Switch oven off after one hour and leave it in there for one hour without heat. Don’t ask why this second hour is important – it is Google’s advice.

10. Leave in fridge overnight.

11. Present the cheesecake and tell everyone there is afternoon tea.

12. Listen to colleagues remind you that you’re British.

And there you have it! Your very own cheesecake, MSF-style!