Zoe's Ghana kitchen is cooking
up a storm in London
Zoe Adjonyoh is finally settling down. After several years of festivals, pop-ups, residencies and dinner parties in London and abroad, the British-Ghanaian chef and host extraordinaire has just opened her first full-time restaurant. Brixton, south London is the location for the newly anchored Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, set in a shipping container as part of the just-launched POP ‘community campus’ for small businesses.
“It all started with a groundnut stew,” Zoe recounts of her first foray into cooking for the people, four years back. The setting was the Hackney Wicked Festival – the yearly community arts celebration that happens outside her front door – where she rustled up a street version of the Ghanaian classic made with peanuts and sweet potatoes. After proving a big hit, the London native got to thinking there might be a business in bringing modern Ghanaian cuisine to the capital.
Before focusing full-time on food, Zoe worked in online video production and PR (ever the bright spark, she also studied law at Greenwich University and recently completed an MA in creative writing at Goldsmiths). After her stew success, she visited her father’s family in Accra, where she wandered the markets and absorbed all the tips and techniques from her grandmother that she could. This trip convinced Zoe to pursue her own version of a Ghanaian kitchen in earnest. “It’s all about reaching a new audience with some of the great flavours and ingredients from Ghana,” she says. “I have traditional dishes on the menu, though these are always done my own way.”
"It's about reaching a new audience with some of the great flavours and ingredients from Ghana"
While the Kitchen was popping up at all sorts of venues, mostly in London and Berlin, she was able to hone her skills and have plenty of adventures along the way. One of her fondest memories is the outdoor supper club she hosted in Russia as part of last year’s Decisive Action arts festival in collaboration with the Ural branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Arts. “That was on the next level,” she says. “To be in such an unfamiliar setting with a vast array of people who were so culturally different, and to introduce them to the Ghanaian food was a real buzz.”
The daytime menu at her Pop headquarters is a lot like her current street food offering: “easy to eat in and take out”, while the evening focuses on “reimagined” traditional dishes including nkatenkwan (peanut butter stew with mutton), jollof fried chicken and Red Red Spicy Beans (see recipe below). Pop has the site for three years, and Zoe sees the project as a “safe space to test a restaurant concept. It’s great to be among like-minded small businesses with an interest in serving the community, as well as building something up.”
Communal dining and sharing is at the heart of everything Zoe does. “Social dining –people having a varied yet shared taste experience – is very important for me,” she explains. “That’s why I always offer sharing plates, building on from the supper clubs where I used big platters, and translating that into a restaurant environment. It also means people can choose a number of different dishes from the menu and get a real spread without bursting their wallets or belts.”
Zoe is settling down on the domestic front as well, with she and her partner Leanne Medley planning to get married next year. “Leanne actually does a lot of the cooking at home,” Zoe says of her betrothed. “She turns out a lot of Indonesian and Indian-inspired dishes.” Luckily for friends of the couple, the enormous wooden dining room table at their loft has room for 20 guests. Originally built by a friend for a project where they installed a Ghanaian-style chop bar (roadside eatery) in a Diesel flagship store, she then decided to bring the table home: “I love having lots of people over for dinner so it’s perfect – and really useful for the supper clubs too.” With the Ghana Kitchen finally getting a permanent home, it’s high time everyone takes up a welcome seat at Zoe’s table.
Zoe’s Red Red Spicy Beans
"This dish is so simple to make and tastes delicious any time of day, either as a side or a hearty stew. I love it with Kelewele fried plantain, but I have been known to eat it for breakfast with fried eggs too."
- Tomato sauce base:
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 6 - 8 large tomatoes, chopped
- 200g tomato puree
- 1 scotch bonnet, deseeded and diced
- 1 tsp salt
- 400g Black Eye Beans drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp cups palm oil
- 1 small cooking onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- Blend all the ingredients for the tomato sauce until they reach a smooth consistency.
- In a heavy-based pan, heat the palm oil until it melts.
- Add the diced onion to the pan and sauté until translucent, then add the curry and chilli powder and stir in.
- When the spicy onion mixture has turned golden, add the tomato sauce base and stir through. Leave this to cook on medium heat for 20 mins.
- Add the beans and turn down to a low-medium heat, and cook for a further 15 - 20 mins, stirring through occasionally so the beans don’t stick to bottom of pan.
- Add salt to taste if necessary – serve with gari (ground cassava) and Kelewele fried plantain.
"This dish is best when the beans are very slow-cooked, so normally I leave the mixture to simmer for 1 - 2 hours on a low heat. If you are in a hurry then it’s fine to serve this after the cooking time stated here - really you just want the sauce to lose the tangy raw tomato taste."
Words Ananda Pellerin
Photography Neil Wissink and Chris Coulson
Visit Zoe's Ghana Kitchen