Friday, 10 November 2017

Food Roots Interview: Zoe Adjonyoh

Zoe Adjonyoh
Photo:  c/o Z Adjonyoh


One thing that strikes me when I see Zoe Adjonyoh on TV or when interviewed in magazines is her passion for food, her Ghanaian heritage and the desire to fuse them together.

Bearing this in mind, as relatively unexplored territory on the food scene, Zoe has made it her mission to bring African/Ghanaian food to the masses.

Born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, the writer and cook from South-East London deepened her understanding of West African cuisine after a trip to visit her extended family in Ghana.   There she spent time exploring recipes in her grandmother’s kitchen and at the famous Kaneshi street market, where she met with cooks who shared their own takes on traditional recipes.

Described by The Observer as a “standard bearer for West African food” and picked up by Nigel Slater as one to watch on the topic of immigration food in Britain, Zoe has been enjoying enormous success ever since her first sell-out supper club in 2011 at her home in Hackney Wick.

Zoe has taken her fresh interpretation of classic Ghanaian flavours to pop-up venues across London and Berlin as well as prominent street-food festivals around the UK, including Bestival and Camp Bestival as part of The Feast Collective.

Named as one of “London’s hottest chefs” by Time Out, Zoe launched her first fixed restaurant space in 2015, at shipping container community project Pop Brixton.

Zoe's Ghana Kitchen Cookbook
Photo:  c/o Z Adjonyoh


2017’s highlights for Zoe include the release of her debut cookbook ‘Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ published by Octopus Books as well as her commencing a residency at The Duke’s Head Highgate in London this month showcasing her Ghanaian menu.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen is the spirit of social, relaxed and affordable dining – where guests gather to enjoy Ghanaian favourites, notable for their heartiness and spice.  And if you’ve not had chance to sample Zoe’s food yet, then her interview below will give you a flavour of what you can expect.


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How important is it for you to keep your Ghanaian roots alive? How much of that is expressed through food?

It's incredibly important and very much the heartbeat of everything I do. Ghanaian food was, for a long time, my main access to that part of my heritage and one I've kept alive through my restaurant, cookbook and event catering business. It has been that route to navigating and unearthing cultural heritage that started Zoe's Ghana Kitchen in the first place. 


  
How nostalgic (if at all) does it make you feel eating Ghanaian food?

Food is such a nurturing part of childhood - it can denote safety, comfort, family, love, special occasions and apart from the nostalgic memory of where a special or even regularly cooked dish can take you in time - the taste, smell or texture of food in the present day can jolt you back to those familiar, less complicated times ...

For me - the epitome of this is always groundnut soup.  My favourite dish to eat as a child and still as an adult, the dish that launched my business and nothing compares the spicy sweet piquancy of the dish and with fluffy boiled yams and some simple fried plantain - it just tastes of love and feels like being hugged with each mouthful. My ultimate comfort food by far.



How important is food in Ghanaian culture and do you celebrate calendared Ghanaian festivals with any particular kind of feasting?

Isn't food important in any culture? Of course it is and in Ghana as with many other African cuisines, dishes and ingredients are imbued with meaning, tradition and particular health benefits sometimes too.

Here in the U.K. the main event on the Ghanaian calendar for me is Independence Day and I usually prepare a huge feast of well-known staples and favourites such as Jollof, Red Red, Palaver Sauce, Kelewele, Suya, Hot Pepper Soup, Oto and whole Tilapia with Banku.



What vegetarian dishes could you recommend when dining at a Ghanaian feast and/or restaurant?

Wow, there are so many - palaver sauce, tatale, yele kraklo, oto, okra soup ...



What would be your 'must have' pantry items to replicate a Ghanaian kitchen?

Hmm - well that really depends on your dietary requirements.  If you're cooking stews and soups you're going to want to have a stash of smoked or stock fish to add to a pretty basic holy trinity of onions, tomatoes, finer and fresh peppers - having a good stock of Shito is always a good thing - then Kenkey and plantain will pretty much make any meal for me.


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Notes & My Thanks

I would like to thank Zoe Adjonyoh for her time in participating in the interview.
To find out more about Zoe and where you can enjoy her food, please contact:

Website: www.zoesghanakitchen.co.uk
Twitter: @ghanakitchen
Instagram: @ghanakitchen
Facebook: /zoesghanakitchen


Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen cookbook is available to purchase and is published by Octopus Books.

Address:
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen
Unit S36 Pop Brixton
49 Brixton Station Road
London
SW9 8PQ
Reservations: 07494 746907 or  email
popbrixton@zoesghanakitchen.co.uk

For more information about Zoe’s residency at The Duke’s Head Highgate, please click here.