Zoe ghana kitchen

Zoe Adjonyoh on why we’re all loving African cuisine

With big, fresh flavours and readily available ingredients - get ready for the next big thing

Zoe Adjonyoh on why we’re all loving African cuisine

Zoe Adjonyoh is a chef based in London. She grew up with a Ghanaian father and Irish mother in the south east of the capital, and has always been fascinated by the dishes from her father's side of the family.

Since first serving Ghanaian food to the public from her front garden in East London in 2010, Zoe's Ghana Kitchen has utterly boomed, from supper clubs to pop-up restaurants, to cookbooks and long-term residencies. 

Here, Zoe talks about the African food scene in the UK, what it means to her, and encourages people to try cooking up some African dishes at home.

Every region has it's own style

"Africa is a huge continent, containing rich and very varied cultures. It's tricky to talk about African cuisine in a broad sense, but we can talk about different regions. North, South, East and West Africa all boast broadly different landscapes, and in some areas there's a huge influence from colonial occupation and spice routes throughout history.

"East African cuisine has been influenced by Indian cooking and spices, whereas cooking in the North East region (Ethiopia and Eritrea) contains more aromatic and fermented flavours with influences from Italy, which you probably wouldn't expect. 

"Then you have West Africa, whose cuisine has gained popularity in the UK recently and we've become more aware of what that food involves: lots of pulses and root vegetables, lots of greens and meat prepared quite simply. 

"Go down to South Africa and you've got a very different cuisine again because there's been such a European influence from the Germans and Dutch. Then, of course, there's Moroccan food - tagines, cous cous, almond pastries and mint tea - that's been popular in the UK for a while now.

"It's amazing just how diverse and rich the food offering across Africa is, and much of this food is largely yet to be explored in the British and European food scene, which makes for an exciting future."

African cooking in the UK

"When people have emigrated from West Africa to the UK, they've been cooking as a reminder of home for themselves and other people who've emigrated within their community. There are lots of West African restaurants in London, but my experience of them has been that they are very much focussed on feeding that community rather than opening it up to a wider audience.

"There aren't many faces in the food media that represent African cuisine - or haven't been in the past. In recent years, people like myself, the guys from the The Groundnut and Pierre Thiam have all decided to represent West African food and flavours in the UK in a way that's accessible to an audience that includes that community, but also outside of that community. 

"Many of us are second- and third-generation immigrant children who have grown up in Western environments thinking 'why is my food not represented?'"

The next big thing 

"I've been talking for a long time about being on the cusp of an African food revolution and I think that we're starting to arrive at that point now. 

"I think it comes down to a combination of things: it's the media giving a voice to people who are cooking this food and giving them the platform they need (whether on social media, on TV or on the general food scene) in order to show people where they can go to try African food. It's been a slow, slow process, but it's happening. 

"At Zoe's Ghana Kitchen, I simply cook the food that I love because it reminds me of that part of my heritage and culture. I'm not trying to market to anyone in particular, I just want to cook honest, good food with a West African influence and I think that's why my customers like to come back time and time again."

Cooking at home

"I love cooking and working with African ingredients - the robust flavours and the diverse produce. At Zoe's Ghana Kitchen, we're always striving to repurpose those flavours and ingredients in new, and hopefully exciting, ways. It's this versatility that I hope gets the public excited about African cooking.

"A lot of African ingredients - like yams, okra and plantain - are widely available and easy to work with, but many people have probably never cooked with them. I love working with these vegetables as there are so many flavours and other ingredients they work well with, like okra in this seafood soup."

Inspired to try your hand at some African-inspired dinners this week? Check out some delicious recipes from across the continent here. Make sure to stock up on everything you need at Asda or pop into your lcoal store.