Things

Inside Zoe Adjonyoh’s Kitchen

24th April 2017

Interview: Rebecca May Johnson
Photographs: Dan Dennison

The chef and food writer on Ghanaian hot sauce, gaudy fridge magnets and the inspirations for her cookbook

INGREDIENTS

Wild Welsh honey
Zoe keeps her honey in a Hellmann’s mayonnaise jar. “My friend in Cardiff [Chris Adam] gave this honey to me – you have to taste it! He puts beehives in random locations in Cardiff and then collects the honey, and each place has its own distinct flavour.”

Shito »
“This is a hot [fish] sauce you have with everything in Ghana, we make and sell it at the restaurant now too. It’s fishy, spicy. I started making it as soon as someone wanted to buy one. Marinate meats with it, grill meats with it. I eat it at home with decent mature cheddar. It’s Ghanaian marmite innit!” – Zoe

Guinea peppers
“They have that kind of nutmeg thing to them, but I use them in palm nut stew and light soups.” – Zoe

OBJECTS

“Zoe’s Peanut Butter Stew” sign
Zoe has the sign from her first-ever pop-up on the wall of her flat. “[Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen] started here, in 2011 outside the flat during Hackney Wick arts festival… I didn’t have anything to do and so on the morning of the festival when I saw it was heaving and I thought, ‘Oh my god I’m going to sell something, make a peanut butter stew, make a sign.’ The sign is still here up on the wall.”

Fridge magnets
“I collect fridge magnets and they have to be tacky and gaudy and gross and I love them.” – Zoe

A good, heavy-duty non-stick pan
A seemingly non-descript pan in Zoe’s kitchen has a rich history. “This pan I love, it’s from my great-aunt Maureen who’s Irish and had a wonderful collection of cookware. It’s one of those pans, it looks a bit cheap and like it’s going to be shit like it will burn things, but it’s not, it’s a really good, heavy-duty non-stick pan and it’s brown – I like everything that looks like it’s from the 1960s or the 70s.” – Zoe

Bread bin
“I like my bread bin when it’s full of nice bread, which it isn’t at the moment.” – Zoe

Spice jars (with homemade labels)
Zoe has an enviable array of spice jars on a shelf, each jar labelled with its contents. “My ex-girlfriend Leanne had a label maker and it was a very smug moment when we did that.”

BOOKS

Afro-Vegan, Bryant Terry »
“He’s a big dude in America, basically last January I was like, ‘I’m going vegan for January, so what can I do?’ I was trying to eat out vegan and was surprised at how difficult it was. This book has lots of southern recipes, so you can get lots of dirty food.” – Zoe

Persiana, Sabrina Ghayour »
A book of Iranian recipes by the bestselling London author – and Gannet interviewee. “It’s got some great recipes and it’s a type of cuisine I wouldn’t go towards unless somebody was guiding me. Also, in terms of how a book could look or feel, it was kind of how I wanted my book to look.”

The Art of the Restaurateur, Nicolas Lander »
The FT’s restaurant critic reveals the hidden stories behind some of the world’s best restaurants. “It’s process and knowledge of a niche thing, a bit geeky, which I am. It gives a guiding hand in an area I literally knew nothing about.” – Zoe

South of the Sahara, Elizabeth A Jackson »
“An ex-girlfriend Jasmine’s mum worked in a charity shop in Lewes and she found me this book in the shop and pinched it for me – she was one of the first people to tell me I should start a restaurant. It’s written by a white woman clearly, and it’s quite generically west African recipes, but it was something.” – Zoe

Eat, Nigel Slater »
“I like the texture of it, I like the size, I like that it feels solid. I like that he’s done this style, I like that it breaks form from a typical recipe book.” – Zoe

A delivery arrives with two food books at the end of the interview…

Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Tastebuds, Yemisi Aribisala »
“She’s writing about food in an interesting, new way,” says Zoe. “I am really excited about reading this.” (We recently ran a Q&A with Yemisi.)

The Groundnut Cookbook, Duval Timothy, Folayemi Brown, Jacob Fodio Todd »
The cookbook from another successful London supper club showcasing West African food. “I didn’t allow myself to buy this until I finished my own book. I know these guys, they actually came to one of my first pop-ups and I didn’t want to be influenced by them and so I didn’t look at it.” – Zoe

Posted 24th April 2017

In Things

 

Interview: Rebecca May Johnson
Photographs: Dan Dennison

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