Tag: vegan

Eat of Eden – the Caribbean vegan eatery


Should I be embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard of Veganuary until I saw the advertisement on the London Underground (subway) at the end of December 2017? Well I’ve admitted it now and just glad that I came across this social movement. It’s opened my eyes to so many things about food, health and animal welfare.

I ate relatively healthy, but after my mum’s cancer diagnosis (she is in the clear now, praise God), my family decided to walk with her on a healthier lifestyle journey. I follow a few vegans on Instagram but didn’t think it was something I could do myself. I only have one vegan friend and it (going vegan) seemed to be something other people did. After watching the Netflix documentary ‘What the Health?’ (I know, I’m probably late to the party on this one too!), I had all the fuel I needed to try veganism.

I signed up to Veganuary and received all the helpful daily emails and recipes. I can’t say it’s been easy, I probably should have gone vegetarian first, but I thought it’s only for a month so I’m just going to do it! I had to be organised and think about what my vegan meals would be for each week, so it did feel like a bit more effort than before.

I was keen to find good vegan food places that were not high street chains, for the days I just couldn’t be bothered to make something myself. On my quest, I came across a new Caribbean vegan eatery in South London. I don’t know why I was a bit apprehensive before my first vegan takeaway, but I was. Anyway, I walked into the intimate Eat of Eden setting and went through the menu with the waiter.

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Eat of Eden in Brixton Village

I ordered a platter because I wanted to try a bit of everything; that way if I didn’t like something I would find out then rather than later. I can honestly say I enjoyed everything, but if I had to pick two things I would definitely recommend the pumpkin curry and seaweed fritters – they were just yum!

I know a lot of people associate Caribbean food with heat / pepper / spice, however, the food was savoury but still had the signature Caribbean flavours. The spice level is fine for any palate and there were people from a range of ethnicities there. I make that point because sometimes I feel ‘people’ think Caribbean (or African) food is just for black people. I want to dispel that myth as I think food is food and for everyone. We don’t think Chinese food is just for Chinese people – If you live in the Western world I’m sure you’ve had a Chinese takeaway more than once! While I’m happy to see more independent Caribbean and African food establishments become a permanent feature on the UK food scene, I also want to see people from other ethnicities embracing Caribbean and African food because it’s amazing!

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Eat of Eden box 1 – Chickpea and pumpkin curry, callaloo, ackee, ‘macaroni’ pie, red African rice and quinoa (underneath)

Eat of Eden is a small spot with al fresco dining (only 5 tables inside), which isn’t ideal during winter but after tasting the food I understand why it’s popular. The staff were helpful, the service was timely and now I’ve found this little gem I’ll be going back and taking some friends with me to! If you are in South London and feel like trying some wholesome Caribbean plant-based food, Eat of Eden is your spot.

 

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Eat of Eden box 2 – plantain, seaweed fritters and lentil stew.

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Fine dining with Eat Jollof London


Being one of five girls, my mum insisted I learn how to cook if I wanted a man to marry me! I’m Ghanaian, but grew up in East Africa, cooking Ethiopian, Ugandan and Kenyan food for my siblings. I’ve been cooking for my family forever! Says Adwoa Hagan-Mensah, founder of Eat Jollof London.

EJL adwoa hagan mensah

When did you start cooking for others?
At university, I cooked for friends who really liked my food. Rather than getting a traditional part-time job, I created flyers with menus and posted them around university. I got orders really quickly, then started cooking and delivering classic student meals, like lasagne. As popularity increased I introduced some Ghanaian dishes and people ordered them too, they became best sellers!

Did you study a food related degree?
I went to boarding school in Bath, England, but left without any qualifications. I felt terrible, letting my parents down after they invested so much in my education. Anyway, I managed to go through clearing and get onto a Hospitality and Management course. I then converted to a Business Management degree and found out after being tested, that I was dyslexic.

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Eat Jollof London – Jollof!

Our food is delicious and beautifully garnished.

Did you go straight into the food industry after university?
I actually went into recruitment, but didn’t enjoy it. So, I quit that job and started a Ghanaian street food stall in what is now a very popular food hub, Broadway Market (with my boyfriend, now husband) in Hackney East London. This was 15 years ago when there was no buzz around West African food in London!

Was it hard to get customers when you first started the street food stall?
No. We got our first wedding client, a Scottish couple from our street food stall, which was called Jollof Pot at the time (renamed as Spinach & Agushi). The demographic of our customers then was about 70% white European.

Our African and Caribbean customers used to come along to the stall and ask, “do [white] people actually buy your food?”

You’re no stranger to TV, are you?
[Laughs] We were on BBC’s The Restaurant, hosted by Raymond Blanc and Sarah Willingham (Dragons Den). It was like the Apprentice for food entrepreneurs. We didn’t think we’d last that long, but it was a way to test the market. The concept was to start a restaurant from scratch and perform a challenge each week. We came 4th out of 12 couples, which was great especially as we were representing West African Food and felt we had more to prove.

Describe the structure of your growing food empire?
Street Food…
My husband runs the street food stall Spinach & Agushi (formerly called Jollof Pot), with outlets in Portobello Market, Exmouth Market and our flagship at Broadway Market in East London. We changed the name after going on The Restaurant show. For African food to reach the masses the way Indian and Chinese food has, we make the taste palatable to the masses, while still maintaining some traditional flavours. Our food does taste different across our brands.

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@SpinachAgushi

 

Can you maintain your Ghanaian roots and appeal to the masses?
Absolutely, we do this across our three brands and our West African clients who recognise the flavours give us great feedback.

Luxury catering…
 Our luxury catering company is Eat Jollof London (EJL). We do a lot of corporate events for various companies and individuals. We’ve catered for fashion designer Ozwald Boateng, TV personality June Sarpong’s MBE party, Amnesty International, World Vision and UNICEF. The name (EJL) came about because Jollof (originating from Senegambia) is synonymous with West Africa and we are a West African catering company.

EJL confit duck
Confit duck, with tatale (plantain fritters) and pickled vegetables @EatJollofLondon

One of our summer dishes is a duck confit salad and tatale (Ghanaian plantain fritters) and thinly cut yam chips.

Recently we did a wedding between a Nigerian and Jamaican couple and made Ackee & saltfish stuffed dumplings and had a fusion menu, blending the two cultures.

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Ackee and saltfish stuffed mini dumplings @EatJollofLondon

 

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Mango cheesecake and rocky road made with Ghanaian chocolate @EatJollofLondon

Fine dining supper club
Tunbridge Wells, where I live, is a quintissential English town. When we moved there, neighbours would ask me about Ghanaian food. So the Ghana Supper Club, was born. It’s a five course supper club at my house that I run with a friend. It’s grown so much that we even have people coming from Brighton to dine with us!

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@Ghanasupperclub

It’s been such an emotional journey but I love it and seeing other African food brands coming up, is great! Supporting each other and sharing ideas will give West African food more prominence in the UK.

What does fine dining mean to you?
It’s refined, tasty West African food, with traditional flavors and amazing presentation.

Do all your brands have one unifying ethos?
All our brands are approachable and we pride ourselves on excellent customer service, which unfortunately isn’t synonymous with African catering businesses.

Your most popular veggie dish, Spinach & Agushi contains…
Tomato stew mixed with grounded Agushi (melon seeds), ginger, garlic, chili pepper and toasted Agushi seeds as a garnish with fresh baby spinach!

spinach and ahushi EJL
The signature dish, which is gluten free and vegan friendly! @SpinachAgushi

Your most popular meat dish is…
Antelope; a nice lean meat we slice finely across Jollof rice. It delicious!

What’s been your biggest learning so far?
After running Jollof Pot with my husband for 12 years and then losing the business in the last recession, I realised we couldn’t work together. We had two young children and the pressure was just too much.

Anyone who’s lost a business know what it’s like, but you must pick yourself up and move on.

Any exciting developments?
We’re expanding EJL to Ghana! For our London customers were developing a food delivery box service, which will contain pre-cooked meals and also ingredients to make your own meals from scratch.

Keep up with EJL and their food on social media.

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Soursop fruit is supreme


It’s not one of my staple fruits yet, but I’ve been hearing about the amazing benefits of soursop for a while. It’s also been doing the rounds on Instagram.

It wasn’t until a family friend was diagnosed with cancer, and a couple of years later my mother with the same disease that I started looking into this strange looking fruit.

Growing in tropical regions across Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia, the active ingredient annonaceous acetogenins, is said to hold all the power. Soursop’s highest claim to fame is that it cures cancer. Currently there is no medical/scientific evidence to prove this; and all claims are anecdotal.

According to Cancer Research UK, lab test have shown extracts of soursop killing certain types of breast and liver cancer cells. Tests have not been done in humans, so the charity does not endorse soursop as a treatment for cancer.

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Now the soursop power is in my hands! @ads_diaspora Instagram

I thank God that my mother’s cancer was detected early and removed. Our family friend, who has an advanced stage of cancer, was told by doctors he wouldn’t see 2015, but is still alive today. He drinks the dried, powdered leaves of the soursop fruit sent from Ghana. He hasn’t been ‘cured’ of the cancer, but he’s still here and strong enough to stand unaided for at least an hour which wasn’t possible during his latter courses of chemotherapy.

Hamamat’s video made me want to try soursop even more!

It’s not easy to find soursop in the UK and when you do it’s very expensive. It’s ironic because in Ghana, I’ve been told it’s not a fruit that’s revered much. Probably because in the tropics there are so many amazing fruits, soursop is just one of the bunch?

In tropical countries, the leaves of certain fruit and veg are used as food themselves or to preserve / aid in the cooking process. In addition to the anecdotal claims of fighting cancer, there are claims of various benefits of soursop leaves when eaten regularly, including fighting against arthritis, diabetes and gout, to name a few. When applied topically, it’s said to clear eczema, boils and blackheads.

I believe there are natural remedies which can help fight or even cure diseases and will start incorporating soursop into my diet from now on.

If you’ve tried it let me know what you think by commenting below.

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INTERVIEW: Tokunbo’s Kitchen – Serving up a different kind of Supper Club


 

Come alone, leave with friends…My supper clubs have a networking vibe, if you come alone you won’t feel out of place. There are games, communal dining where you share a plate of food and get mingling, says Tokunbo – founder of Tokunbo’s Kitchen.

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Supper Club time! @tokunboskitchen

 

I came out of Angel tube station and immediately tapped in the address of the Starbucks where Tokunbo and I agreed to meet. I have the worst sense of direction and only had 10 minutes to get there, so I didn’t have time to get lost!

But by anxieties where unwarranted, the Starbucks was just across the road from the station and I was 5 minutes early. I bought a herbal tea and found a table. Notebook and pen ready, red record button on my iPhone begging to be pressed. I waited for ten minutes then Tokunbo rushes in flustered and apologetic for being late. Selfishly, it made me feel more at ease because I wasn’t late lol.  Anyway, after big smiles and greetings exchanged we got started…

African food is becoming more popular in the UK, why do you think this is?
Social media! Our generation isn’t shy about documenting their food experiences. People create hashtags like #jollofwars, giving African food publicity!

Why did Tokunbo’s Kitchen start?
My mum taught me to cook Nigerian food from a young age with the expectation that I’d be cooking for a family one day. I saw that you can do so much with it and wanted others to experience it. Friends always commented on my food and I’d spoken with a friend about getting into the street food business. So, I did it!

I love being in the kitchen, making things happen and the freedom of running my own business.

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Hitting the streets – @tokunboskitchen

I do everything myself, so creating a permanent team would help. The hardest part of running Tokunbo’s Kitchen is doing festivals and market stalls – I get around 5 hours sleep, cook, set up, on my feet all day, and do the washing up!

When did you start Tokunbo’s Kitchen?
In 2015 I went to a festival and queued for over an hour for jerk chicken! That’s when I thought I can definitely do this myself, and started Tokunbo’s Kitchen in September 2015.

What was your first Supper Club like?
At my first supper club, I served pounded yam in a communal setting, with a big bowl of Egusi stew (the same way you would get it in Lagos). That way people can try as much as they like. Many Nigerian dishes are vegan based and we cook with palm / coconut oil.

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Pounded yam and Egusi stew: @tokunboskitchen

Nigerian food is a burst of different flavours. I make a chilli sauce as a side, so people can add spice themselves – anyone can eat my food.

What do you think about ‘African fusion’ food?
It’s fine, but I also like to keep food authentic especially when introducing it to a new audience. My non-African customer base is increasing, so I wouldn’t stray too far from my roots. If I did I would lose what makes me special.

What’s Tokunbo’s Kitchen ethos?
Bringing people together through great food, giving them a taste of Nigeria.

african food
@tokunboskitchen

“When people are thinking about what to have for a takeaway I want them to think of Nigerian food and say ‘Let’s go to Tokunbo’s Kitchen and have some Jollof rice’”.

Have you eaten anything interesting lately?
The other day I had suya chicken and puff buns, it was like the Nigerian version of Chicken and Waffles. ‘Suya’ is the name of the popular beef snack but suya chicken is quite new in Nigerian cooking. The spice yaji used to make suya, is very versatile.

Most Popular dish of 2016 from Tokunbo’s Kitchen?
My Jollof, Ayamase stew (with green chili) cooked with palm oil and Iru (locust beans). Akara, which is black-eye bean fritters, was also quite popular last year.

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Jollof! Jollof! Jollof! @tokunboskitchen

What’s new in 2017?
There’s a lot in the works: A meal subscription service, more supper clubs, and pop-up venues across London. My first of the year will be at Craving Coffee on 3rd February, in Tottenham, London. I’m interested in doing a series of networking talks, on running a business, women empowerment and other topics, where of course there will be good food!

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No, those in the middle aren’t chunky chips…its fried yam! @tokunboskitchen

#OyaComeChop! Have a taste of Tokunbo’s Kitchen and keep up with all the food on social media!

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