“Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen: Traditional Ghanaian recipes re-mixed for the modern kitchen.” By Zoe Adjonyoh. Mitchell Beazley. $29.99

In my kitchen, spatulas double as microphones.

I almost always cook to music. I sing along into my spatula or spoon when I know the words. I dance as I stir.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find a playlist on the pages of “Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen: Traditional Ghanaian Recipes Remixed for the Modern Kitchen” by Zoe Adjonyoh. Early in the book is “A Soundtrack to Cook To,” a list of 27 lively songs by African artists. (This playlist and one other – “A Soundtrack to Eat To” – are available on Spotify.)

“When you want the feeling of being back at home in Ghana, apart from the food itself, having a soundtrack to bring the sights and sounds of everyday Ghanaian life and culture can transform the cooking process from an arduous task into a party in the kitchen,” Adjonyoh writes. “And let’s face it, all parties end up in the kitchen anyway! So settle into this backing track of Ghanaian High-life and Afro-beat to sway your way through cooking and dining, and maybe even bust some Azonto dance moves around the kitchen as you go.”

I pressed play and turned back to the cookbook.


Adjonyoh was born in Ghana but left as a small child. Her father is Ghanaian, and her mother is Irish. The family settled in South East London. Adjonyoh describes the chalé – spicy tomato – sauce her father would make when she was a child. She connected with her heritage through food and taught herself how to cook, building recipes from the dishes of her childhood table and the advice of London’s Ghanaian grocery store owners.

First published in Great Britain by Mitchell Beazley, the cookbook is a friendly introduction to a foreign cuisine. She begins with a guide to ingredients. Her recipes rest on onions, fresh ginger root and chili added to tomatoes, but her helpful descriptions of ingredients likely unknown to American and British cooks take up several pages. She also suggests substitutions and suppliers in London and online. Perhaps it was the catchy rhythm of “Nga Nga” by Ebo Taylor, but as I read, I felt more at ease with the unfamiliar recipes.

The 250 pages in the book are illustrated with photos that made my mouth water, even if I had never heard the name of the dish before. (See Nkruma Nkwan, an okra stew.) Many of the dishes are a fusion of Adjonyoh’s Ghanaian heritage and her experiences in London, like the Goat Ragu that draws inspiration from an Italian friend. Many recipes felt approachable because of their clear instructions and mouth-watering photos, and I chose a recipe for Lamb Cutlets with Peanut Sauce, the sauce Adjonyoh describes as her favorite childhood comfort food.

It took longer to make the dish than I expected. What seemed like a simple recipe actually required two sauces – first I made the spicy Chalé Sauce, which I then used as a base for the peanut sauce. But I didn’t mind the extra work when I dipped my finger into the finished product. It was savory on first taste, then hot and spicy in the back of my throat.

The lamb itself was quick and easy to prepare. A serious amount of cayenne pepper in the marinade gave the meat a kick, which permeated the entire chop. I was delightfully sweaty from the hot summer night, the warmth of my stove top, the delicious heat of the spices and the swing of my hips to “Mansa” by Bisa Kdei.

I am looking forward to visiting one of Portland’s several African markets for some of the ingredients in the book, like the dried ground melon seeds for Spinach & Agushi Curry or the cornmeal banku that look like dumplings, but the spices and peppers I needed for this dish were readily available at my local Hannaford. I found almost-ripe plantains in the produce section – how nice! – so I fried them as a side, a favorite of mine but a rare treat. With Adjonyoh’s easy instructions, I’ll certainly be making them again – while dancing to “Odo” by the Ghanaian hiphop duo R2Bees, of course.


Lamb Cutlets with Peanut Sauce


Cooking times for the lamb cutlets will vary depending on their thickness. As a guide, cook for 2-3 minutes if you want your meat pink or 4-5 minutes if you prefer it well-done.

Serves 4

8 lamb cutlets or chops, about 2 cm (3/4-inch) thick

1 recipe Peanut Sauce (see recipe)



3 tablespoons canola oil or groundnut oil

2.5-cm (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger root, finely grated (unpeeled if organic)

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper



A few roughly chopped roasted peanuts

Sprinkle of finely sliced spring onion (scallion)

Place the lamb cutlets or chops in a dish. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, pour over the lamb and rub the mixture thoroughly into the meat, coating it all over. If you have time, cover the dish with plastic wrap and leave to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the peanut sauce, or reheat it if you have premade a batch.

Take the lamb out of the fridge and leave it to return to room temperature for a few minutes while you heat the griddle pan over a high heat until very hot. Add the lamb cutlets or chops – they should sizzle on contact – and then reduce the heat slightly. Cook the meat without disturbing it (see tip), allowing it to sear evenly and obtain even griddle marks, then flip and repeat. (If you move the meat around during the cooking process, it will be likely to stick to the pan and won’t cook evenly.)

Remove the lamb from the pan and leave to rest for 1 minute before transferring to warmed serving plates. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of the peanut sauce over each of the cutlets or chops, then add a little garnish of peanuts and spring onion. Serve with rice and Simple Fried Plantains with a green salad on the side.



Zoe Adjonyoh writes that she often leaves the peanut sauce to simmer for up to 2 hours so that the flavors really infuse, but that 30-40 minutes is good enough.

Makes 850-900 ml (about 11/2 pints)

1 tablespoon groundnut oil

1 onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon extra-hot chili powder


1 tablespoon curry powder

1 garlic clove, crushed

5-cm (2-inch) piece fresh ginger root, grated (unpeeled if organic)

1 red Scotch Bonnet chili, pierced

3 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts

2 teaspoons sea salt


1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

500 ml (18 fl. oz.) uncooked Chalé Sauce (see recipe)

500 ml (18 fl. oz.) good quality vegetable stock

100-200 g (31/2-7 oz.) organic peanut butter, depending on how thick you want the sauce

8 green kpakpo shito (cherry) chilies, or substitute green habanero chilies

Heat the groundnut oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the onion and sauté over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and curry powder, then add the garlic, ginger, Scotch Bonnet, crushed peanuts, sea salt and black pepper and stir well – lots of punchy aroma should be rising from the pot at this point.


Stir in the Chalé Sauce and vegetable stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Add the peanut butter 1 tablespoon at a time, while stirring, until it has dissolved, then use an immersion blender to blend all the ingredients to a smooth consistency.

Add the whole kpakpo shito chilies to the sauce and leave to simmer over a low heat for at least a further 30 minutes before serving, or leave to cool and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Alternatively, freeze for future use. You can simply reheat as much sauce as needed at the time as a side dip, or create a soup by adding diced yams and plaintain or cooking meat in the sauce for a more substantial meal.


Zoe Adjonyoh writes: “This basic recipe is my dad’s everyday cooking sauce. He would whip this up and literally throw in any type of meat, fish or protein, but it was always tasty. You can just blend the ingredients and store the uncooked sauce for later use, or cook it and then leave to cool.”

Makes 500 ml (18 fl. oz.)


400 g (14 oz.) can tomatoes or 250 g (9 oz.) fresh tomatoes

30 g (1 oz.) or 2 tablespoons tomato purée

1 onion, roughly chopped

5-cm (2-inch) piece fresh ginger root, grated (unpeeled if organic)

1 red Scotch Bonnet chili, deseeded

1 tablespoon dried chili flakes


1 teaspoon sea salt

3 garlic cloves (optional)


1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 onion finely diced

1 teaspoon curry powder


1 teaspoon extra-hot chili powder

Place all the ingredients except the “to cook” ones in a blender and blend together until you have a fairly smooth paste. This is your uncooked chalé sauce.

For cooked chalé sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the onion and sauté over a medium heat for a few minutes until softened. Then add the curry powder and chili powder and stir thoroughly to coat the onion evenly. Add the blended tomato mixture and simmer gently for 35-40 minutes.

Use straight away, or leave to cool then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for future use.

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