29th January 2019
Going Ghanaian at the Ghana Supper Club
For a taste of West African delicacies, there’s only one place to go in Tunbridge Wells – here’s why it’s a dining experience to remember…
It’s taken too long – tragically so – for African (in this case, West African) cuisine to make its way into the UK mainstream. As umbrella terms go, this is a large one; the continent is filled with diverse and vibrant approaches to ingredients and cooking, so let’s narrow it down for the purpose of this blog: Here, we’re talking specifically about Ghanaian food.
It would be easy to consider London the best option for a taste of Ghana if you’re based in west Kent. Indeed, you’d be wise, as the capital is increasingly embracing the country’s delicacies through its food stalls and restaurants. But luckily for residents of Tunbridge Wells and beyond, you can save on the train fare.
The Ghana Supper Club is a twice-monthly, Tunbridge Wells-based parade of flavour, music and culture. Launched by foodie fanatics Adwoa Hagan-Mensah (Adj, for short) – a Ghanaian native – and Victoria Andrews, this trailblazing night out is spearheading the charge of bringing West African dining events to the Garden of England.
We’re new to the supper club trend. Although they frequently collaborate with venues such as The Plough at Ivy Hatch near Sevenoaks, and The Bicycle Bakery and Gin & Harvey in Tunbridge Wells, this particular dinner party is being held in Victoria’s own home. Some might be nervous about turning up at a perfect stranger’s house for tea, but you needn’t in this case.
Adj and Vicky are beautifully open and natural hosts – all warmth, smiles and welcomes. As soon as we arrive, they’re taking our coats, serving us drinks, and talking in a way that makes us feel like we all went to school together.
With Ghanaian drums beating in the background, and the ‘Ghana Girls’ sporting patterned dresses reminiscent of the country itself, we’re treated to a sit-down meal showcasing the talent and creativity of chef Adj. The dinner is six courses strong and served promptly.
Course one: Nkatenkwan
We read that there’s a proverb among the largest ethnic group in Ghana, the Akan: ‘The good soup comes from the good earth’ – and on that note, we start with the Nkatenkwan, an African peanut soup.
It could be considered an unusual combination of ingredients – peanut and tomato don’t make for obvious bedfellows – but the history books claim that the recipe was developed around the same time that a disease swept African cattle with the emergence of the tsetse fly, limiting dairy supplies. The soup is addictive, polished off quickly, and packs a definite punch.
Course two: Okra
Next up is Okra – or ‘ladies’ fingers’ – a flowering plant from the mallow family. These green pods house seeds that create a slimy texture, which Adj has spent the day painstakingly removing by hand and replacing with corn, catering for the vegans and vegetarians among us. They’re deep-fried, delicious and drizzled in sweet chilli sauce.
Course three: Plantain
For the traditional Ghanaian household, plantain and beans are staples at Sunday dinner or lunch, so deservedly appear the menu. Normally, plantain would be fried – the more customary method – but Adj has chosen to roast them on this occasion. The difference? Roasting keeps it sweet, but is a far healthier method. It’s served up with a black-eyed pea stew and makes for a moreish vegan dish.
Course four: Koose
Koose is essentially a black-eyed pea fritter – a popular West African dish that’s also a regular in Brazil and Cuba. This evening, our chef has ground black-eyed peas into a flour before mixing it with onions, Scotch bonnet and ginger, and shallow-frying it. Introduced originally by the Hausas, who predominantly live in Nigeria and some parts of West Africa (including Ghana), it provides the perfect outer crunch, while maintaining a moist flesh. It’s served tonight with baked (gasp!) coleslaw, smoked maceral and garlic mayonnaise.
Course five: Chicken stew served with Jollof rice
Adj claims that if you walk into a Ghanaian household and they don’t serve Jollof rice, just leave – there’s clearly something wrong. This is the West African answer to Paella, and is dished up with a slow-cooked chicken stew mixed with ginger, rosemary, Scotch bonnet and spinach. Our hosts join us for this course (they’ve earned it, after all), and for us, it’s the highlight of the meal.
Course six: Alphonso mango tart
Alphonso mango is a particularly rich, sweet and flavoursome fruit, originally from India, whose creamy texture is ideal for the finishing touch of dessert. This course isn’t overly common in Ghanaian gastronomy, as fresh fruit usually does the trick on its own, but Adj puts on a show nonetheless, ending as she begun – with a real winner.
The Ghana Supper Club experience is one that you’d expect from a night at your favourite restaurant, while the plating and presentation wouldn’t look out of place in a top kitchen. It’s rare that I say this, but the evening is an absolute steal at £35 per person. You’re expected to BYOB, which isn’t a problem at all, but perhaps pairing is something they could look at incorporating in the future.
Needless to say, we’re gaga for the Ghana Girls.