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What do you get when you fuse the best of Ghanaian, African and Western cuisine? Patti Sloley talks about her mission to bring the best of Africa the West.

What do you get when you fuse the best of Ghanaian, African and Western cuisine? ReConnect Africa speaks to Ghanaian-born Patti Gyapomaa Sloley about her new cookery book, ‘A Plate in the Sun’ and her mission to bring the best of Africa to palates in the UK and around the world.

ReConnect Africa (RCA): What inspired you to put these recipes together in ‘A Plate in the Sun’?

Patti Sloley:So many things inspired me. I’d been thinking about it for some time and it got to a point where it became so compelling, it was irresistible. Coming from a home where my mum always put delicious food on the table to share with a constant stream of friends and family, it is second nature for me to cook and entertain. In the UK, I was surprised at how few people had tried food from any part of Africa and very happy that they always enjoyed eating with me.

I was constantly scribbling recipes on scraps of paper for friends or giving them to total strangers in supermarket queues. Our recipes are usually passed by word of mouth from generation to generation, from family to family and from friend to friend, so there aren’t many African cookbooks about. I also wanted to raise people’s awareness of the many positive aspects of Africa, most of which never get talked about or seen and to share some of our rich, vibrant and sophisticated culture, which my friends were always enthralled by. Perhaps, most of all, I love cooking (and of course eating!).

I also wanted to raise people’s awareness of the many positive aspects of Africa, most of which never get talked about or seen and to share some of our rich, vibrant and sophisticated culture

RCA: Where and how did you develop a love of cooking?

Patti Sloley: Much of the foundation of my cooking comes from my mum’s kitchen, where she shared the what’s, why’s and how’s to cook food that everybody loved. I was lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mum, and had the time to experiment and be creative with a family always eager to taste the next dish.

I like to cook my versions of classic dishes and bring my own interpretation to the table, a fusion of African and Western tastes. Working with Jean-Christophe Novelli is a fantastic experience. He also helped me to understand why it is so important to adjust my dishes to make them healthier without compromising the taste.

RCA: How did you decide which recipes to include in your book?

Patti Sloley: This was not easy as I regularly cook so many variations of so many dishes, but I wanted the book to be an entertaining introduction to African cooking. So I included some of the most popular classics like jollof rice and agushie, and family favourites like Fanti fish stew and guava and plantain pudding. Hopefully it is a balance of starters, snacks, main meals and desserts. There are so many favourites I had to leave out that I think I might have to write a second book.

RCA: Where can readers outside Africa obtain the ingredients for these African recipes?

Patti Sloley: The ingredients I use have been around for a long time in America. In the UK, over the last few years, there has been a tremendous growth in the availability of ethnic foods. Many of the big supermarkets now carry a good range, but my favourite places are African and Asian food shops where I love to chat and exchange ideas. I am always amazed and excited by the huge and growing variety of world foods we now find in the UK.

RCA: How were you able to develop your own career as a chef?

Patti Sloley: This is an interesting question. I like to think of myself as a home cook more than a chef, but I guess it depends on your point of view. Whilst chatting about family and friends with another customer in a nail bar I mentioned I was writing a Ghanaian cookbook. My new found friend’s eyes lit up and she introduced herself as Jean-Christophe Novelli’s fiancée and business partner. After passing Jean-Christophe’s selection process, I now work as a guest chef and front of house at the Novelli Academy Cookery School. It’s a dream job where I get to welcome guests and indulge my passion for cooking, talking and eating with fellow food lovers. Michelle and Jean-Christophe have been good friends, real supporters and mentors.

RCA: What advice would you give to people who want a career in this field?

Patti Sloley: The advice I would give anyone is if you really want it, go for it and don’t let anything get in your way. If it is what you really want to do, don’t give up.

When I started writing the book, I soon realized publishers were not interested in what I wanted to do. I did not let it stop me, and looked at all the other options. It was a long hard journey of research and, with help from my family, we learned new technologies and faced seemingly endless challenges. We learned to either solve or work around each problem as it presented itself. It was hard work, but very satisfying once we developed the mind set of “We can do this!”

RCA: How has your book been received and what kind of feedback are you getting?

Patti Sloley: It is very gratifying to hear so many positive comments from around the world. As well as enjoying the dishes, people are enjoying the anecdotes and the cultural insights they get from the book - my two main objectives, helping people to enjoy our food and sharing some of the many positive aspects of Africa.

RCA: How can readers buy a copy of your book?

Patti Sloley: A Plate in the Sun’ can be purchased from Amazon. I have also produced a kindle e-book ‘Ghanaian Food Pictures’ to share some of the pictures from the book for busy people on the move.

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