How A Former Banker Launched The First App Dedicated To African and Caribbean Food in The UK

Vivian ChopstreetsVivian Ngwodo is part of a new generation of women, particularly women of African descent, who are using technology to take ownership of the entrepreneurial landscape. Born and raised in Nigeria, Vivian has always been a solutions provider, a problem solver and lover of food. In 2010, Vivian resigned from her Foreign Operations job in one of Nigeria’s major banks and embarked on a journey to Scotland to pursue a Master’s Degree and began her career journey in the U.K financial industry. She relocated to London in 2012 to start a new job and was excited at the fact that being in London also meant having more access to her beloved Nigerian food. However, Vivian soon discovered how difficult and frustrating it was to find Nigerian or other African restaurants in London. Even though she quickly adapted to British and Asian foods which were readily available, once in a while, she craved Nigerian food and wanted to introduce her friends to it as well.

When Vivian realized that there was very little visibility or recognition of African and Caribbean restaurants she was inspired to launch a restaurant blog and a super directory where she reviewed and listed African and Caribbean restaurants and food business from across London in 2014. By 2015 and 2016, there was a sudden rise in African Supper Clubs in London and Londoners were excitedly looking to try the exotic and diverse flavours from the African continent.  Whilst undertaking an internship with a digital media company, Vivian began developing a Location based app that would make it easier for people from all ethnicities to find & review African and Caribbean restaurants.

Chopstreets is an exciting new social app, the first of its kind in the UK dedicated to Afro-Caribbean food that finds and curates the best African and Caribbean restaurants, takeaways, pop-ups and supper clubs. With the social networking feature, users can eat their way around the African continent and taste the delicacies of The Caribbean. Now people can instantly see African and Caribbean food recommended by their friends and contacts and event share their own dining experiences.


‘African and Caribbean cuisines have been under-represented for far too long and I am on a mission to make them famous by using technology to provide a platform for people to discover Afro-Caribbean cuisine easily and also set a standard for the Afro-Caribbean food industry in the U.K. My vision for Chopstreets is that it becomes an active social network for both African and Non-Africans as I believe eating is a social activity and the best friendships are made over food.’ – Vivian Ngwodo, Founder of Chopstreets

Vivian’s innovative solution will make African and Caribbean Cuisine more accessible to the wider culinary world and change the way people view African and Caribbean cuisine forever.

Instagram: @chopstreets
Twitter: @chopstreets


Small Plates With a Big Taste At VOC Cocktail Bar and Restaurant

I was recently invited back to VOC Cocktail bar and restaurant which I had the pleasure of visiting a while ago. This foodie gem in a hidden courtyard located away from the hustle and bustle of Kings Cross is definitely worth a visit.

The new menu is inspired by the traders and adventurers of the 17th Century. It takes diners on a culinary adventure of small plates across three key territories: ‘From the Sea’; ‘From the Land’ and ‘From the Field’. By encouraging diners to select 2-3 small plates each this concept encourages communal dining in a warm and cosy environment.

Upon arrival we experienced a lovely warm welcoming which I could see was extended to all guests of the restaurant not just because I was an invited guest.

We enjoyed some lovely welcome cocktails. I went for a Raspberry Shrub which is bottle
matured for at least one week and is made using Pampero Especial with fresh lemon juice, honey and fresh raspberries. It is a sweet cocktail which I enjoyed and I particularly like the way in which it was presented. My friend enjoyed The Butterfly which consists of Spiced rum, ginger liqueur & coconut, topped with ginger beer & served with dried lime & a splash of liquorice which was not too sweet and had a great ginger flavour.

From the menu we selected six dishes, two from each territory. From The Sea we selected: Sea Farer Batativa Scallops with Dutch Gin, Baby Greens and Tomato Salsa, Garlic Pan Fried Prawns with chilli.

From the land we selected; Scottish Blackface Lamb, assorted Herb Crusted lamb cutlets served with petite grilled veg along with Grilled Veal Kalbi, Korean marinated veal with wild mushrooms.

From the field: Chargrilled ribbons of Aubergine & Courgette with Feta, sweet basil and lemon as well as Patatas Bravas, cubed roasted potatoes.

Of all the six small dishes my favouries were the Blackface lamb and the Pan Fried Prawns. They were just so perfectly cooked and succulent that you would be forgiven for ordering more. My friend felt that the prawns were too greasy but I really enjoyed them and in that moment you could see why small plates simply aren’t big enough!  The scallops were really well marinated and the veal slices were tender. Whilst I enjoyed the vegetable small dishes they did not stand out, perhaps I should have tried something more unusual like the Salt Beetroot Carpaccio. I shall definitely try different “From The Field” dishes when I return.

Whilst I am not the biggest dessert fan it would have been rude not to taste the sweet treats on the menu! We went for the Chocolate Mousse with Crunchy Gianduia Core and Chocolate Biscuit Base and Pastry Cream with a Hint of Lemon Short Pastry Base. Desserts are not served as small plates but we did end up sharing, I actually enjoyed both but the chocolate mousse was the clear winner.

All in all VOC is a great restaurant for any occasion. There is an attention to detail with regards to the food that means that it is definitely one step ahead of an average restaurant. The quality of ingredients and the creative thought put into creating this new small menu cannot be overlooked. The customer service and atmosphere are really great too. Make sure you take a moment to step into this hidden gem in the heart of London, you really won’t be disappointed.

VOC Cocktail Bar and Restaurant

2 Varnishers Yard, London N1 9AW.

Healthy Heritage Recipes from India and Sweet Inspirations from Pakistan

Review By Lola Agondogo Hegba

The chance to try new food and recipes is too good to be missed and so being sent two cookbooks which celebrate Indian and Pakistani cuisine is a true delight.

Indian food is an internationally popular cuisine, yet it is sometimes considered to be heavy, rich and indulgent. As more people turn to healthy home cooking as an alternative to eating out, there has never been a better time for a fresh and lighter take on Indian food – one that Mira Manek is creating with her vibrant and healthy cooking style in the Saffron Soul Cookbook. With this cookbook, Mira goes back to her roots to show how basic ingredients: the lentils, vegetables, grains and most importantly the spices, are all brimming with health benefits. Inspired by her mother and grandmother’s cooking, Mira’s style of food is a modern interpretation of Indian classics, creating utterly delicious and naturally healthy dishes. If you want to cook a Saffron & Lime Chia Pot, an Indian Summer Salad, a Thali, a Masala Almond Milk or a Mango Shrikhand Cheesecake, Mira’s recipes combine the best of the core elements of Indian cooking with original health-promoting twists. Here is just one recipe that I tried which was easy to make and understand from this well put together cookbook.

Pudla Spinach pancakes with chilli yoghurt
Pudla Spinach pancakes with chilli yoghurt
This is a recipe that has true depth of flavour and such a wholesome taste! The spices work well with the chickpea, a real delight, it was excellent and super simple to do, with a family and a busy schedule this was particularly important for me. I think the next time I will make them, they will have the form of blinis accompanied with chilli yoghurt to add freshness to the dish and enjoy it in easy to eat mouthfuls. It would make the perfect aperitif. With this recipe my family and I made a beautiful discovery which we cannot wait to try again.

Pudla Spinach pancakes with chilli yoghurt

Pudla Spinach pancakes with chilli yoghurt

Saffron Soul by Mira Manek

Pudla Spinach pancakes with chilli yoghurt

The next cookbook I had the opportunity to review was Mountain Berries and Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani. In this cookbook the author shares the exotic cuisine of her native Pakistan, sharing the secrets of her home country’s incredible and varied desserts and sweets. The book is a modern take on recipes inspired by the cultural crossroads of Pakistan, in which she explores the unique significance of the country’s traditions and geography. The 70 authentic and family recipes travel from the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains in the north (where berries and fruits grow in abundance), via the fertile Punjab (with its rice- and grain-based desserts) to the Arabian sea in the south, where saffron- and cardamom-laced sweet recipes are a favourite. Just reading the synopsis made me hungry for more!

Mountain Berries and Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani

Hunza barove giyaling
I was initially surprised by the texture of these pancakes given how few ingredients were needed but it still turned out to be a very good recipe.
Be careful not to put too much water. I added a little more water than expected in the recipe because as I said above, the dough appeared too much thick to me. The pancakes were perfect, true happiness … a real treat!  I was pleasantly surprised two pancakes recipes without egg and without milk! Which makes them much more digestible and light, and very good, perfect healthy alternative particularly if you are lactose intolerant or vegan.

Hunza barove giyaling

Both cookbooks were sent as gifts to review.

Mountain Berries & Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani is published by Frances Lincoln, £20.00

Saffron Soul: Healthy, vegetarian heritage recipes from India by Mira Manek published by Jacqui Small £20.00