The Sierra Leone national football team

“Keep dreaming, even when people laugh at your dreams or tell you that they are impossible to achieve. Keep believing in yourself.” Tobin Heath

Leone Stars is the nickname for the Sierra Leone national football team, which was formed in 1949 and played its first international match against Nigeria in Lagos in the same year. During the early years, Leone Stars participated in regional tournaments and friendly matches against neighboring countries.  Sierra Leone gained independence from British colonial rule in 1961, and in the following years, the national team faced numerous challenges due to limited resources and infrastructure, and political instability. Despite these difficulties, Leone Stars continued to compete in regional tournaments, and tried to establish themselves on the international stage.

The 1990s marked a significant period of improvement for Leone Stars. The team qualified for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in 1994, held in Tunisia. Although they were eliminated in the group stage, it was a notable achievement for Sierra Leonean football.

Over the years, Leone Stars have had talented players who have represented the country with distinction. Some notable team members include Mohamed Kallon, Julius Wobay, Ibrahim Teteh Bangura, Kei Kamara, and Mohamed Bangura.

Like many national teams in Africa, Sierra Leone has faced challenges over the years. However, efforts have been made to improve the football landscape in the country, including development programs, coaching initiatives, and infrastructure projects.

Leone Stars have had their highs and lows, but they continue to represent Sierra Leone on the international stage. With ongoing improvements in infrastructure and football development, there is hope that the team will achieve further success in the future.

Leone Star (named after the Sierra Leone national team)

When the Leone Stars play, I struggle to watch. My heart is in my mouth, and I’m too invested.  By God, em power… with the right support and investment, we will improve our football infrastructure and player development, and enhance our competitiveness on the international stage.

I’ve created a cocktail – Leone Star – in honour of our national football team. It is made using star fruit, pineapple, gin, prosecco, and honey. Perfect for pre-match nerves or post-match celebrations, you’ll find the recipe in the Tipples section on page 218 of my cookbook, Sweet Salone.

Inspirational quotes for chefs and footballers, from footballers.

“Surround yourself with good people. Surround yourself with positivity and people who are going to challenge you to make you better. If you just kind of let yourself stay alone and be by yourself, the negative, it is just not going to help you. You can control two things, your work ethic and your attitude about anything.” – Ali Krieger

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pelé

“A champion is someone who does not settle for that day’s practice, that day’s competition, that day’s performance. They are always striving to be better. They don’t live in the past.” – Briana Scurry

“You owe it to yourself to be the best you can be.” – Christian Pulisic

“You can overcome anything if, and only if, you love something enough.” Lionel Messi

“Whatever brings you down will eventually make you stronger.” Alex Morgan

“I don’t have time for hobbies. At the end of the day, I treat my job as a hobby. It’s something I love doing.” – David Beckham

Why ‘Sweet’ Salone?

Sierra Leone is sometimes referred to as “Sweet Salone” which translates to “Sweet Sierra Leone” in Krio. Krio is a Creole language that emerged during the colonial period as a lingua franca among the descendants of freed slaves and liberated Africans who resettled in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. Today, it is one of the most widely spoken languages in Sierra Leone. These diverse groups of Africans brought with them their native languages and cultures, resulting in a mixture of African languages, European languages (particularly English), and influences from Caribbean Creole languages. The interaction and intermingling of these different linguistic and cultural elements gave rise to the development of a unique Creole language, which became known as Krio.

The term “Sweet Salone” is an expression of endearment and pride for Sierra Leoneans, reflecting our affection for our country despite its past challenges and hardships. It conveys a sense of optimism, resilience, and love for our nation. Despite the difficulties the country has faced, including a civil war, mud slide and the Ebola outbreak, the people of Sierra Leone continue to embrace their cultural diversity, natural beauty, and rich heritage. “Sweet Salone” encapsulates the idea that Sierra Leone is a place with warm-hearted people, beautiful landscapes, and a unique blend of cultures, making it a special and cherished homeland.

Looking back

“Granville Sharp’s original Province of Freedom lasted only four years, from 1787 to 1791, but because a succession of freed slaves were able to create their own province of freedom in Sierra Leone during the nineteenth century.  The British who came to rule Sierra Leone after 1791 were unable to do so with consistent and over-all effectiveness, particularly in the area’s of local government and the administration of justice.  The resultant administrative and legal void was filled by the settlers and liberated Africans who were able to establish effective control of the political, economic, and social dimensions of their society.

The contact between the Liberated Africans and the Europeans who came to administer, to trade, to convert, and to teach produced an Afro-European society by the second half of the nineteenth century.  The cultural product of this contact is known as Creole society. 

Creole society has a much wider cultural spectrum than is usually attributed to it; it is far more Afro-European.  There were three groups of immigrants to Sierra Leone before 1807: the Orignal Settlers of 1787, the Nova Scotians of 1792, and the Maroons of 1800.  There were also between 60,000 – 70,000 liberated Africans who were saved from the holds of slave ships trading illegally after 1807 and settled in Sierra Leone. The children of the Liberated Africans are called ‘Creoles’.  There culture tended to be more European in its outward forms largely because of its geopgraphical focus was Freetown.  Creole society also embraced a wide variety of cultural forms which had their origins in the African past of its members.  The language of Creole is Krio, and their staple food such as fufu is not European, but rather indices of the Afro-European cultural fusions which had taken place in society itself.  The Creole then is a second generation immigrant to Sierra Leone, descended from Liberated African parents, whose cultural pattern was Afro-European”. 

Province of Freedom – A history of Sierra Leone 1878 -1870, John Peterson. 

Recipes from the heart of Sierra Leone.

My Cookbook, Sweet Salone, includes Sierra Leonean street food, traditional main dishes as well as Afro-fusion starters and mains. Food fusion is a form of cooking that combines contrasting culinary traditions, techniques and ingredients into a single dish. There are various forms of fusion food, including regional fusion which combines food from different regions or sub-regions.  Food fusion allows experimentation and freedom in exploring a contrast of flavours and textures. Creativity is at the core of culinary innovation. It’s very important to me as a chef to explore and show audiences something new without compromising on nostalgia. I have a keen eye for aesthetics and an imaginative approach to food presentation and my growing foodie audience on social media were eager to learn, explore, and incorporate diverse influences into their cooking.  Over the years I have developed a deep understanding of cooking methods, ingredient properties, and flavor combinations. This enables me to experiment confidently, adapt recipes, and create unique culinary experiences, influenced by my heritage and the schooling of my mother and grandmother.

I attended Leiths culinary school in London, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but the comprehensive knowledge of Sierra Leonean ingredients, including their seasonality, sourcing, and potential uses can only be attributed to my childhood in our Sweet Salone. I embrace the richness and diversity of African ingredients such as grains (e.g., millet, sorghum), tubers (e.g., yams, cassava), legumes (e.g., black-eyed peas, lentils), tropical fruits, leafy greens, and an array of spices and herbs. I like to embrace techniques from other culinary traditions to create innovative and harmonious dishes and I like to enhance, improve and be progressive wherever possible.

At Leiths I learnt a lot about classical European culinary techniques, including knife skills, food preparation, cooking methods, and recipe execution.  These are essential skills for professional Chefs.  This is not say that I didn’t have knife skills, my Sweet potato leaves chopping technique may raise eyebrows or make pulses race, but it is the same one Sierra Leonean women have been using for centuries, and I am quite clear that I learnt to cook in Sierra Leone.  I would ‘play-cook’ in a rusty broken down car as a child and pretend it was my kitchen, I began helping my mother cook from age 8 or 9 and my grandmother continues to inspire me.

I am a Sierra Leonean born Chef and I cook Sierra Leonean food and dishes inspired by heritage.

Therefore, as this book is filled with recipes from the heart of Sierra Leone. It was named accordingly; Sweet Salone.

The first secondary school in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Sierra Leone was the most important education centre in the whole of West Africa for training teachers, doctors and administrators.

The education system that developed in Sierra Leone during the nineteenth and twentieth century was styled on the British education system. It was elitist in nature aimed at urban middle class and focused on the academically gifted, who would go on to tertiary education before taking up positions as civil servants in the government.

The Sierra Leone Grammar School was founded on 25th March 1845 as the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.) Grammar School – the first secondary school in Sub- Saharan Africa. The school started with 14 pupils drawn from students of Fourah Bay College and was housed at Regent Square in a massive building which still exists. This is the origin of the names “Regentonia” and “Regentonian”.

The founding Principal was Rev. Thomas Peyton. On his death in 1853, Rev. James Quaker, one of the 14 original pupils, assumed leadership of the school – the first Regentonian and Sierra Leonean to do so.

Subjects offered within the first century of the school’s existence included English Grammar and Composition, Greek, Latin, French, Bible Knowledge, Mathematics, Science, Geography, Astronomy, History, Writing, Recitation, Music, Agriculture, Physical Education, Printing, Carpentry and Navigation. Additional subjects since the 1950s were Mende, Economics, Accounting, British Constitution/Government, Technical Drawing and Art leading to the wide range of subjects currently studied. There were also opportunities for Football, Cricket, Athletics, Swimming and activities related to Scouting and Missionary Work.

Over the years, the school became famous for the education, discipline and career prospects it provided. With the availability of boarding facilities at Regent Square, the school attracted pupils from various parts of the country and the African continent at large, thus creating the special Regentonian characteristic of dogged determination in the pursuit of goals. It was partly through the quality education provided by the school that Sierra Leone earned the cherished name of ‘Athens of West Africa’.

In 1962, the school moved to the present spacious site of about 50 acres at Murray Town with tremendous opportunities for development. The school has always been responsive to new educational ideas and programmes which have been refined and successfully welded to her basic traditional structure. She has led the way in many fields and development. Regentonians can be found playing leading roles in many spheres of life at home and abroad, thus reflecting the school’s continued commitment to discipline and quality education.

Shwen Shwen Foundation proudly supporting the SLGSOBA Foundation Trust (UK)

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” —Malcolm X.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.

I went to Vine Memorial Secondary School, in Freetown and my Principal at Vine Memorial was Mrs Lasite. She is the wife of Mr Lasite at The Sierra Leone Grammar School.  I am proud to say that Shwen Shwen Foundation is supporting Team Regentonian who are participating in three big sporting challenges this year for Sierra Leone Grammar School Old Boys Association Foundation Trust (SLGSOBA).  These are:

  • TCS London Marathon 2023 – 26.2m
  • Ford Ride London – 100m & 60m bike rides
  • Vitality London 10K race

These challenges are being undertaken to ensure a bright future, embedding STEM learning at the school. All of this is dependent on the continued belief and investment of the school’s donors.  Their science facilities are currently in desperate need of renewal, and the state-of-the-art plans they have to update them, simply won’t happen without the vital donations they oversee. More details can be found here:

Sunday 23 April 2023 in London.  I’ll be there egging them on… I might even get my husband to run for them in 2024.



A wonderful surprise!

On the night I was dumbstruck.  All I could muster was thank you, thank you, thank you.

It was clear to those around me upon the announcement and to those handing me this award that I did not expect it.  I was shocked, surprised, thrilled, elated and unprepared.

So I didn’t say much about what it meant.  I couldn’t.

This is what I wish I’d said:

Africa is the final frontier of food.  Our traditional dishes, ingredients and techniques have been passed down for centuries and yet we can elevate and evolve what we do even further.  We can do that without compromising its authenticity or provenance.  Our food can be fine dining and that’s not selling out and it doesn’t make it any less black, or less African.

This is new Africa!

We are new Africa..

The world is yet to experience all that our content has to offer to contribute to share.   We can do home cooking, we can do casual dining, fast casual, diner, bistro, contemporary casual or fine dining, so let’s not put ourselves in a box, or worse let anyone else put us there.

There’s a lot of talk about migrants in the news and it’s easy to divorce oneself from the plight of others, unless you can to walk in their shoes or even know one.  I am a migrant.

Migration is not a crime, and as a black woman of Sierra Leonean origin trying to make it in the food industry I can tell you it is not easy.  We do face barriers, unconscious bias, and do have to push twice as hard.  I’m proudly African, I am British and I am black.  There are cultural differences, behaviours, beliefs, customs, traditions, language and expressions that are both fascinating and at time challenging, but I know there is a richness in diversity and much to love.

I am also really clear that we must work to eliminate racial disparities and improve outcomes for everyone. Where there is a need we much change policies, practices, systems, and structures by prioritizing measurable change in the lives of people of colour.  Be Inclusive Hospitality was established with a vision to create a Hospitality sector that is Equitable and Inclusive for Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities at all levels.  Their goal is to support the upward social mobility of 10,000 employees and 2,000 business owners from our community by 2026.  Please do check out their website:

So I was thrilled to win the Award for African food.  This is my space.  I am proud to have one it for myself and for Sierra Leone.  I am also proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with BE Inclusive and demand equity, because every person, everywhere, should have an equal chance to live up to their full potential.


The Shwen Shwen Foundation is proud to announce our donation of £1,000.00 to the Cottage Hospital.  The Cottage Hospital is a nickname for the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH), which was founded in 1892 by British Missionaries in Sierra Leone.  This need was brought to our attention by Afro Arts Productions.

We would like to thank and recognise Afro Arts Productions who have been raising funds for Cottage Hospital since 2016.  The need is great and they have been helping with refurbishment of wards and offices, to providing mosquito news and plumbing works.  The Hospital suffers from power black-outs and lack of blood supplies and basics such as food for mothers and babies. The United Nations defines the “lifetime risk” of maternal mortality as the probability that a 15-year-old girl will die at some point from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. Sierra Leone’s figure — one in 20 — is the third highest in the world.  The Cottage Hospital in Sierra Leone requires all the support we in the diaspora can muster.

Afro Arts Productions is a community based organisation in the UK, dedicated to highlighting for recognition, outstanding Sierra Leoneans in all walks of life in the UK.  They also work tirelessly on a number of charitable aims and initiatives and we would like to thank them for their support of the Cottage Hospital back in Sierra Leone.

The Shwen Shwen Foundation

The Shwen Shwen Foundation is not a charity, at least  not yet.  There are plenty of charities, perhaps too many and we feel there is benefit in pooling resources to achieve the most bang for our buck in terms of impact.  Shwen Shwen has become a Micro influencer on Instagram we are relatable to our followers and have an engaged audience because of our particular niche.  Our niche being a black owned business, focused on traditional Sierra Leonean cuisine and Afro-fusion fine dining. With influence comes great responsibility and we take that responsibility seriously.  We will balance purpose and profit and grasp opportunities to highlight three important issues:

Defeat Poverty – As a proud Sierra Leonean, I was born and raised in Freetown.  I know what it’s like to be hungry first hand.  I also know that over 700 million people in our world currently live in extreme poverty and that with collective action, we can change this.

Defend the Planet – The world’s poorest people contribute the least but suffer the most from the climate crisis. Climate change impacts people’s health, ability to access nutritious food, and livelihoods.

Demand Equity – Every person, everywhere, should have an equal chance to live up to their full potential.

The Shwen Shwen Foundation acts in a dynamic way, leverage our influence, raise awareness and respond when the need arises.  So far we responded to the mud-slides tragedy, fuel tanker explosion and now Cottage Hospital needs.  We will work with local partners, established Charities and NGO’s with visions, missions and values that resonate with ours, with causes that are dear to our hearts. In summary Shwen Shwen seeks to be a new kind of business that aims to connect people through food, balance purpose and profit and grab every opportunity we can to work toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose.

We have a sincere desire to support the development, accomplishments, and well-being of others, and are very clear, that we must be the change we seek!

Today, 27th April 2022 is Sierra Leonean independence Day.  There will be a celebration of freedom, nationhood, history and patriotism. Some of us Sierra Leoneans,  both at home and in the diaspora, will once again – as we do at this time of the year – reflect on what freedom has meant for our nation.  And as before, it will invoke all sorts of complex emotions.

We continue to ask ourselves: How has Sierra Leone’s independence worked for us these last 61 years?  Has it even been a good thing?

Thinking about the future, how can we make a greater contribution moving forwards so that Sierra Leonean’s can enjoy the freedom and benefits that being independent should bring. Sierra Leonean’s have been through a lot, but while our hearts beat, hope lingers!

A single thread of hope is still a very powerful thing and on this independence day, I would like to offer a vision of hope.  It’s not what we look at that matters.  It’s what we see!

Imagine Sierra Leone, a country where wildlife thrives, and people can too.

Sierra Leone’s land and seas are rich in wildlife, it’s a country where people can live in harmony with nature.  The economic well-being and quality of life for Sierra Leoneans can be improved if we move to protect and maintain living landscapes, living seas and a society where nature matters, to ensure equity, good health care, consistent education, nutritious food and clean water for all.

The major natural resources in Sierra Leone include mineral resources, land for agricultural production, and tourist attractions.  Sierra Leone is blessed with abundant natural resources but we need to look after them.  The money we make is a symbol of the value we create.  Money flows in the direction of value.   Although a small country we are blessed with something of immense value and it is right under our noses.

Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.  It is something in the world that holds true value.  Not many countries are blessed with what Sierra Leone has and it can be monetized, if we move to protect it.

Imagine the future…

Wildlife, wild places and natural habitats in Sierra Leone will be abundant and thriving again.  They will be a significant, commonplace and everyday part of the countries, towns and cities, our coasts and seas.  Our landscape will be full of flowers and alive with birdsong.  Wherever you are, you will be able to see and hear wildlife nearby, and know that even the most rare, threatened and endangered species have populations that are stable, resilient and recovering in Sierra Leone.

Out at sea, communities of slow-growing species such as sponges, sea-fans and sea-pens will be re-establishing themselves across much of the seabed;  whales, dolphins and porpoises will be abundant and commercial fish stocks will have recovered. Sierra Leone will be recognised as somewhere where people live long, healthy, active and fulfilling lives. Among other things, this will be driven by the quality of our natural environment and our society’s recognition of the contribution it makes to the quality of life, health and prosperity of people living in Sierra Leone.

Human development can only be sustainable if it does not destroy the ecosystems on which people and wildlife depend.  Preventing species extinctions is an enormous challenge and depends on a sound understanding of the complex interdependencies between people and nature.  Even in wilderness areas where there is little human presence, there is still a need to manage and protect wildlife from human effects, for example through protected area management.  Over half of us now live in urban environments, increasingly disconnected from the natural world on which we depend – there is a real opportunity and need to bring humans close to wildlife, to breathe life into cities and contribute to wellbeing and community life.  We need a body akin to a Sierra Leonean Zoological Society (ZSL).   There is another gem that is right under our noses.

Introducing Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

They have been preserving Sierra Leone’s Wildlife since 1995 and can help us achieve a better future.  Located just on the outskirts of Freetown, in the Western Area Peninsula National Park, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary was founded in 1995 by conservationist Bala Amarasekaran and his wife Sharmila.

Initially established to enforce wildlife laws and rescue and rehabilitate critically endangered orphaned Western chimpanzees, Tacugama has grown into a diverse conservation organization.  Caring for close to 100 chimpanzees on-site, Tacugama is also actively engaged offsite in community outreach, wildlife field research, environmental sustainability, conservation education and alternative livelihoods programs. Tacugama is also an eco-tourism hub for Freetown – home to 6 eco-lodges, and a variety of activities for both tourists and Freetowners alike to participate in.  Tacugama aims to be at the forefront of preserving Sierra Leone’s remaining wildlife through education, community support and eco-tourism.  As Sierra Leone’s primary conservation organization, their mission is to use education and community conservation to eliminate the wildlife trade and safeguard the remaining natural habitats in the country. Through law enforcement, eco-tourism, livelihoods programs, and chimpanzee rehabilitation, they are engaging local communities and multidisciplinary stakeholders to secure the future of Sierra Leone.

Can you help?

Tacugama have established a UK Charity in addition to the work they do in Sierra Leone.  Can you help safeguard Sierra Leone’s most cherished wildlife?

  • Adopt a chimp ambassador and support Tacugama’s mission today!
  • Join Tacugama’s growing volunteer programme and make a difference in the world of conservation.
  • Treat yourself to a night under the canopy in one of our six eco-lodges nestled in the heart of the rainforest

Are you in the Sierra Leonean Diaspora?

A country’s diaspora, and the diasporas it hosts, can be a huge asset for its development. We are a channel through which not only money, but also much tacit knowledge, can flow, we are a potential source of opportunities for trade, investment, innovation, and professional networks.  Governments should have a diaspora strategy that builds on natural feelings of identity and affection to cultivate this social network as a powerful source of economic progress.    If we want to harness the value that is under our noses, we can do much more to raise the importance of environmental awareness with our Government and other stakeholders, we can raise awareness of the depth and breadth of wildlife, flora and fauna we are blessed with and the eco-tourism potential it holds.  We can all become ambassadors for our cherished Tacugama and the great work they have been dedicated to for decades, because if they thrive, we thrive.

Please do check out their website and get in touch: 

Maria Bradford 

Be the change we seek!

Introducing the Shwen Shwen Foundation

Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and nonprofits alone.  I founded Shwen Shwen with a strong sense of purpose and that was to put Sierra Leonean produce, cuisine and unique culture on the map.  I wanted to prove that traditional West African cuisine can be fine dining.  Ultimately I wanted to connect people through food, elevate our culture, and balance purpose and profit.  I wanted, inspire my fellow Sierra Leonean’s to take action, and to be the change we seek.

Connecting People through food

Throughout history explorers have landed in Sierra Leone, attracted by our huge resources. Their intentions were not always pure, and transactions not always fair. Inspired by my Sierra Leonean heritage, I’m gathering a new breed of explorers. Foodies, willing to pay a fair price for our resources, genuinely interested in our culture and traditions. They seek new ingredients, new flavours, and see value in techniques that have been forgotten. This new generation are keen to expand their culinary horizons, create new perspectives and cross new frontiers. These explorers will take nothing but memories, yet leave an enduring positive social and economic footprint.

This is about people and food. It’s about connection.

We source high quality producers, create stunning dishes, new experiences and serve them to people with a refined interest in food.  This in-turn will create a platform on which others can build.  We hope to support Sierra Leonean producers, and collaborate with other creatives to improve economic development for a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

Balancing purpose and profit

Introducing the Shwen Shwen Foundation.  We are not a charity, at least  not yet.  There are plenty of charities, perhaps too many and we feel there is benefit in pooling resources to achieve the most bang for our buck in terms of impact.  Shwen Shwen has become a Micro influencer on Instagram we are relatable to our followers and have an engaged audience because of our particular niche.  Our niche being a black owned business, focused on traditional Sierra Leonean cuisine and Afro-fusion fine dining. With influence comes great responsibility and we take that responsibility seriously.  We will balance purpose and profit and grasp opportunities to highlight three important issues:

Defeat Poverty – I’m a proud Sierra Leonean, and was born and raised in Freetown.  I know what it’s like to be hungry first hand.  I also know that over 700 million people in our world currently live in extreme poverty and that with collective action, we can change this.

Defend the Planet – The world’s poorest people contribute the least but suffer the most from the climate crisis. Climate change impacts people’s health, ability to access nutritious food, and livelihoods.

Demand Equity – Every person, everywhere, should have an equal chance to live up to their full potential.

The Shwen Shwen Foundation will act in a dynamic way, leverage our influence, raise awareness and respond when the need arises.  We will work with local partners, established Charities and NGO’s with visions, missions and values that resonate with ours, with causes that are dear to our hearts.

In summary we are a new kind of business that aims to connect people through food, balance purpose and profit and grab every opportunity we can to work toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose.

We have a sincere desire to support the development, accomplishments, and well-being of others, and are very clear, that we must be the change we seek!


Head Chef and Founder for and on behalf of Shwen Shwen.

April 27, 2021 marks sixty years of Sierra Leonean independence.  There will be a celebration of freedom, nationhood, history and patriotism in the country on the day. Some of us Sierra Leoneans,  both at home and in the diaspora, will once again – as we do at this time of the year – reflect on what freedom has meant for our nation.  And as before, it will  invoke  all sorts of complex emotions.

For me, the Sierra Leone story is one of abuse: A nation that was founded in exploitation and that continues to be trapped in a cycle of abuse. We’ve gained independence, yet remain dependent on aid; and are now trying to work out how to live in a globally interdependent world that places us at the lowest level of priority.  Our planet is beset by  monumental challenges – fair access to economic resources and ethical  governance – and these all seem magnified several fold in Sierra Leone. The sad irony is that we are a nation rich in natural resources; and once provided succour for freed slaves repatriated back to Africa.

We know that Sierra Leone existed as a colony of Britain for the sole purpose of making Britain richer and advancing the goals of Empire. But then there was independence, sixty years ago- and self-government. It should have been smooth sailing after that, right?

History has shown however, that all too often, conflict follows de-colonisation. There was mismanagement and corruption after the British left, by our home grown leaders. Ethnic strife festered amongst people across the nation. A civil war lasting 11 years paralysed the country, leaving over 50,000 dead. A vulnerable nation, weak in basic infrastructure, succumbed to Ebola in recent years. It is a small wonder that the covid-19 pandemic has not wreaked more havoc than it might have, given the state of the nation’s health system.

Today, the British influence may exist mainly in the structures that were left behind.  China has now rapidly  moved in as the dominant power. As an example, China has sent almost 7,000 tons of food aid to the country recently, in the face of the pandemic.  The relationship is of course,  ruthlessly  transactional, with China obviously, wielding far more bargaining power.  China seems to have been given carte blanche in  commercial fishing, which environmental activists say is destroying our coastline and tourism potential.  Chinese companies have secured the largest iron ore concession in the country. The trade-off is said to have been the construction  of roads through underdeveloped areas. China appears to have the largest grip on fish and timber that’s produced in the country.

It is in this context that a Diaspora Sierra Leonean like me ponders independence. Many of us fled during the war, and many of us are economic migrants who came to western countries seeking economic freedom and a better life.   We provide an important source of resources for our extended families back in Sierra Leone. We work hard, and the money we send home can often be the difference between life or death.  And we continue to ask ourselves: How has Sierra Leone’s independence worked for us these last sixty years ?

Has it even been a good thing?

Thinking about the future, how can we make a greater contribution moving forwards so that Sierra Leonean’s can enjoy the freedom and benefits that being independent should bring.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

The quote above resonates with me. Ever since I was a child, I loved books.  I love reading fiction and when it comes to cook books I like those that tell a story.  Here at Shwen Shwen we are on a mission to inspire, elevate culture, connect people and make a difference through food.

Over the last few years it has been flattering to receive so many messages and comments on my Instagram posts asking for recipes and if we have any plans to write a cook book.  I’ll be honest and say I lacked the confidence but with my husband’s encouragement, I have been penciling rough ideas down on paper and, as luck would have it, I was approached by a literary agent – and to my delight, she is of Sierra Leonean heritage too!

I signed with the Elise Dillsworth Agency in June 2020. 

Elise has been a constant guide and support and no question is ever too trivial and she is always ready to help. Like me, she is passionate about creating space for African imagination and innovation to flourish. Work has begun on a cookbook which will take readers on a journey from the kitchen of my grandmother in Bo, to those of my extended family throughout Sierra Leone. We will showcase traditional Sierra Leonean cooking and introduce more of our Afro-fusion repertoire.

Watch this space…

Introducing Elise…

Elise Dillsworth Agency, was established in 2012 and is based in London. The agency represents literary, commercial fiction and non-fiction, with a keen aim to reflect writing that is international. Elise Dillsworth became a literary agent in 2012. Previously she was a commissioning editor at Virago Press, an imprint of Little Brown Book Group. Elise co-founded the Diversity in Publishing Network, which received the New Venture Award from Women in Publishing in 2005. Since then she has been a judge for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Bocas Fiction Prize, SI Leeds Prize, the London Short Story Prize  and The Northern Writers’ Awards.

In 2020, Elise Dillsworth Agency became associated with David Higham Associates, with their team now representing clients in translation markets and for film/TV rights.

For more information:







For the love of bread!

One of my fondest childhood memories, growing up in Freetown, was when my mum would buy fresh bread every morning from kortor Barry. The return to home-baking was one of the more lovely surprises of lockdown, and baking bread was one of its most comforting pastimes. The Great British Bake-off , a TV show has done wonders for baking in the UK, for some reason returned my thoughts to home.  That’s the thing with our ‘Swit Salone’ – Our feet may leave but our hearts remain.

Here at Shwen Shwen we are proud ambassadors for Sierra Leonean, West African and African suppliers, producers, and artisans.  We will collaborate with people that share our passion, our values and get our purpose.  How do you spot a radical baker? . They’re always going against the grain!

So with that said we are proud to introduce Freetown’s very own Flour Power – The Red Lion Bakery.

They knead the bread we need!

Bread is an important food staple and an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet for families and communities in Sierra Leone.  The team at Red Lion Bakery work their socks off, and overcome all sorts of challenges and to provide quality bread at affordable prices.  Their efforts to provide safe, nutritious, and sufficient food in Sierra Leone are to be commended and they deserve our full support and recognition.

They provide employment opportunities and contribute to the local economy in Freetown and I am pleased to say business at the bakery is on the rise!

The yeast I can do is tell you about their proud history.  It all began sometime during the years of the 2nd World war (1939-1945) when Mrs. Ethel Ashwood’s husband brought home a loaf of bread from Whitfield’s Bakery for the household, which then consisted of 6 children, Hodson, Pamela, Gloria, Gracie, Jestina, and the youngest Joseph, who was a baby and 2 servants.  Mr. Ashwood explained that the bread was being rationed in the shop and that it cost an exorbitant amount of one shilling!  Mrs. Ethel Ashwood considered this matter seriously, as the one loaf of bread was not enough for her, a nursing mother, let alone to feed the entire household.

At once she remembered the method of her late mother Annie Asgill, who used to bake cakes in a pot during Festive seasons and whipped out her cookery book to try to make bread in like manner.  She bought all the necessary ingredients in the recipe for bread making and made the first attempt using a metal pot.  It was not successful.  She tried again and again, and after several unsuccessful attempts which turned out to be hard as stone or completely soggy, she conquered!  With joy, she took some samples to give to her nearest neighbors in the Kingtom Police Barracks where they lived.  The Police Officers asked her whether there will be more, and so she started making bread with a few pounds of flour, for sale.  As the news spread around, the business progressed gradually and by 1948 it was a recognized farmhouse Bakery at Kingtom trading under the name of Ashwood, Sons and Daughters (ASSADS).  Mr. Ashwood, a Police Officer who was returning from leave in the U.K. renamed the Bakery, Red Lion after his favorite “watering hole”.  A small oven was bought and expert bakers were engaged.

This is the birth of Red Lion Bakery, which has been situated at 13 Bolling Street, Kingtom since 1949.  They currently have a staff of 42 full-time employees, and three bread shops: one in the centre of town at 65 Siaka Stevens Street, the other in the west end at 43 Spur Road, Lumley, and the Bakery shop at 13 Bolling Street, Kingtom.  Several retail shops across Freetown, owned and operated by independent retailers also carry Red Lion Bread.

If you visit Freetown, for the love of loaves please pay them a visit!

Bread shops:
65 Siaka Stevens Street
+232 30 911 812

43 Spur Road, Lumley
+232 30 911 816

PS.  Sorry I went on a roll with the bread jokes.  You might think they are crumby, but to me they never get stale!

Photograph below of Mr. Ashwood, and also Mrs Ethel Ashwood greeting the President of Sierra Leone.  The last image is their family home built by Mr Ashwood in 1949 complete with a sculpture of a Red Lion. 

Red Lion Bakery

Goodbye 2020 – Hello 2021

Looking back then looking forward with Shwen Shwen.

This year will be uniquely etched in our memories for how testing it has been, but it is one on which we can reflect back and truly appreciate how adaptable and resilient we can be, when we put our minds to it.   It has been tough on the hospitality and leisure sectors who without doubt deserve a better year in 2021.  2020 also gave us hope, whilst sadly and tragically off the back of yet another brutal murder with the world watching, the spotlight was thrown on racism and inequality.  As a black-owned business it’s great to feel there is a new space for black imagination and innovation, and with a new found awareness of equality issues, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.

What is the most important lesson you learnt this year?

I learnt that working hard is important but believing in yourself matters even more.  The first lockdown dealt a killer blow to the supper club events and weddings I was due to cater for this year and I was selling my product at a local farmers market which closed, leaving online sales as our only channel to market.  Good products can be sold honestly, authentically and if underpinned by a much greater purpose then your discerning customers will buy them.  So I learnt to believe in myself and Shwen Shwen’s great products and following our successful re-brand we also believe in our customers who ‘get it’ and can see what we are trying to achieve.   Thank you. 

What is the best thing that happened?

The re-branding of Shwen Shwen was a highlight this year, but the best thing was born out of challenge.  The first lockdown found us with a product surplus due to event cancellations, and market closure.  So we donated our product to our hardworking NHS staff, which brought us joy and satisfaction on so many levels.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed the mandatory family time that the lockdown brought.  My husband and I and our two children watched a few more films than we would normally and when we did all succumb to the dreaded Coronavirus we isolated together and looked after each other until well again.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are suffering with this unpleasant virus this Christmas, and we hope the vaccine makes an impact in the fight against it in 2021.

What are your plans for 2021? 

We have now secured a private dining venue in Kent and can cater for small groups of  between 10 and up-to 15 people for themed private dining experiences, such as: Valentines, Mothers-day, Sierra Leone Independence dinner, Fathers day, Eid, Halloween, Black History Month, and of course a Christmas party 2021. Whilst we are happy to deliver our Sierra Leonean (seven course) tasting menu, we are also happy to create bespoke menu’s and rest assured EVERY event will leave a lasting memory.    We’re taking pre-orders now!

Vino Bianco – Spumante Extra Dry from Shwen Shwen.

Our range of drinks and mixers work well with Prosecco and so we did some research, reached out to a contact and are thrilled to announce the following:

“On the finest hills in Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, Italy, there is a single vineyard owned by a family that harvest the grapes by hand. 

This is not supermarket Prosecco – Shwen Shwen is now working in partnership with this vineyard to bring our discerning customers something really FANCY!  It’s extra dry, floral, aromatic, and fruity, it’s perfect for dinner parties.  We are taking pre-orders now!

Expanding our product range. 

In 2021 we intend to add to our product range and build out our online shop.   We have some additional product ideas but they are top secret for now, so watch this space.

With this said I would like to offer you all our warmest wishes from Shwen Shwen and wish you a very Happy New Year.




We named our Ginger Beer after Nomoli tribal figurines, the bearers of good health, this zingy ginger beer is inspired by a traditional Sierra Leonean recipe. We’ve bottled it with our own interpretation, of course.

Nomoli figurines in Sierra Leone

Nomoli figurines are stone sculptures found in an area centered in southern Sierra Leone. These ‘nomoli’, as they are usually called, were made and used in the area where they are found, rather than having been imported. It is believed that these figurines were made by the groups of peoples called ‘Sapes’ by the early explorers of the region. This is partially confirmed by the fact that features of these people at the time of the first contacts seem to correlate with features found on nomoli.

Originally intended as ancestor figures, these stone statuettes are used by some of the modern inhabitants of Sierra Leone as ‘swearing’ devices and to help increase agricultural yields.  The ‘monstrous’ appearance of many of the nomoli might be due to their being carved as representations of krifi or of heads of secret societies.

As to their dating, stylistic relationships between some of the nomoli and some of the ancestral figures in the Sudan, along with an apparent influence from that area dated about the seventh or eight century A.D., might mean that they were first manufactured at that time.

Nomoli tribal figurines were thought to be bearers of good health, and they have often have a color very similar to our beloved root ginger, used for making Sierra Leonean fiery ginger beer.

The health benefits of ginger


Ginger root has a range of health benefits, including improving digestion, blood sugar levels, and harmful cholesterol levels.

Its official name is Zingiber officinale. The rhizome, more commonly known as the root, is what you are likely familiar with. The root is spicy and peppery in flavor, with loads of medicinal properties. It’s used all over the world in culinary and clinical applications—both for good reason.

Ginger has been called a super food time and again, but what makes it so powerful?

This root has the following superpowers.

Stimulating digestion

Ginger can support almost everything regarding digestive health. Functional dyspepsia is the clinical term used to describe upper abdominal discomfort like acid reflux that is thought to be related to slowing of the digestive system. Ginger has been shown to help these issues.

Ginger helps increase the body’s ability to empty food from the stomach more quickly—known as gastric emptying. With this increased motility in the digestive system, it’s less likely that heartburn or indigestion will occur. In fact, one study of healthy participants showed that taking ginger capsules (1200 mg) with a meal stimulates digestion so much that gastric emptying speed was doubled! Imagine the relief that would come from food leaving your stomach twice as quickly.

The more efficient your digestion is, the more energy you will have because researchers have found that approximately 60 percent of your body’s energy goes to metabolism. If ginger can improve digestion, your metabolism will improve and energy will be more available. This is possible because the quicker you can digest your food, the faster you will absorb the vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. You will also have less undigested food in your digestive tract; food consumes energy when left undigested. So not only does ginger stimulate digestion by improving symptoms of dyspepsia and speeding gastric emptying, but it also benefits your overall energy levels.

Lowers blood pressure

High blood pressure (known as hypertension) is a common symptom of the standard western diet, which is high in processed foods. When hypertension is left untreated it can lead to damage to your arteries, heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. Doctors frequently prescribe blood pressure medications to their patients, but what if you could reduce your blood pressure naturally?

Ginger has been shown to improve blood pressure (in conjunction with medication) by acting as a vasodilator—it expands your blood vessels. This is helpful for increasing circulation in the body, which reduces the overall blood pressure throughout the body. Ginger also contains potassium, a mineral that research has found can help lower blood pressure.

Reduces Nausea

Nausea is no fun. Whether it’s from motion sickness, morning sickness, post-surgery effects, chemotherapy, or pregnancy, nausea is not an experience anyone wants. And when you do experience an upset stomach, you’d give anything to make it end! Enter ginger.  Ginger has been shown to be an effective remedy for nausea related to pregnancy and chemotherapy.

Ginger has also been found to reduce the amount of nausea you might otherwise experience when feeling seasick. After surgeries, it’s common for some people to experience nausea and vomiting. The good news is that researchers have found ginger to be an “effective means for reducing postoperative nausea and vomiting.”

Not only does ginger provide relief from post-surgery nausea, it can also help cancer patients. In a study of both adults and children undergoing chemotherapy treatments, ginger was found to be effective in providing relief from the nausea that accompanies those treatments. Based on the scientific evidence, ginger is definitely worth a try when you’re experiencing nausea of any kind.

Reduces inflammation

Inflammation occurs naturally even in healthy individuals. It’s a natural and healthy response to protect the body from injuries or sickness. However, when inflammation is excessive or chronic, it can be very damaging. In fact, researchers have found that chronic inflammation is at the root of many common diseases such as heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.

The active constituents in raw ginger—gingerol, shogaol, and paradol—are responsible for many of the natural anti-inflammatory effects that ginger provides. Ginger has been shown to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (small proteins released by cells to communicate with other cells in the body). Pro-inflammatory cytokines are responsible for the upregulation of inflammatory reactions, meaning that these reactions happen more often in the body. This is directly related to increased inflammation in the body. Since ginger has been shown to reduce the levels of inflammation that those pro-inflammatory cytokines can produce, it’s only natural that inflammation will decrease, too. This is a big deal! Because inflammation can run so rampant in the body—especially with a poor diet—ginger is a great way to help reduce the overall amount of inflammation in the body. If you’re experiencing an inflammatory condition, ginger is a natural and powerful anti-inflammatory remedy to try.

Antibacterial properties

If you aren’t convinced of the medicinal properties of ginger yet, you will be now!  Researcher have found that ginger is an effective antibacterial for many drug-resistant bacteria in clinical applications. In their study, the researchers stated that “ginger has great potential in the treatment of many microbial diseases such as Bacillus and E. coli.” The antibacterial benefits don’t stop there. In oral health, two types of ginger have been shown to inhibit the growth of pathogens that contribute to periodontitis (inflammation of the gums that is caused by gum bacteria). The antibacterial properties that ginger possesses show that food truly is medicine.

Reduces menstrual pain

Many women know how debilitating menstrual pain can be. There are over-the-counter pain medications dedicated to this specific pain, but ginger may also provide relief.  One study found that ginger is as effective as ibuprofen in reducing the pain associated with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) in women. Menstrual cramps in the abdomen and lower back are common in dysmenorrhea. That’s great news for women! Next time you experience cramping during your menstrual cycle, give our Nomoli ginger beer a try.

Positively affects cholesterol levels

As stated earlier, ginger is helpful in reducing blood pressure, but it’s also beneficial for cholesterol levels. Ginger has been found to reduce cholesterol levels—specifically reducing low-density lipoproteins (LDL).  “LDL cholesterol is called ’bad’ cholesterol. Think of it as less desirable or even lousy cholesterol, because it contributes to fatty buildups in arteries.” That fatty buildup is known as  atherosclerosis and it, it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

How can you incorporate ginger into your daily routine?

You can purchase a box of 3 or 6 from our shop.