I’m delighted to say that I have been nominated in the African Food category at the BIH Spotlight Awards. Running for the first time this year, the awards will take place on the 24th October with the purpose of ‘celebrating and recognising exceptional talent and achievers from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds working within hospitality, food, and drink’.

Launched by Lorraine Copes, founder of Be Inclusive Hospitality, these awards will make great steps towards achieving racial equality within our industry.

The esteemed panel of judges includes TV presenter and celebrity chef Andi Oliver; D&D London chief executive and chairman Des Gunewardena; food and diversity consultant Mallika Basu; MasterChef winner and restaurateur Shelina Permalloo; M Restaurants executive chef Mike Reid; global rum brand ambassador Ian Burrell; and wine and sake educator Shane Jones.

The award categories include:

  • African Food
  • Bar/Pub of the Year
  • Caribbean Food
  • Chef of the Year
  • Writer of the Year
  • Drinks Professional of the Year
  • East and South East Asian Food
  • Head Office Impact
  • Middle Eastern Food
  • Rising Star
  • South Asian Food
  • People’s Choice

This is a wonderful celebration of our cultures and the industry we work in. I am looking forward to this great opportunity to meet and celebrate other like-minded people who are as passionate as I am about food and drink.

About Awards

Maria in Shop

I am writing my debut cookbook which will be published in spring next year by Quadrille.  I need to do a bit of signposting to provide readers with some guidance on where they can source traditional Sierra Leonean ingredients.  I would like to hear from reliable, long-standing Sierra Leonean food stores located outside of Sierra Leone.  I’m happy to hear from any food store around the globe and I will list them on my website and direct readers to the search function. In particular, I’m keen to hear from those in other cities around the UK, USA, Canada, and Australia.

If you know of any, please let me know by emailing me at hello@shwenshwen.com or via the form on the contact page.

Photograph: Antonio Olmos for Observer Food Monthly


We’re excited to say that Shwen Shwen has been featured as one of Observer Food Monthly’s food favourites for 2022. Read what they say about us below …

Born and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone, chef Maria Bradford now lives and works in Kent, where Shwen Shwen, her catering company and food business selling chilli sauces and a range of traditional Sierra Leonean drinks via mail order is based. Bradford uses social media to highlight her home country’s food history and culture. “Sierra Leone’s very core and nature is fusion. It is a land of many sensations, colours and flavours,” she says. “A land of mountains rising from the sea, beautiful beaches, rainforests, mangrove swamps, savanna grasslands, and rivers.” Bradford’s cooking reflects this.

Posts about bittas, egusi, ogirie and gambay bologie served with Eba, her bottled drink that blends coconut water with Kent lavender and is inspired by the jelly sellers on the streets of Freetown, and how to use black tomblah (AKA black velvet tamarind, indigenous to West Africa) are evocatively written, fusing modernity and tradition. “Shwen Shwen means fancy, and I decided to take the name on as it’s how many of my fellow Sierra Leoneans have described my food. I’m keen to show that this food can be delivered in a fine dining style and still be proudly West African. I certainly feel there is an undeniable warmth from this kind of representation, especially when you are so far from home.” Her first cookbook, Sweet Salone, will be published by Quadrille in 2023. Says Bradford: “The book will cover everything, from traditional Sierra Leonean cuisine to my Signature Afro-fusion dishes, the country’s history, my family’s journey to and from Sierra Leone.” Nicola Miller

You can check out the full article here.


Following the terrible tragedy that occurred in Freetown on 5th November, 2021, when a fuel tanker exploded claiming 131 victims, I was approached by a number of people asking how they could help. I therefore set up a Just Giving page to raise money to provide support to the survivors and the families of those who lost their lives. 

With your help we were able to raise £990 to provide support to survivors and the families of victims of the tragedy in Freetown.

Original article below:

On the 5th November 2021,  131 people lost their lives when a fuel tanker exploded in Freetown, as yet another tragedy struck Sierra Leone.

There are harrowing stories emerging from Freetown. The explosion is reported to have claimed the lives of at least 131 people and left many other casualties suffering from severe burns following the explosion.

The country’s poorly-funded hospitals and healthcare system will find it difficult to adequately treat the injured. There isn’t a well-equipped burns unit. Despite their best efforts, the Fire and Rescue Service will no doubt have struggled with the emergency response due to a lack of equipment and training.

This tragedy was the consequence of Sierra Leone’s extreme poverty. Following the collision, people were trying to syphon fuel from the tanker, and the whole neighbourhood – hundreds of men, women and children – had gathered around to watch before it exploded.

With around 60% of the population living below the national poverty line and 70% youth unemployment, it is not hard to see why this tragedy happened. This accident has affected the most vulnerable people in the community. The stories I am hearing are both harrowing and heartbreaking. Lives lost, lives changed forever. A country simply unable to cope. Emergency services unable to adequately respond.

Over 700 million people in our world currently live in extreme poverty. Poverty affects every aspect of a person’s life and holds back human potential. Poverty negatively impacts life in so many ways. Sadly global poverty is set for the first increase since 1998 due to COVID-19.

Words cannot express how saddening this latest loss of life is, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families in Sierra Leone.

Help us make a difference. We will work with partners and charities on specific projects and keep all donors fully updated via our social media platforms and website.

Donate here.


Photo by siddharth kushwaha on Unsplash

Join me for a fun evening of cooking, eating and drinking at the Kent Cookery School on either the 15th July or the 30th of September 2021.

If you fancy learning the art of cooking Sierra Leonean street food and Afro-fusion Small Plates, I’ll be teaching a small group of just 12 people how to cook three of my favourite dishes:

  • Mokor (Plantain Fritters) with a Smoked Salone Fire Mayonnaise
  • Tiger Prawns with Salone Fire Chilli Butter and Burnt Lemon
  • Fonio with Spiced Pumpkin and pine nut salad

The evenings are always full of laughter and conversation, and we get to sit down and enjoy all the food we’ve cooked together at the end.

The class will take place in the cookery school’s listed barn – a rustic oak beamed building which has been converted into a fully equipped kitchen. This relaxed setting is located on the idyllic Mersham-le-Hatch Country Estate on the outskirts of Ashford.

The school opened in 2011 and was designed to make students feel at home so that they could relax and enjoy themselves whilst learning new culinary skills.

You’ll experience spice, bold flavours and colourful dishes on this evening course. I’ll also walk you through the stories behind the dishes and the authentic African ingredients used to create them.

Whether you join me as a pair, in a group, or on your own, you are set for a great evening of fun and food!

There are only a few spaces still available, so make sure you book your place now!

Course dates and times:

15/07/2021 at 6pm-8.30pm – Book Now


30/09/2021 at 6pm-8.30pm – Book Now

Please note this course is not suitable for Vegetarians.

I’m delighted to announce the arrival of our Shwen Shwen Prosecco which is now available to buy in our online shop.

It comes from Follina, in the province of Treviso. Nestled in the hills of the Valdobbiadene, a single vineyard produces this high quality, hand-made artisan wine, which is made exclusively with Glera grapes.

It’s a lively, crisp, fresh, Prosecco with soft, rich and persistent bubbles. It’s almost clear in colour with greenish highlights, reflecting the youth that guarantees the freshness of the wine. It’s also intensely aromatic on the nose, with a rich scent of granny smith green apple, Pear Williams, Acacia flowers and  a fruity freshness on the palate.

Prosecco has quickly become one of the UK’s most popular drinks. According to the International Wine and Spirit Research, the UK is the biggest consumer of Prosecco after Italy.

A survey conducted in 2019 by Prosecco experts Mionetto revealed that we drink an estimated 8.2 million litres of Prosecco per week, with almost a quarter of us opening a bottle at least once a week.

This equates to around 131 million bottles per year, meaning that here in the UK we consume near enough 36% of the world’s Prosecco. Impressive!

But despite its popularity there’s lots that isn’t very well known about this Italian tipple – and here are my favourite five:

1. It has fewer calories than wine. If you’re watching your weight, Prosecco could be a better option for you than a glass of your usual white or red. A glass of red wine has 125 calories while most sparkling wines only have around 90!

2. The best Prosecco is not necessarily found in the town of Prosecco. It is where this now-famous sparkling wine originated from, but to find the best quality Prosecco it’s better to travel a few miles away, closer to Venice. More than half of all Prosecco is made in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene areas (this is where ours comes from!) as the vineyards here are surrounded by the Alps, which provides the ideal conditions for the grapes to grow.

3. Not all Proseccos are sparkling. Even though we think of Prosecco as a sparkling wine, this isn’t always the case. It can also be made as semi-sparkling and still wine, although it’s unusual to find these varieties outside Italy.

4. It’s a perfect accompaniment to canapes and finger foods, but also goes very well with desserts, pastries and biscuits. In Italy it’s often drunk with charcuterie and cheese, but – so it works beautifully with our fiery sauces!

5. It’s a great cocktail mixer. The Italians use Prosecco in their most famous cocktail, the Bellini. But there are lots of others, including Aperol Spritz and Sgroppino. It also works really well mixed with our Shwen Shwen juices – try our Passionately Bissap juice with Prosecco for our take on a Rossini or Mango Sunshine with Prosecco for a Mango Bellini. Delicious!


Imagine mountains rising from the sea, beautiful beaches, rainforests, mangrove swamps, savanna grasslands and rivers. That’s Sierra Leone. A country so beautiful that the locals have nicknamed it ‘Sweet Salone’

Over the last month, I’ve been busy writing my first cookbook, ‘Sweet Salone’.  Although it’s still in its very early stages, I’m delighted to say that we’ve already started to get some press coverage.

Our first article featured in thebookseller.com on May 7th announcing that Quadrille is to publish my cookbook all about the food and people of Sierra Leone.

“Bradford narrates her journey through the food of her family and home, showing the breadth of the ingredients, cooking styles and diverse inspiration behind the region’s key dishes.”

The book will be published in hardback in the UK, US and Australia in September 2022.

You can read the full article here: