Welcome to Cook with Lerato.

Photograph by Tara Fisher

The home of vibrant recipes, heartwarming stories and a good dose of African magic!

I’m Lerato and I am thrilled you are here. My friends (and children) call me tomato, and so can you!

People often ask, “what do you do?” Especially as my work might appear as a collection of hobbies.

I feed people!

I feed people with sunshine on your plates and in your hearts, as a chef, an author, a broadcaster on television and radio and through our cookery classes and retreats across Africa. Bringing people together to enjoy memorable food and experiences brings me such joy. That joy is what I endeavour to share with you here as we travel together through recipes and stories.

Celebrating African Cookery, its past, present & future!

My debut and award winning cookbook AFRICANA, was published to wide acclaim. A classic in African cookery with treasured recipes and stories from across the vast continent. Treasuring tradition while pioneering its future. Africana is sold across the world and celebrated by some of the most respected chefs and our growing community, who have found great inspiration and education within it.

Nigella Lawson says,

“It is a glorious book, an education and invitation. There is such life in its pages, and such food! Lerato has a particular gift for getting to the heart of each recipe, both in terms of where it comes from, how it’s travelled, and how it can find a place in your own kitchen, your own life.”

Jamie Oliver says,

“…a fantastic introduction and inspiring cooking from Across the continent with vibrant recipes that are splendidly written and reliable.” 

"There isn't a recipe I don't want to cook." - Diana Henry

"​An outstanding new book. Lerato is a genius with flavours." Delicious Magazine

Winner, Gourmand World Food Awards 2023

Observer Food Monthly Best of 2023

Telegraph's Best Books of Autumn 2022 

Africana day at Meta with recipes from the book on the menu and served to over 6000 London staff

Over the years, I have been fortunate to cook on local and international television and featured in various media from the BBC to Nat Geo, Delicious Magazine, Red Magazine, GQ magazine, and many more. You can read more about my journey here.

Why join me, on Cook with Lerato?

Lerato means love/beloved in the language of the Sotho-Tswana people of Southern Africa.

As a passionate ambassador for African cookery, I am taking our diverse foods and stories far and wide, bringing them to your consciousness, to your home and heart.

I started writing Cook with Lerato to share that which is not widely taught or shared in the mainstream, to share my unique experience and perspective and also as a way to connect better with you, and for you to connect with each other as we have done so many times at our events. Here I can communicate freely without the pressure of someone else’s style, structure, or agenda. We can build and nurture a community for us to converge, communicate and share our passion for food, culture and travel.

On a mission to break boundaries in food, media, publishing and travel, and using food as a powerful force for good, I believe in the importance of educating the world, ourselves and celebrating our heritage. This drives me not only to teach cookery as a useful life skill, but also to preserve, celebrate, innovate and teach about African cookery, and its important culinary heritage as we shape its future.

Want to travel with me one recipe at a time?

As a subscriber, you are the life force of this newsletter. You support my work and the small village it takes to create this newsletter. You can choose to be a free reader or a club member with more immersive benefits as seen below.

Your membership helps to support the publication of this newsletter. I am thankful to all our readers and members for sharing my letters, for cooking the recipes and interacting with us all. Most of all, I am happy to have you here.

What do free readers receive?

  • Occasional recipes and stories, with inspiration for big and bold flavours for easy day-to-day cooking and magical feasts.

Become a paid member for a more immersive experience

Upgrade to become a Club Member

For £5/month or save with £50/year (less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week)

  • All of the above and your support helps to keep our newsletter alive and thriving

  • Exclusive Recipes & Content, Member Treats & Content

  • Seasonal cookery classes and food clubs where we travel together from the comfort of our own homes

  • First to find out about our new cookery holidays ~ Africana Retreats

  • Ask Me Anything Q&A sessions where club members questions are answered

Founding Members

are a different tier of subscribers, you are like super supporters. You will have access to all of the above including your very own private virtual session with me. This can be enjoyed as a cookery class, a Q&A session of a talk where you can ask questions or pick my brain.

Gifted Subscriptions

If you will love a paid subscription and are unable to sign up for one, please get in touch and we will find a way. Some members may also be interested in gifting subscriptions to others. Please send an email to: cook@leratofoods.com

Give a gift subscription

Never miss a newsletter

If you can’t find the newsletter, check your spam folder, and please save lerato@substack.com as ‘not spam.’ If the newsletter isn’t in your spam folder, please check the Promotions tab. Check out the archives to see all previous newsletters

Useful Links


If you would love to cook or travel with me, you can find all upcoming news, events, cooking classes & retreats here.


Smoky Jollof ~ Delicious Magazine

Lerato’s Summer Fruits in Savoury Dishes ~ The Guardian

Flavours of Nigeria ~ National Geographic Traveller


Listen to me on BBC Radio 4, The Kitchen Cabinet

Live on South African TV

More interviews & Press


Cook & travel with me for sunshine on your plate with a good dose of African Magic. Subscribe for Ravishing recipes & heartwarming stories from Africa & beyond by Award winning author & broadcaster, Lerato Umah-Shaylor.


Chef, Broadcaster & Author of AFRICANA ~ The essential cookbook on African cookery, and the *Cook with Lerato* Newsletter full of recipes and stories for sunshine on your plate and a good dose of African magic.