Welcome to Cook with Lerato.

Cook with love and passion, with treasured recipes & stories from Africa and beyond. Join me for recipes with a heart, for sunshine on your plate and with a good dose of African Magic.

My debut cookbook; AFRICANA

SINCE YOU ARE HERE, YOU MUST LOVE FOOD! Cooking it, eating it or both. You may have just acquired a copy of my cookbook Africana, read or heard about it, or we may have met on my book tour. You may have seen me on live television feeding a spice girl and offending cauliflower lovers of the world. You may have heard me cackling on the radio while sharing the best pineapple recipe of all time, my secret to an eggless meringue or campaigning for plantains and scotch bonnets. You may have cooked my covergirl recipes from newspapers and magazine like the Guardian or Waitrose, attended my cookery class where you mastered the art of cooking Jollof, or my supper club where you were free to be the greedy gob you always wanted to be. Perhaps you found me through the substack network and thought? What’s a Lerato? However you found your way here, thank you and welcome!

Why Cook With Lerato?

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

I live to eat memorable food, I travel for food and I love to share stories of food, family, and all that I learn from my travels both near and far. Recipes without stories are like instructions with no context. Honouring tradition is important. My passion and purpose are very clear, despite my love for food from across the world, it is also a great purpose of mine to celebrate the diversity of African recipes and stories which have for many years been far from the centre of attention. Bringing people together to enjoy memorable food, rich culture and heartwarming stories that inspire and bind us together.

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. While I am blessed to have been featured in some of the most widely read publications, 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.

During the pandemic I felt so isolated, missing travelling, cooking with others and teaching, which had become my life’s work and greatest passion. And so, I created this newsletter to bring sunshine back into my life and to share that joy with you.

My recipes are especially inspired by my African heritage, with foods that I love and grew up with, foods that I have adopted from travels across the continent and beyond, and others adapted while living a pan-African life in the United Kingdom.

Commitment to providing jobs

So far we employ young people from across Africa who would otherwise struggle with unemployment, as well as creatives in the UK. They work on research and content for this newsletter, including our community and charitable workshops. For some, this experience not only provides financial independence but opportunity for further education and incredible scholarships in some of the world’s best universities. Some of their fees/salaries are subsidised with your paid memberships.

Africana, my work & life in food.

My first cookbook Africana was published in September 2022 and I continue my journey across Africa to bring you more recipes and stories from the heart of this beautiful continent. A cuisine so diverse, important, and relevant. One that you may have been missing out on.

Jaimie Oliver praised Africana as his book of the month;

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

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.”

"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 

Over the years, I have been fortunate to be featured, alongside my recipes, events and cookery classes in various media from the BBC to Nat Geo, Delicious Magazine, Red Magazine, GQ magazine, and many more including radio and television. My recipes have been covergirls as seen in The Guardian and Waitrose Magazine in the UK. You can read more about my journey here; leratofoods.com/pages/about

My bio is filled with unexpected twists and turns that have led us here. I’ll leave links to some selected interviews, and features that reflect my work and journey, including upcoming events and news, so that you do not miss a thing.

Fabulous letters coming your way!

You can expect my newsletters to drop into your inbox with a mix of recipes and stories, videos, Q&A’s travel guides and behind the scenes of all that I do on radio, TV, editorials, including travels and more. Please leave comments, and suggestions, ask questions, participate in our threads and community chats and send me an email if you wish to, as many of you already do. Most of all, I am just happy to have you here.

For the most current and fun updates on my adventures including recipe videos, check out my social channels with all links below. In subsequent posts, I will share more about my journey to becoming an author, chef, presenter, teacher and advocate for seasonal, better quality and more diverse food for all.

Want to travel with me one dish 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.

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.

  • Seasonal cook-alongs where we travel together from the comfort of our own homes

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 the above and your support helps to our newsletter to survive and thrive

  • Exclusive Recipes, Member Treats & Content

  • Free Supper clubs & Cookery Classes for Annual Members

  • First Invites to our cookery holidays - Africana Retreats

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

Founding Members

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 question 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 meet, cook and travel with me, you can find all upcoming events, cooking classes & holidays/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


Sunshine on your plate with a good dose of African Magic. Travel with me for treasured recipes & stories from Africa and beyond.


Lerato Umah-Shaylor

Award winning author of COOK WITH LERATO newsletter & AFRICANA Cookbook. A broadcaster & Professional Dinner Party Host (might as well be a career) sharing recipes & stories for sunshine on your plate and with a good dose of African magic.