LeonIngredients & Recipes

Bold, fun, friendly and bursting at the seams with information, this book will make you laugh out loud and above all make you want to cook and eat.

In LEON: Ingredients and Recipes, award-winning chef and cookery writer Allegra McEvedy shares the Leon principles, which through food and the environment in which we eat it, aim to help people be happier and live longer. Bold, fun, friendly and bursting at the seams with information, this book will make you laugh out loud and above all make you want to cook and eat.


The first Leon restaurant, in London’s Carnaby Street, opened its doors in July 2004. For its founders – henry Dimbleby, John Vincent and Allegra McEvedy – the aim was to change the face of fast food, by bringing fresh, wholesome cooking to the high street. Six months later, Leon was named the Best New Restaurant in Great Britain at the Observer Food Monthly Awards. The menu is based around bold flavours, using simply-cooked fresh, local, natural ingredients with an emphasis on seasonal dishes; it also reflects how our eating habits change as the daylight house get longer and shorter.


This is a book of two halves. The Ingredients Book arms you with everything you need to know about the basic building blocks of any recipe. LEON chooses its ingredients above all for their flavour and healthiness but also with a view to the world we live in, so that such shark-infested waters as sustainable fish are tackled and easy to navigate. LEON’s top 250 fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, dairy and store cupboard ingredients are all given their own entries. Nutrition, a bit of history, flavour and the best way to get the most out of them are all covered, seasoned with a fair amount of random miscellany.


The second half is The Recipe Book, where you can put your newly found knowledge of ingredients to great use with over 140 recipes: some are familiar favourites taken from LEON’s menus such as the Original Superfood Salad, Moroccan Meatballs or Magic Mackerel Couscous and, for LEON Lovers everywhere, at last a recipe for the coveted LEON Better Brownie. Plus there are some recipes from the founders, their friends and those who helped make LEON what it is today, like Fred’s Millennium Octopus and David Dimbleby’s Spanish Omelette.


LEON’s food message is a simple and honest one – cook and eat with the best ingredients available and don’t forget the naughty bits that are so necessary for a fully-rounded life.

When Henry Dimbleby, John Vincent and Allegra McEvedy opened their first restaurant on London’s Carnaby Street in July 2004 their aim was to change the face of fast food. Six months after opening, Leon was named the Best New Restaurant in Great Britain at the Observer Food Monthly Awards (by a judging panel that included Rick Stein, Gordon Ramsay, Nigel Slater, Heston Blumenthal, Ruth Rogers and Jay Rayner).


There are now thirteen restaurants serving over 70,000 people a week.


Allegra McEvedy is a chef, writer, broadcaster and culinary explorer. She has been cooking professionally for 20 years, doing her apprenticeship in some of London’s best restaurants, before packing up her knives and moving to the US. After working in New York and San Francisco, she came back and opened The Good Cook in a London community centre, with her ethos of ‘the best food to the most people’. In 2000 she became Chef-in-Residence at The ICA, leaving in 2003 to co-found LEON.


She has had weekly columns in the Evening Standard and the Guardian and is a regular guest presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends. As well as appearing on a miscellany of television shows, in summer 2009 Allegra co-presented Economy Gastronomy, a BBC series about spending less and using ingredients wisely. Her books include The Good Cook (2000), Allegra McEvedy’s Colour Cookbook (2006, winner of an IACP award), Bought, Borrowed & Stolen and the best-selling Economy Gastronomy (2009).


Allegra is a spokesperson for the Fairtrade Foundation and in 2008 was awarded the MBE for services to the hospitality industry.

Leon serves food that is fresh, seasonal, locally sources and really good. The twist is that your food is served really fast. The double twist is how delicious it is.



Proves fast food doesn’t have to be unhealthy

—Sunday Times Style


I love the Leon chain. It serves really fresh fast food but the kind that’s good for you. Its meatballs are amazing and it’s licensed.

—Gordon Ramsay


Fantastic, gutsy, Technicolor stuff

—Guardian – Jay Rayner


Leon is as sexy as a cookbook gets – stylish, interesting, and full of tempting, yet inexpensive, seasonal recipes

—Delicious Magazine

Moroccan Meatballs

When you meet a Leon regular, especially blokes, and ask them what they usually have there, more often than not the answer will be “Meatballs!” This recipe was the subject of much hot debate and flowery language among those who were on the scene at the time, and all this passion before we even had a restaurant to cook them in. Time has proved that it was all worth it, not only because they’re still on the menu in exactly the same recipe as we started with, but because they are always in our top five year-round best sellers.


However, the “I have created a monster” feeling still rises in our cheeks when we think that all our lovingly made meatballs are still individually hand-rolled (tested doing it by machine but it squashed the meat too much). Since we opened, our guys and gals in the Big Kitchen have individually rolled more than 5 million of the buggers. Side by side they could run the entire length of the Central Line on the London Underground and back again. Which is not only a slightly odd image, but also involves a truckload of patience and a whole lot of balls.


Handsome supper for 6


The meatballs           

11/2 wholemeal flatbreads (the smaller size, roughly 8 inches in diameter) or pitta           

1/2 cup milk*

21/4 lb ground lamb                       

a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped                       

a small handful of mint, finely chopped            

1 teaspoon dried oregano           

2 cloves of garlic, chopped           


The sauce           

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

4 x 14-oz cans of chopped tomatoes                       

11/2 tablespoons harissa os

a handful of basil, leaves picked and chopped           

a handful of parsley, chopped                       

salt and pepper


Rip the flatbread into pieces and soak them in the milk for 10 minutes.


Then put the bread into a mixing bowl, add the ground lamb, and stir in the parsley, mint, oregano, garlic, and some seasoning.


Mix well, then roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls.


Either on a ridged grill pan (best) or under a very hot broiler, brown the balls quickly. It’s all about coloring them and not cooking them through, so 5 minutes total cooking time, turning each ball about three times.


To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet and gently fry the crushed garlic.


Add the chopped tomatoes and harissa. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced.


Add the meatballs and continue to simmer, covered, for a further 20 minutes, or until the sauce looks about right.


Lastly stir in the herbs and have a final seasoning check.



* In the restaurants we make this with water instead of milk to keep this dish dairy-free; I do find they turn out a bit softer inside with milk though, but it’s not a biggie.