The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

On my plate

Hebridean Baker reveals how the isles and their stories inspired his new book


As I sat with my book on my lap waiting to be signed, I picked up on an American accent to my left and an Australian one to my right. There were people young and old, male and female, all there to see one man – Coinneach MacLeod. You may know him better as The Hebridean Baker.

It was a bizarre feeling to watch a baking demonstrat­ion by a complete stranger and feel like you are in the kitchen with a family member. I don’t know whether it was his Lewis lilt, the stories of clootie dumpling that matched my own memories perfectly, or the ease with which he sang in Gaelic for us, but he had the whole room wrapped around his little finger – in the least menacing way possible.

“The new book is called The Hebridean Baker At Home and the goal really was to travel throughout the Hebrides visiting the homes of friends and family who are great bakers,” explained Coinneach.

“I wanted to learn their recipes but also the stories behind them. It’s very easy to say ‘Scottish food’ or ‘Hebridean food’ but even throughout the Hebrides the islands have very distinct dishes.

“When I was in Barra, for example, I met my friend, Theresa, who shared her recipe for Bonnach Strughain. Bonnach Strughain is such a niche thing, it’s only made on Uist and Barra one day a year at the end of harvest. It’s a unique bake and it’s amazing that even just the next island north will never have heard of it.”

People are at the heart of the book, from his partner, Peter, and Westie Seoras to Gaelic choir friends and his crofter brother.

His Aunt Bellag also features, the catalyst for his journey as The Hebridean Baker. The 95-year-old also led him to the secret to a long life. “She still bakes every day, her husband is 96 too, so the secret to a long life is Hebridean baking,” said Coinneach. “It motivates me that I’ve hopefully still got a long career ahead of me.”

Flicking through The Hebridean Baker At Home, photos of a Sticky Toffee Orkney Broonie set my mouth watering, but also filled me with warmth. It turns out that is what Coinneach was hoping for.

“Lots of the recipes will make you coorie down a wee bit and enjoy the winter ahead by being in the kitchen,” he said.

Nostalgia seeps from the pages through childhood memories and classic recipes, but Coinneach also adds his own twists where he can. There is even a banana version of a clootie dumpling.

He said: “Growing up we definitely had the classics like clootie dumpling, or a duff like we call it in Gaelic. That was the signature bake. When I am in America I get a lot of women asking me how to get a Hebridean man. I say to them if you learn how to make a clootie dumpling, book a one-way flight to Stornoway and you’ll be married in two weeks.”

With a title like The Hebridean Baker, Coinneach is aware of the platform he has to share his island home with the rest of the world.

“I do love to make going to

I do love to make going to the Outer Hebrides aspiration­al for people

the Outer Hebrides aspiration­al for people,” he said. “I want to showcase the beauty of the islands but also that it is a real place people live and work. What is important to us on the islands is keeping our traditions, culture and the language of Gaelic alive.

“An extra thing that makes me proud is the fact it’s myself and Peter. The islands maybe haven’t been seen as the most progressiv­e, but we celebrate us and are really proud.”

The Hebridean Baker At Home by Coinneach MacLeod, Black & White Publishing, is out now (Hardback £26) up bakes Hebrides

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 ?? Pictures Susie Lowe ?? Coinneach MacLeod says the secret to a long life is Hebridean baking.
Pictures Susie Lowe Coinneach MacLeod says the secret to a long life is Hebridean baking.

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