Treasure Island Autumn

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

The Danes created hygge – a feeling of contentment. Snuggling up by the fire wrapped in a warm blanket, sipping tea from your favourite mug while a storm rages outside. It is a lifestyle that is wholesome and nourishing, its ingredients being togetherness, presence, and comfort. And as the autumnal colours appear in our Scottish landscape, many of us are already beginning to plan a few months of hibernation. Thinking of our favourite nourishing, warming recipes and making our homes cosy for the dark evenings ahead.

So, what is the Gaelic word for hygge? Well, maybe it’s not a direct translation, but the word I would use is blàths; it means warmth, kindliness and contentment. There is a saying in Gaelic ‘beiridh blàths air luaths’, it means ‘there is a time for everything’.

So, what is my perfect day of blàths? Usually you will find me at a kitchen table strewn with cookbooks opened at recipes I would like to try. These past few weeks I have been trying out recipes from The Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilsson. But today, I have decided to bake a recipe from closer to home - Brides Bonn. I learned about this recipe in F Marion McNeil’s The Scot’s Kitchen, first published in 1929. McNeill was born and raised on Orkney, and spent her career chronicling Scots customs on food, drink and folklore. The book preserves many Scottish dishes that could have been lost if not for her passion and dedication.

This round of petticoat tails of shortbread flavoured with caraway seeds, was traditionally baked by the mother of the bride and broken over the bride’s head as she entered the marital home after the wedding ceremony. It was intended to bless the marriage with prosperity and fertility. Guests would scramble to get a piece of the broken shortbread to put under their pillow, as it was supposed to give you sweet dreams. I love a bake with a story and even when I don’t have a bride to smash over the head, it’s still one of my favourite recipes!

I am passionate about using home-grown Hebridean and Scottish produce. Eating locally first means choosing food that is grown and harvested close to where you live. And each time you do that, you are investing in the local community and its people. I am lucky that my brothers still raise sheep meaning I know the provenance of what is on my dinner table. Understanding how food is grown, reared, caught and prepared helps me do my part in leading a more sustainable life. In our garden, we grow everything from potatoes to rhubarb, kale to courgettes and they are the basis of what goes into my bakes and recipes.

Visit Outer Hebrides have recently launched the Hebridean food trail. Eat Drink Hebrides is a self-guided journey through the islands. It will lead you to the best places to find food and drink famed within the Outer Hebrides. The range of different flavours flowing through the islands will allow you to discover the landscapes, people and culture that make the Outer Hebrides so unique.

Whether you’re searching for seafood freshly caught in the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean (try the Taste n’ Sea food truck in at Loch Seaforth, Isle of Harris), experiencing a taste of life on the croft with locally produced foods or looking for something a bit stronger with a spirited visit to a distillery – the Outer Hebrides has something for everyone. Just remember that Gaelic saying, Beiridh blàths air luaths when you visit the Hebrides. These are not islands to be rushed. Take your time as you walk along the sands of West Beach on Berneray. Bring a picnic of Stag Bakeries treats as you hike over the Cromore Walk on the south east coast of Lewis. Pick the PERFECT Black Pudding from Charles MacLeod Butchers in Stornoway. Grab a pizza from Crust in Achmore, probably the most remote pizzeria in the world! Oh and did I mention the 5,000 year old standing stones of Callanish? You’ll always have plenty to see, do and eat on the islands!

Eat Drink Hebrides

Coinneach’s cookbook The Hebridean Baker is available on Amazon and in all good book shops. Filled full of recipes, island stories and beautifully shot images of the Hebrides. You will find him on Tiktok and Instagram @hebrideanbaker

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