The Hebridean Baker: Coinneach MacLeod on Scottish island flavours

The latest book from Coinneach Macleod, aka The Hebridean Baker, celebrates the flavoursome produce of the Hebrides, from fresh fish to award-winning black pudding. We chat to the celebrity chef as he shares three easy recipes to try at home.

Coinneach MacLeod was inspired by family recipes and traditional Scottish bakes when he created his cookbook, The Hebridean Baker: My Scottish Island Kitchen (£26, Black & White Publishing).

Photograph by Susie Lowe
By Qin Xie
Published 22 Dec 2022, 12:00 GMT

How would you describe the cuisine of the Hebrides? 

Our food is very simple; lamb and mutton are our traditional meats and potatoes are our traditional vegetables. We use mutton because we can’t really grow lambs big enough here unless we move them to the mainland to fatten up, so we have to keep them for longer. There’s a bit of snobbery around mutton elsewhere — that it’s not as good as lamb — but in the Hebrides, the animals are fed on heather hills that give them a really distinctive flavour, which I love. And our potatoes are grown on the machair, fertile grasslands by the beaches; I think that makes them the tastiest in the world.

What shapes Hebridean food culture?

The food culture in the Hebrides is influenced by a few things. The first is our landscape. We have a very harsh, dramatic landscape and not much grows on the islands. We also have a very long winter. In the deepest winter, we only have four or five hours of daylight, so hearty, wholesome foods play a big part in our diet at that time of year. And we live a very hard working, outdoor lifestyle here — most people have two or three jobs. Fresh produce is hard to come by during winter as well so it’s really important to plan ahead; everyone keeps a casserole or two in the freezer.

Conneach's take on croque madame.

Conneach's take on croque madame.

Photograph by Susie Lowe

What was the food like growing up and how has it changed since?

My mum shopped in Stornoway, the main town [on Lewis and Harris] once or twice a year, and everything else was homegrown. Growing up on a small farm, we had about 400 sheep. My father was also a trawler fisherman, so langoustine and wonderful fish was so, so important. It was like that for almost everyone on the island. Things have changed of course, and Stornoway now has bigger supermarkets, but the traditional produce is still the same as it was 20, 50 or even 100 years ago. The difference now is that people are taking what's always been part of our islands and trying it in different ways. We're also seeing the opening of some beautiful restaurants that really celebrate our produce. 

Mince and tatties.

Mince and tatties. 

Photograph by Susie Lowe

What are some Hebridean specialities? 

The butchers in Stornoway make the best black pudding - people travel from all over the world for it and it's won awards. You always see a que out of the door for this delicacy. It's very distinctive flavour but some ingredients are secret of course. There are three butchers you can go to - [two branches of] MacLeod and MacLeod, and Charles MacLeod - and when I see Stornoway black pudding on the menu in Edinburgh, I try to find out which Macleod butcher made it - Charles MacLeod's is my favourite.

We also have a cake called duff - they say if you want a Hebridean man or woman, make them a duff and you'll be married by the next week. It's simple boiled fruit cake, but it has this distinctive skin around it that's very marmite - you either love it or you hate it. Day one, it's eaten as a slice with a hot cup of coffee. Day two, you have it as a dessert with a nice lashing of custard all over it. But everyone waits for day three, when you have it as part of a Hebridean breakfast, fried with bacon and sausage. That was a treat growing up; it's still my treat today. You can find a variation of duff in any cafe run by a Hebridean local. 

Stornoway, Lewis and Harris's main town.

Stornoway, Lewis and Harris's main town.

Photograph by Susie Lowe

What are your favourite recipes from your book? 

There are a lot. There are traditional ones - like the duff, which is a recipe my aunt's made for 70 years - but also ones where I looked at a classic recipe and gave it a twist. For example, we have a lot of soups that are well known in Scotland, like cullen skink and cock-a-leekie soup. I took the flavours in the soup and made them into a pie, and it's something that really stood out when I tried it on family and friends. But as the Hebridean Baker, one of my favourites is my hot toddy bundt cake. You can have whisky twice and not feel guilty about it: Once in the cake and once in the hot mug beside you. 

Shortbread dips.

Shortbread dips. 

Photograph by Susie Lowe

Three recipes to try from The Hebridean Baker

How to make Shortbread Dips

This beloved biscuit has been made in Scotland for hundreds of year. It's widely regarded that it come to prominence thanks to Mary, Queen of Scots, who's said to have fallen in love with the shortbread served to her by French chefs. From then on, it became the iconic Scottish biscuit we all adore today. this version still has the butteriness of traditional shortbread, but with added indulgence from the white and dark chocolate. 
Makes: 12 shortbreads 
Takes: 1 hr 15 mins 


300g soft unsalted butter 
125g golden caster sugar 
300g plain flour 
50g corn-flour 
150g dark chocolate 
150g white chocolate 
2 tbsp chopped pistachios 
2 tbsp freeze-dried raspberries 


1. Heat oven to 170C, 150C fan, gas 3. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin. 

2. Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add in both the flours and 1/2 tsp sale, and stir until it begins to combine, taking care not to overwork the dough. Bring the dough together with your hands and press the mixture into your prepared tin. Flatten the surface with the back of a spoon and use a fork to prick all over. 

3. Bake for 45 mins, until pale golden. Using a knife, score lines where you're going to cut the shortbread into fingers. Leave to cool completely in the tin. 

4. Set two heatproof bowls over two saucepans of gently simmering water. Break the dark chocolate into one and the white chocolate into the other While the chocolate is melting, remove the shortbread from the tin and cut into fingers. 

5. When the chocolate has melted, use a teaspoon to coat one-third of each finger with the chocolate - do half the batch white and half dark. Sprinkle pistachios or freeze-dried rasberries over the chocolate end and allow to set. The shortbread will keep in an air tight container for up to four days. 

Stornoway scotch eggs.

Stornoway scotch eggs.

Photograph by Susie Lowe

How to make Stornoway Scotch Eggs

Adding the rich, well-seasoned flavours of Stornoway black pudding to your sausage meat makes these the tastiest scotch eggs you'll ever eat. They're not as challenging to create as people think either, and you'll be rewarded with a hearty snack. 
Takes: 30 mins 


6 eggs (4 for soft boiling, 2 beaten) 
6 good-quality pork sausages 
275g Stornoway black pudding 
200g plain flour 
200g panko breadcrumbs 
Vegetable oil, for deep frying


1. Set a pan of boiling water over a medium heat. Lower in 4 of the eggs and cook for 7 mins. While they're cooking, prepare a bowl of ice-cold water. When the eggs are done, transfer them immediately to the icy water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, peel and set aside. 

2. Remove the sausage meat from the skins and add to a large bowl, along with the black pudding. Season well with salt and black pepper, mix it all together, then split into four equal portions. 

3. Prepare the three shallow bowls: add the flour to one, crack the 2 remaining eggs into the second bowl and lightly beat. then add the breadcrumbs to the third. 

4. Take one portion of the sausage mixture, flatten it out in your hand and wrap it evenly around an egg. Roll it into the flour, then the egg, then finally the breadcrumbs to completely coat. Set aside and repeat for the remaining eggs. 

5. Half-fill a large saucepan with vegetable oil and heat until it reaches 180C on a thermometer (or until a few breadcrumbs turn golden after 10 secs in the oil). Carefully lower in 2 scotch eggs and cook for 8 mins, turning occasionally, until golden golden and crisp. Rest on some kitchen paper while you repeat for the other 2 eggs. Serve either warm or cold.

Cullen skink tart.

Cullen skink tart. 

Photograph by Susie Lowe

How to make Cullen Skink Tart 

The flavours of cullen skink - a think Scottish soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes and onions - lend themselves perfectly to this tart. To make this an easy weekend dish, you could use a pre-made shortcrust pastry case, but this one is homemade
Takes: 90 mins 


For the pastry

120g plain flour 
60g cold unsalted butter, diced

For the filling

1 tbsp unsalted butter 
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes 
1 leek, trimmed and slices 
300g smoked haddock
200ml whole milk 
1 bay leaf
100ml double cream 
3 medium eggs 
2 tbsp chopped chives 


1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and mix in a pinch of salt. Add the butter and, with your fingertips, rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 

2. Slowly sprinkle over 2 tbsp iced water and, with a knife, work it gently into the crumbs until you have added just enough to form a soft dough. Work it into a ball, then wrap with cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hr. 

3. Prepare a 20cm tart tin. Roll out the chilled pastry so it's slightly larger than the tin. Press the pastry into the tin then trim the edges using a sharp knife. Prick the base with a fork and chill in the fridge for 30 mins. 

4. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 190C, 170C fan, gas 5. Line the chilled pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans or uncooked rice. Bake for 12 mins, then remove the paper and beans. Return to the oven for 5 mins, until golden; set aside to cool. 

5. Reduce oven to 180C, 160C fan, gas 4. Next, make the filling. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the onion, potatoes and leek, and cook them all gently for 10 mins, every now and then. Set aside. 

6. Add the fish, milk and bay leaf to another saucepan. Place over a medium heat and poach for 5 mins. Lift out the fish, saving the milk, then flake it into the cooked veg and stir well. Pour the reserved milk into a jug and whisk in the cream, eggs and chives. Season well with salt and pepper. 

7. Tip the fish and veg mixture into the pastry case, then pour over the milk mixture until the case is full. Bake for 30 mins, until set and toasty brown on top. Serve warm or cold. 

Published in Issue 18 (winter 2022/23) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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