Hebridean Food: Cookery Demonstration

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On a Friday night in the summer holidays local people and visitors gather at St Peter’s Hall in Daliburgh, South Uist, a special event. The Ceòlas community group is putting on an evening celebrating local food as well local music.

It starts with a chance for everyone to sample the products various food producers in the Western Isles. Maclean’s Bakery is based in Benbecula, though it supplies shops the Uists, and beyond. The Hebridean Smokehouse is based in North Uist. Salar, who also specialise salmon, are based in South Uist. And Kallin Shellfish are based in Grimsay.

the “starters” comes the “main course”, a cookery demonstration using these local foods. The demonstration is conducted entirely in Gaelic, but headsets for simultaneous translation into English are available the door. The compère for the evening is Mary Macinnes. She starts by inviting guests to help themselves to more food and wine the demonstration begins.

The simultaneous translation is provided the Ceòlas administrator, Mary Ellen Stewart. The demonstration is to be given by Isabel Graham, a well-known cook and hotelier, the Orasay Inn.

obvious reasons, seafood is a speciality of the islands. Isabel uses a lot of fish and shellfish in her cooking. This could be freshly caught, for example monkfish, or smoked salmon, or scallops – or a combination all of these. Everyone follows what she does closely. Crab is also important, and very popular.

As the evening draws on everyone gets taste Isabel’s cooking. Even Mary Ellen gets to relax a little. The food is shared , and the Ceòlas musical director Iain Macdonald gets his reward too.

Finally, before the music starts, Mary thanks everyone who has contributed to the evening. The food was all provided free charge, and Mary encourages everyone to make more use of fresh Uist food.

To finish Iain Macdonald plays some tunes local and visiting musicians. Iain, who lives in Benbecula, is famous the world as a leading Scottish traditional musician both pipes and flute. Here, in his own community, he can relax the company of friends. It’s hard to imagine a better way to finish off a good healthy meal.