Fusing local ingredients with world flavours 

By Elly Welch 

It’s not often you find a Michelin-awarded chef cooking up nosh at the local Arts Centre.  But in Stornoway, it’s absolutely true.   

Kenny MacKay, new head chef at An Lanntair, is taking dining at Stornoway’s creative hub to new levels.  And his magic ingredient?  Keeping it local. 

“We have wonderful ingredients in the Islands ,” said Kenny, former head chef at Glasgow’s Michelin Bib Gourmand Awarded all-Scottish eatery , Stravaigin.  “I want to celebrate that with simple, fresh dishes full of flavour that are both memorable and affordable.”  

Kenny was born in London but visited island relatives during school holidays.  He didn’t train as a chef until his twenties when, after finishing a degree in Risk Management, he found that he was happiest cooking.  A decade later he was top of his game but, as a new dad, was finding the 80-hour weeks tough going.  He and his wife, also a chef, decided to change lifestyle and move to his ancestral home, Lewis.   

Read more: Fusing local ingredients with world flavours 

Tiny but power-packed…the Hebridean Tea Store 

By Elly Welch 

“Thanks for the lovely smells!” calls the gentleman just leaving.  He’s not being ironic.  It smells delicious in the Hebridean Tea Store.  Like Christmas, and candy, with a whiff of continental sophistication swirled in.   

“He was having a sniff of my new Machair tea,” explains owner Sabine Weiten, balancing precariously on a chair to replace it.  “Its my own blend, heather and cornflowers.”  She swirls the caddy under her own nose.  “Magical,” she breathes. 

It would be wrong to apply the ‘Tardis’ cliché to this tiny specialist tea emporium, for The Hebridean Tea Store, which raises a cup to three years trading this month, looks wee and really is.   

But big character Sabine, from near Cologne in Germany, has somehow turned its few square metres into a vortex of choice and flavours.  She’s even managed to fit in a table and chairs - part of the window display, nestled amongst the teapots. 

Read more: Tiny but power-packed…the Hebridean Tea Store 

Challengers in the black pudding race…

By Eilidh Whiteford

It may be Willie John's that takes your fancy...or is Charley Barley's the one for you?

Perhaps the Macleod & Macleod offering is what will tempt you the most...

Or you prefer to wander further afield to Cross Stores in the north or A.D. Munro's in the south...

What are we talking about? Black Pudding of course!

World famous, Stornoway Black Pudding hit the headlines around ten years ago when it came under threat of imposters – puddings labelled as Stornoway but made outside the Western Isles.

Coming together, Stornoway's long-standing family butchers – including W.J MacDonald, Charles MacLeod Ltd, and Macleod & Macleod – applied to the EU in 2009 in a bid to gain Protected Geographical Indicator of Origin (PGI) status for the traditional Stornoway product.

Read more: Challengers in the black pudding race…

Bakery brothers take three roles in Island food trail

By Iain A MacSween
Photograph by Roz Skinner

A special ‘Eat Drink Hebrides Trail’ launched in March this year with the aim of highlighting the best food and drink experiences available throughout the Outer Hebrides. Local businesses are listed as either being producers, places to eat or places to buy local produce.

Brothers Allan and Ewen MacLean, from North Uist, run three highlights of the food and drink trail: The Stepping Stone Restaurant and MacLean’s Bakery, both in Benbecula, and Bayhead Shop, in North Uist.

Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the launch of MacLean’s Bakery and the business has grown over the years with the opening of the Stepping Stone Restaurant in 1997, and Bayhead Shop in 2009, and is now one of the larger private employers in the islands.

Read more: Bakery brothers take three roles in Island food trail

Uist Smokehouse nominated for BBC food ‘oscar’

Hebridean Smokehouse in Clachan, Isle of North Uist, is one of three finalists in the Best Food Producer section in the 16th BBC Food and Farming Awards, it was announced today (Sunday).
Hebridean Smokehouse has been smoking locally reared and landed fish and shellfish for nearly 30 years.  All of the salmon, sea trout and shellfish used by Hebridean Smokehouse comes from, or is landed on Uist, and the peat used to smoke these products is cut from the island.
Hebridean Smokehouse began life as a small business in about 1983 with the trading name of Mermaid Fish supplies, owned and run by George and Rosemary Jackson.  Mermaid mainly supplied local islanders with fresh white fish landed on Uist and latterly, with the acquisition of a small smoking kiln, the Jacksons started peat smoking the cod, haddock and locally farmed salmon.
With the retirement of Mr and Mrs Jackson in 2000 the business was taken forward by Fergus and Anne Granville and the name Hebridean Smokehouse introduced.  Since they took over, the smokehouse has grown in size with a new building and a larger kiln that now smokes all the salmon, seatrout and shellfish in the Hebridean range - although sadly none of the whitefish once landed so regularly here in the Outer Hebrides.
Today Hebridean Smokehouse employs around 12 local people all year round with many more joining the team at Christmas.
The presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme and founder of the awards Sheila Dillon says that through the nominations for the awards we want “to find out from our listeners who the food heroes were in their neighbourhoods - anyone, any organisation, that through food was making life in Britain better."
The winners of the 2015 awards come from right across the UK, and include Queens University, Belfast’s Professor Chris Elliott who was presented with the Food Game Changer Award by Julia Glotz, for his government review into the horsemeat scandal and his important work in advising the government on assurance of food supply networks.  BBC Cook of the Year was Bristol’s Jo Ingleby who has developed the idea of ‘experimental cookery’ for the under-fives, and Best Food Producer was presented by Cyrus Todiwala to Northumberland’s Doddington Dairy.
Eighty-two year-old Joan Bomford from Worcester scooped the Countryfile Farming Hero Award, having been farming since the 1930s.  And Randolph Hodgson of Neals Yard Dairy was honoured with the Derek Cooper Lifetime Achievement Award.  Bristol Mayor George Ferguson presented
Steve Griffiths, Head Gardener for the Knowle West Health Association at Springfield Allotments in Knowle West with BBC Radio Bristol’s Food Hero gong.