Coinneach MacLeod, known to millions across the world as The Hebridean Baker, talks exclusively to Journal Magazine about the launch of his debut book and why it is a love to story to the place he calls home.
Never before has the Outer Hebrides been more in. There is a wave of creativity cascading across the unforgiving and unforgettable landscapes of a place blessed with beauty.
Harris Tweed and the Isle of Harris Distillery have become synonymous with the Isle of Lewis, the most northerly of the Outer Hebrides. But now there is something else encapsulating the very essence of what island life is like and showcasing it all to an enchanted audience.
Coinneach MacLeod and his Westie pup, Seòras, have been capturing the hearts of millions with videos on social media. Born and raised on the Isle of Lewis he has always been a passionate home baker and last year he began posting videos on Tiktok under the name the Hebridean Baker.
15 million views (and counting) later and it is fair to say the Hebridean Baker has become a global baking sensation. His videos of traditional Scottish recipes and stories and adventures of island life have inspired his followers to bake, forage, learn Gaelic, have a dram or two of whisky and visit the Scottish islands.
It has been an incredible rise to success for the Hebridean Baker and Journal Magazine caught up with Coinneach as he told us all about the release of his debut book which gives you a true taste of Scotland’s wild and windswept Outer Hebrides.
“Putting together my book: The Hebridean Baker, Recipes & Wee Stories from the Scottish Islands has been a dream project! At first, I thought finding the right 75 recipes would be difficult, but it came together so well, along with the beautiful photography.”
The book has been created to combine recipes and personal stories from Coinneach’s past. This is blended together with folklore and tales from the Isle, with even a drop of Coinneach’s wit thrown in for good measure: “I loved writing the stories about the Hebrides – you can even read about the day my father gave the Queen crabs!”
“I feel the book is a love story to the Hebrides, through the recipes, ingredients, landscapes and stories. I hope I made my fellow islanders proud.”
From Croft Loaf to Cranachan Chocolate Bombs, Oaty Apricot Cookies to Heilan’ Coo Cupcakes, there is an incredible collection of recipes to choose from. Inherited recipes are a constant source of inspiration for Coinneach, with some of the featured recipes being gathered from relatives, including his Granny Annag’s famous Christmas Cake. When quizzed on his favourite, there was one particular standout: “My Aunt Bellag is 93 and she features in the book with her famous Duff recipe. This is the Gaelic name for a Clootie Dumpling. She has been making it the same way for 80 years, and has the best recipe on the island! She even gave me her secret ingredient, a tablespoon of marmalade.”
The Hebrides is a larder like no other, offering some of the best homegrown produce you could wish to taste and Coinneach brings every mouth-watering recipe to life. However, it isn’t just Gaelic coffee and spiced tea cake that make this book so special; it is the adventures and stories of island life that he tells. Making every tale so palpable that you can almost taste the Hebridean air. With each recipe you can envision walking along a deserted beach, climbing a heather-strewn hill or sipping a dram at a cèilidh to the tune of a Gaelic song or chatting by a warm stove with a cup of coffee and cake in hand.
Coinneach may not have much time for that coffee and cake these days though. Receiving and replying to over 3,000 messages a day from all across the world as well as appearing on This Morning with Philip Schofield and Holly Williougby and Kirstie Allsop’s Christmas is keeping him very busy.
“I have shared what I am passionate about and it is wonderful that it has resonated with so many folk.. My goal with the Hebridean Baker is to promote the islands, our food, language, and heritage – but most importantly have fun along the way! And appearing alongside Holly & Phil and Kirstie was amazing.”
“Never could I imagine this would happen in my life, but I am embracing it. It is something I will look back on for years to come and smile.”
The sense of home and community rings true throughout the book and it’s clear to see how much it all means to Coinneach. “I am a proud Hebridean! Coming from the Isle of Lewis has influenced every aspect of my life and it will always be my home. I have been so pleased to work with Harris Tweed Hebrides, Isle of Harris Distillery and Stag Bakeries – local businesses who are passionate about our heritage and people.”
To order your copy of The Hebridean Baker’s Recipes & Wee Stories from the Scottish Islands, click here.
All photography courtesy of Euan Anderson