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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, for a special event. The Ceòlas community group is putting on an evening celebrating local food as well as local music.
It starts with a chance for everyone to sample the products of various food producers in the Western Isles. Maclean’s Bakery is based in Benbecula, though it supplies shops throughout the Uists, and beyond. The Hebridean Smokehouse is based in North Uist. Salar, who also specialise in salmon, are based in South Uist. And Kallin Shellfish are based in Grimsay.
After 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 at the door. The compère for the evening is Mary Macinnes.
She starts by inviting guests to help themselves to more food and wine before the demonstration begins.
The simultaneous translation is provided by the Ceòlas administrator, Mary Ellen Stewart.
The demonstration is to be given by Isabel Graham, a well-known cook and hotelier, from the Orasay Inn.
For 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 of all of these.
Everyone follows what she does closely.
Crab is also important, and very popular.
As the evening draws on everyone gets to taste Isabel’s cooking. Even Mary Ellen gets to relax a little. The food is shared out, 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 of charge, and Mary encourages everyone to make more use of fresh Uist food.
To finish off Iain Macdonald plays some tunes with local and visiting musicians. Iain, who lives in Benbecula, is famous around the world as a leading Scottish traditional musician on both pipes and flute. Here, in his own community, he can relax in the company of friends. It’s hard to imagine a better way to finish off a good healthy meal.
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