10 Jun '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn


Just two weeks to go until the announcement of the winner of the prestigious Food Writers’ Guild Awards, and we have everything crossed for food writer and tourism ambassador Ghillie Başan and her wonderful book, A Taste of the Highlands, shortlisted in the International or Regional Cookbook category.


Ghillie spends her life championing the outstanding range of food and producers from the Highlands of Scotland. Every step she takes is in support of the world-standard produce sourced from field, kitchen, boat and still across the region. She is a true ambassador – and a natural storyteller. This book takes readers and travellers on a culinary journey through the Highlands of Scotland and in Ghillie’s footsteps we meet a host of artisan producers, farmers, crofters, fishermen and distillers from the Cairngorms to the waters of the Moray Firth, the farmland of the Black Isle to the sea lochs, moors and mountains of Sutherland and Argyll. The book features a hundred recipes gleaned along the way and the stories of the people she meets.

A review from Farming Scotland:

A Taste of the Highlands

As Covid closed-in once again in the Autumn of 2021, Ghillie Basan found herself one of a number of people appointed by Scotland: Food and Drink as an ambassador to inspire food tourism growth. Now, as the country shakes off restrictions, she is keen to kick start initiatives and help with the road to recovery. Ghillie is an author of more than 45 books, a broadcaster and food anthropologist. She hosts cookery workshops and whisky and food pairing experiences for staycationers and international visitors alike. And she is bringing the Highland’s natural produce to the attention of the world at a vital moment. She is determined that producers, farmers, crofters, fishermen and women, and distillers will all be part of our recovery and will benefit from it.

In her book, A Taste of the Highlands, Basan writes from the heart as she takes readers on an uplifting culinary journey through the Highlands, meeting true food adventurers and entrepreneurs along the way. Thirty years ago she followed her dreams to a small croft in the Cairngorms National Park but when she first arrived, there was a paucity of local food produce. Meat and fish was shipped south or abroad and the supermarket / online shopping boom had yet to arrive. So she grew her own vegetables and acquired wild produce – rabbits, pheasants, wood pigeons, wild garlic and nettles – reviving habits of Highland living that had been forgotten.

Today local people and visitors to the area want local produce. And producers are responding, exploring ways of preserving tradition, whilst revisiting and reinventing Scotland’s food and drink heritage.

In A Taste of the Highlands, this fine writer introduces us to new food friends and their produce, illustrating her commentary and stories with their recipes and her own. Picking out just a few here from a book that is a sheer joy to read and explore, we find:

  • Tomatin 12 year old whisky, ‘creamy and fruity with a  buttery finish’, perfect for adding to prunes as a topping for porridge;
  • The wheat flour, rye flour, spelt and peasemeal ground at Golspie Mill using a one man (Michael Shaw) operated water-powered system – her book contains a recipe using his peasemeal for  Pancakes with Crowdie, Rowan Raisins and Birch Syrup.
  • Fenella and Kirsty, owners of Ullapool’s Sea Food Shack, purchasing local seafood from local creel boats for the likes of their Lobster Macaroni Cheese (and yes, Ghillie includes this cracking recipe);
  • The Oyster Lady of Loch Crenan who set up the Caledonian Oyster Company – and offers tips for shucking fresh oysters;
  • Edinvale Farm, which sits high above the Moray Firth and was founded by Michael and Susan Gibson. They went on to buy Macbeth’s Butcher and Game Dealer in Forres as an outlet for their high-end farm meat and their reputation spread right across the Highlands and abroad. Now their son Jock is in charge and the business continues to thrive.
  • The honesty box system of the Highlands – with Ghillie paying particular attention to the Little Swallow Food Cupboard in Shieldaig on the coast of Wester Ross. Owned and filled by Peter Fenton with homemade jams, chutneys, marmalades, cakes and savoury pasties each with their own tale of the making.

Having read this, you are probably already planning your own culinary adventure but I urge you to dive into the pages of this book first and even from your armchair start ordering the food of the Highlands. Live local. Eat local. Celebrate Scotland’s larder.

Read more about Ghillie Basan at

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