THEY are the comforting sights and smells of granny’s kitchen-pot of warming broth, a delicious cake in the oven and a sheep’s head charring away under the grill.  

Liver and kidneys, oxtails, seaweed, dried egg – and the unfortunate sheep – were the staples that Gregor MacLeod’s granny, Peggy Saunders, would use day in and day out in her kitchen at home on the Isle of Lewis.  

Jotted down in her recipe book, Peggy meticulously detailed the ingredients for a wealth of traditional dishes which made use of whatever was close to hand, ensuring that, if possible, nothing went to waste. As Peggy got older, her family moved on and her love of cooking shrunk down to simple dishes for herself. The much-loved recipe book was tucked away and forgotten.  

It was only after she died and grandson Gregor began the task of clearing her belongings to make her house his own home, that the book with its 50 recipes, most jotted down in his granny’s cursive scrawl and others on slips of paper given to her by relatives and friends, turned up.  

Fascinated by its contents, Gregor has now set himself a challenge to cook his way through granny’s much-loved dishes. Wherever he can, he uses the same old-fashioned ingredients while some dishes are given an updated twist to cater for modern and significantly more squeamish tastebuds.  

The results have been captured on film for a new BBC ALBA series, Cidsin Granaidh Chalanais (Grannie’s Kitchen), which follows Gregor, 32, as he wrestles with ingredients now largely consigned to the past and attempts to overcome his own trepidation when confronted with dishes which were among granny Peggy’s favourites.  

While some recipes – such as ceann-cropaig, fish heads stuffed with oats and onions – Gregor could not find the stomach for, granny’s book also revealed forgotten gems waiting to be rediscovered.  

Gregor says discovering the book and recreating the once much-loved recipes in what used to be her kitchen has been an emotional as well as culinary journey.  

“She worked hard keeping the house and running it as a bed and breakfast,” he says.  

“These recipes must have been important to her for her to write them down. They also show how times have changed; now we might print out a recipe or bookmark a website, she would write it all down or keep these little scraps of paper with crumpled edges which were stashed away in the book.” 

Indeed, one of the challenges he faced was trying to decipher her handwriting and imagining how the finished dishes might have looked.  

Often the recipes reflect a “pre-quinoa” age – not so very long ago – when tastes were simpler and more suited for the basic ingredients available around her Isle of Lewis croft, such as seaweed, wild berries, offal and fish scraps. 

The series follows Gregor as he enlists friends, family and neighbors to source ingredients such as carageen seaweed, foraged from the seashore and used to create a surprisingly tasty jelly-like vanilla-flavoured pudding.  

Along the way, he finds out more about the ingredients and dishes which were once everyday staples on Scottish tables such as liver, kidneys, oxtail and mutton.

Granny Peggy, like many island lasses, left Lewis as a young woman to find work in Glasgow, sending what she could from her meagre wages back home to help her family.  

In the aftermath of the Second World War she was working as a cook for a well-off family in a large home in Prince’s Terrace, Dowanhill, where she honed her skills using rationed ingredients like dried egg.  

She married husband Norman MacLeod and, on returning from Glasgow, worked a croft Callanish while caring for her family. She later launched her bed and breakfast business at the house in Callanish – one of the first of its kind on the island.  

In the series, which airs next month Gregor attempts her old-fashioned recipes, even overcoming the “horrendous smell” of the powdered egg to create a delicious Bakewell tart and tackling once common dishes such as oxtail stew, liver casserole and homemade oatcakes. 

The recipe book has revived memories of visiting his grandmother’s kitchen as a child – some more pleasant than others.  

“I’d come through the door and she would have a sheep’s head on the grill to singe it, and the place would be ‘honking’,” he laughs. “It was enough to put you off food forever – the only thing worse when was my father, who she taught to cook, would cook guga. “That was the cue for my mother and me to have macaroni cheese.” 

A more tasteful memory comes from the pancakes which were almost always bubbling on the griddle and strips of salted meat that his granny hung next to the Rayburn oven.  

“It was hard and rubbery mutton which had been dried,” recalls Gregor. “They would be hanging there forever, wrapped up in newspaper. She’d tear a piece off and cook it in soup where it would add flavour and flakes of meat. It was really tasty.” 

Granny’s kitchen supplied almost constant pots of mince and tatties, and steaming thick broth to fuel the peat season, when it would be delivered with a very welcome dram of Ballantine’s whisky.  

The book also reveals a love for sweet treats: there are five different recipes for shortbread including one using rice floor, favourites like marmalade, rhubarb and orange jam, gingerbread and Scottish tablet.  

Peggy died aged 84. Having lost her appetite, Gregor remembers that as she aged and her appetite shrunk, she made do with small snacks. Eventually her kitchen at 9 Callanish, overlooking a nearby loch and in the shadow of the ancient stones, fell quiet.  

The book, with its flavours of the past, serves as a reminder of the way things were and provided inspired for Gregor to create new recipes, fusing her marmalade with her Bakewell Tart recipe, switching her trifle recipe with amaretto biscuits and reinventing her fishcake recipe using home smoked trout.  

Gregor, who revived his granny’s B&B business, says the recipe book has helped him rethink his own approach to some traditional dishes. “I made her liver and kidneys dish which at first I thought I really couldn’t stomach. It turned out to be really tasty.” 

Cidsin Granaidh Chalanais (Grannie’s Kitchen), has been produced by  Glasgow-based Caledonia TV for BBC ALBA. The series beings on  Wednesday, February 16, 8.30pm.