Gillian Reith, Linsey Reith, Nichola Reith
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
Helen Cathcart

Welcome to Three Sisters Bake

We are three sisters obsessed with food. We love talking about it, tasting it, experimenting with it and reading about it. We never tire of the stuff.

You could say that our love affair with food is hereditary. With a home economics teacher for a mother and grandparents who owned a sweetie shop, we were perhaps headed for a life of food from the outset.

In 2011, we turned our food daydreams into a reality and opened the doors of our café, Three Sisters Bake, in Quarriers Village in the Scottish countryside. We set out with a meager budget and grand plans; to create an oasis of food, caffeine, calm and countryside air. Nowadays, we’re delighted to welcome visitors from all over Scotland to the café in addition to our close-knit group of local customers (including our very own knitting group).

We take a great deal of inspiration from our idyllic village location. We also take pride in using local ingredients whenever possible and enjoy taking a traditional Scottish dish and adding a Three Sisters Bake twist. Our tattie scone stack made with home-baked potato scones and Stornoway black pudding is one of the most popular breakfast dishes on our menu.

Our philosophy has always been to ‘delight the senses’. We like our food to look as good as it tastes. We wanted the recipes in this book to be a reflection of the type of food we serve in the café and also the food we eat at home: simple, innovative, everyday food made with fresh, wholesome ingredients. Oh, and lots of cakes!

We hope you enjoy making them as much as we do.

Where it all began...

We were brought up in a house warmed by cooking smells, home baking and breads from the Aga. Our childhood memories invariably involve craft projects, creating sculptures from homemade play dough and learning to make traybakes at the kitchen table.

Our granny and grandpa owned an old-fashioned sweetie shop in a little village in Scotland called Kirriemuir. As children, visiting them was like Charlie being taken to the chocolate factory. We would spend hours standing on a stool behind the tall counter helping to serve customers, dropping colourful sweets into paper bags and counting coins at the old cash register. As well as jar upon jar of sweets, Granny also sold her own homemade 'tablet' (a traditional Scottish sweet, with the consistency of a slightly crumbly fudge). Granny’s tablet was so popular that she made a full tray every day, which she cut into small squares and portioned into little bags. We were often given jobs on the tablet production line to keep us out of mischief! Nowadays, when people ask what made us want to open a café, I’m sure that watching the fascinating process of Granny making and selling tablet had a lot to do with it.

We were given our first real taste of the hospitality industry as teenagers, when we went to work in our local coffee shop. We slowly learned the art of cappuccino making, under the watchful eye of our boss and mentor Liz, and we watched in awe as she single-handedly ran a kitchen, manned the coffee machine, managed paperwork and charmed her army of loyal customers. She made it look so easy!

Anyone who has ever worked in a café, kitchen, restaurant, hotel or bar will tell you that it is hard work, but also great fun. It really gets under your skin and becomes part of who you are. Looking back, it’s obvious that the allure of the hospitality industry had already begun to seep into each of us, even at that young age.

We all left school and went off into the world. I studied English at Strathclyde University, Nichola headed for studies at Aberdeen University’s science department and Linsey followed Nichola to Aberdeen University to study English.

Like most graduates, we had no idea what we wanted from life, so we independently set off in search of adventure. We each spent the next few years working our way around the world; waitressing in cafés and restaurants, cooking on luxury yachts and in ski chalets, working in beach resorts and pulling pints of Guinness in Irish bars.

Along the way, we found time to pursue and explore our passion for food. We consumed the fluffiest of pancakes in New York, the most exquisite Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand, cupcakes that looked too good to eat in San Francisco and freshly caught fish in Croatia. For a short time, Linsey lived opposite a boulangerie in France and sampled every pastry and tart on offer, while Nichola and I lived and worked in Australia, experiencing Melbourne’s enviable café culture, gourmet brunch menus and the Aussie obsession with excellent coffee. Although plans to open a café of our own were still far away, we must have been subconsciously storing ideas, inspiration and flavours to call upon in the years to come.

Eventually, we all realised we must return home, to the real world and to 'grown-up' jobs. I spent a number of years working in PR and marketing, Nichola worked as a project manager with a pharmaceutical company and Linsey in Human Resources. Our combined interest in food, coffee, wine and café culture was temporarily smothered under files, emails and administration.

However, the sensible ‘proper’ jobs weren’t to last and, one by one, we began to hear the call of the hospitality industry. We escaped our dull desk jobs, lured back to the helter skelter world of restaurants and cooking: Nichola worked as a baker, Linsey trained as a chef, and I worked front of house in a café in Glasgow's West End.

It didn’t take long before the idea of opening a café of our own began to firmly take root. We would meet up for tapas and a glass of wine every week, bursting with ideas about menus, logo design, business plans, potential locations, names for our café and its décor. Every detail was pored over, right down to what colour the salt and pepper mills should be!

After months and months of looking, we eventually found a suitable premises to launch our café business. The terrifying process of turning our dreams into a reality began to take shape as we knocked down walls, painted doors, built furniture and filled the shelves with produce. Eventually, in October 2011, we were ready to open our doors.

Since then we have had a rollercoaster time of it as our family has grown both at the café and at home. We have recruited staff who have become integral members of the Three Sisters Bake team. We’ve made firm friends with many of our local customers and have started a weekly knitting group and ‘Baby Social’ group. We’ve also squeezed in some maternity leave; I had a little girl, Rosie, in 2012 and Nichola had baby Tate in 2013!

Although we have a great team working with us now, we are all still actively involved in the running of the café. Nichola heads up our wedding cake business, Linsey manages our outside catering orders and I look after our food truck and events.

As for the future, who knows what is in store at Three Sisters Bake... We don’t rest on our laurels for long and can’t wait for the next phase of the adventure to begin! -Gillian

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