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News / A good old Shetland feed

River Cafe head chef Joseph Trivelli cooks up a storm with Mainland's mutton at Helen Nisbet's Shetland Night in London. Pic. Shetland Night in London (c) Joe Plommer

ALMOST 50 folk turned out for a Shetland night in London at the weekend, when Yell lass Helen Nisbet decided to turn her city friends on to the delights of island fare.

The contemporary art curator from Cullivoe had been getting frustrated that despite eating out all over London, nothing compared to the good old mutton and seafood from home.

Having failed to even find a decent leg of mutton at the butchers to cook for herself, she set out on a quest to create an inner city Shetland night.

The idea sprouted and caught on with the help of Twitter, the number of guests more than doubling as the big night approached.

Her Cullivoe neighbour Christopher Thomson sent down rope-grown mussels free of charge, and Mainland butchers parceled up some mutton with a bit of reestit thrown in for good measure.

With whisky cocktails, bere bannocks, barley soup, neeps and carrots, all rounded off with apple cake and whisky ice cream, the night could hardly go wrong, especially with her good friend and River Café head chef Joseph Trivelli in charge.

To add to the flavour, Helen’s brother Barry and Cunningsburgh lass Emma Johnson brought their fiddles and the happy throng ended up doing a Boston Two Step once the food was eaten.

“The idea of having a Shetland night in London has been coming to me slowly for years,” Helen said.

“I love food and spend most of my tiny salary on eating out all over London, but nothing has ever tasted as good as the mutton and seafood I eat when I’m home.

“I’ve been telling friends for years how great our mutton is, and how we would have it slow cooked on a weekend and everybody would fight over the black bits, and you would delve into the fridge days later to pull off a piece of the flesh for a bit of a snack.

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“For years I’ve been asking butchers in London, and elsewhere in the UK, if they have mutton – sometimes they do, but it’s nothing like the mutton we have at home.

“Most often they tell you that no one wants to eat mutton, and they offer you a bit of lamb.

“So I started a quest to get some good, old mutton down here so my friends could try it. Then I realised it would make sense to make a bit of a night of it.

“You can eat food from all over the world here in our capital city, so why not food from Shetland?”

Guests ranged from Shetlanders in London, folk with Shetland relatives and a selection of food writers and critics, some of whom had never heard of the place.

The evening went down so well that Helen’s now thinking of a repeat event.

“I want it to be about the hospitality, the fun, the food and camaraderie that I have had on nights out in Shetland. “So I’m hoping it can be a regular thing, for folk who live in London, and beyond.”

Since the weekend she’s already had a request from Copenhagen. This could catch on!

More pictures can be seen here and you can follow Helen on Twitter @shetlandnight

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