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Features / Shetland Food Fair: A fantastic weekend showcasing the finest local produce

Marjolein Robertson follows a demonstration by Margaret Williamson, from Lunna Farm, and her granddaughter Kirsten Williamson, of how to make sheep's puddings - all photos: Elizabeth Atia.

COME Sunday afternoon over 3,000 people had visited the annual Shetland Food Fair, a 100 per cent increase on last year’s numbers. Shetland News asked food blogger Elizabeth Atia to capture the flavour.

I spent the whole weekend browsing, taste testing and catching up with folk I often only see during this annual event. It’s such a wonderful thing to be able to do, for a foodie like me, to chat cake, bacon, coffee and beer with people who are so extremely passionate about what they do.

I felt a sense of pride as I wandered stall to stall with my camera and my pocketbook. Shetland food producers grow, breed and create such a wide variety of delicious produce. If someone could start growing coffee I’m pretty sure we could become a completely self-sufficient island.

Some of the things that really got my taste buds going this weekend were:
the soon-to-be-launched Shetland sea salt: this is the brainchild of Kaye Sandison of Scalloway and Akshay Borges, chef at the Scalloway Hotel.

They’ve begun harvesting salt from our crystal clear waters and the taste is out of this world – I can see this going global! They had the plain sea salt, a smoked sea salt and a squid’s ink sea salt available for taste testing at the Scoop Wholefoods stall at the fair. Seriously impressed!

Anderson’s Butchers have recently begun dry and sweet curing its own bacon at its premises. With maple glaze, Kentucky bourbon and garlic butter flavours, to name a few, there’s something for every bacon-lover’s taste.

The Quernstone Bakery now has its own bakery premises in Aith, on the west side of Shetland, and had freshly baked still-warm sourdough loaves available to buy in addition to Danish pastries, spelt loaves and (my favourite) beremeal bloomers. Utterly delicious!

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The Mirrie Dancers Chocolatier, launched earlier this year, had a large range of shimmering northern lights inspired chocolates to try and buy.

This time last year the idea of opening a chocolate shop of his own was just that, an idea, in entrepreneur Dave Williams’ head. What a difference a year makes; it was heartening to see his idea come to fruition.

Rhanna Turberville of the organising committee said quite a few other locals had approached her with food related business ideas, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next year.

One new business to look out for is Mackenzie’s Farm Shop and Cafe, opening this spring in Cunningsburgh. This new development will include retail space for local seasonal produce, crafts and gifts as well as a cafe.

In addition, the Shetland Fudge Company has begun making gourmet marshmallows, Shetland Reel Gin launched Holly Days, a Christmas-themed gin, Shetland Farm Dairies has repackaged ts buttermilk for ease of use, the Valhalla Brewery launched a new American-style IPA while the Walls Bakery has rebranded as the Waas Bakery and added a wide range of artisan loaves to its popular range.

This year there was a new heritage kitchen at the fair organised by the Shetland Museum and Archives where we were shown how to make traditional Shetland dishes like stap, Shetland butter and kirn milk (a mesmerising process to watch although it turned out to be trow-shot!), Shetland bannocks, krappin and sheeps’ puddeens.

In between cookery demonstrations local Shetland poets and storytellers entertained.

There were demonstrations throughout the fair in the main hall from well-known local chefs including Steve Carter, Raymond Smith, Glynn Wright and Heather Moncrieff as well as visiting Master Chefs George McIvor and Bill Bryce.

My own teenage son (proud mother moment here!), representing the Anderson High School cookery class, demonstrated a rather delicious beef stir fry recipe.

The Shetland Food Fair finished on the Sunday afternoon with the three finalists in the very first Shetland Cookery Challenge – Jenny Fraser, Caroline Tait and Chris Percival – demonstrating their skills on stage in front of a packed audience.

After much deliberation (it was a close contest) the judges announced Percival as the winner. He was awarded the prize of a flight to Edinburgh to visit the Martin Wishart Restaurant.

All in all it was a pretty fantastic weekend showcasing the finest in Shetland produce and I’d like to say a huge thank you and well done to all the organisers at Shetland Food and Drink and to all the sponsors of the event.

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