Community / Islanders tuck in at this year’s food and drink festival

HUNDREDS of visitors descended upon the main hall in the Clickimin Leisure Centre to attend various cooking masterclasses and watch celebrity chef Nick Nairn carry out cooking demonstrations with local Shetland produce.

For Nairn his live cookery demonstration on Saturday morning was his first in over two years.

He said: “I really enjoyed it, I had a head start because the produce in Shetland is so good, and I was working with some of the finest–Shetland lamb, Shetland salmon, and sassermaet which I discovered when I was up here earlier on this year filming for BBC’s Landward.”

He showed people how to make sassermaet balls in a tomato sugo sauce with spaghetti, miso salmon with an Asian slaw, and Shetland lamb skewers with homemade flatbread and an Indian salad in just an hour.

Nairn also made a point of creating everything from scratch. He said: “In an hour it’s quite an ambitious thing to do. But I think if you’re going to do a cookery demonstration you want to impart knowledge to people so they go away and say ‘wow, I had no idea I could do that, I’m going to try that.’”


Over the years, Taste of Shetland has had other celebrity chefs such as Tony Singh and Gary MacLean. Marian Armitage, chair of Shetland Food and Drink, said the idea to have a celebrity chef came from the Taste of Shetland members, who also wanted to get back to doing a full face-to-face event.

“What our members really wanted was a face-to-face chance for the public to come round because there’s nothing like getting to sell your products in person to your customers, which went on the back burner during Covid,” she said.

The festival still ran during the pandemic, including a completely online festival in 2020 that was broadcast to 45,000 people worldwide, and a hybrid festival of both online and in-person events in 2021.

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Armitage added: “Nick Nairn is somebody that knows Shetland and really likes it, so he’s promoting it with a bit of passion as well.”

She praised his cooking demonstrations, showcasing how local Shetland produce can be used to create multicultural dishes.

Armitage said: “It’s so easy just to cook what you always make, but this is a good opportunity to see different styles of making food.

“Nick is somebody who uses spices, but not in a scary way, so he’s done a session this morning with sassermaet, lamb, and salmon. He’s doing another session this afternoon (Saturday) with squid, salmon, and lobster, so that’ll be great.”

Celebrity chef Nick Nairn: ‘When you’ve got produce that good, it’s so nice and easy to work with’. Photo: Shetland Food and Drink

Nairn also commended the ‘fantastic back-up’ he’s received from the team to bring him up to Shetland, which included sourcing lots of Shetland grown food, including fresh basil, coriander, limes, and onions from local polytunnels around the island.

“When you’ve got produce that good, it’s so nice and easy to work with,” he added.

Armitage said to ramp up the event they have introduced several new concepts to this year’s Taste of Shetland festival, including food and drink masterclasses, an international kitchen cooking dishes from various cultural backgrounds like Latvia and the Philippines, and a sausage competition–Shetland’s Best Banger, which was added ‘as a bit of fun’.


Music was provided by Shetland folk band Haltadans while exhibitors like Island Deli, Blyde Welcome Coffee, Waas Bakery, Skibhoul Bakery, and Shetland Reel showed off their products to customers.

Owner of Blyde Welcome Coffee, Celia Smith, said: “It’s fantastic to be here, it’s been so busy and it’s great to see everybody coming out and supporting us.”

Blyde Welcome has been open since 2018, but has only been selling coffee and tea for a month. They sell tea from Edinburgh specialist eteaket, as well as six coffee blends named after different Shetland beaches.

Smith is also running a couple of tea and coffee masterclasses throughout the weekend. She added the hall was ‘a bit mad and hectic, but absolutely great’.

At the other end of the hall, attendees were treated to a café filled with Island Deli produce, who were at the festival for the second time.


Debbie Sneddon, office and kitchen manager at Island Deli, said: “We didn’t really know what to expect today. It was hard to gauge, but we are so excited to be here because we’re such a small business. We don’t have a café or restaurant, so getting to come out and meet people has been very exciting.”

Sunday will comprise primarily of cooking competitions for children, called Peerie Bytes.

Armitage said: “We haven’t had Peerie Bytes since before the pandemic and it’s something that I personally am so passionate about because I was a teacher for years, and I’ve got grand bairns now.

“I think it’s so important to get bairns in the kitchen. I tap my hat off to them – we’ve got some children as young as seven coming and cooking.”

The festival is sponsored by Scottish Sea Farms and is on all weekend at the Clickimin from 10am to 4pm. Tickets are £5 at the door.

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