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Community / Local produce showcased at Taste of Shetland food and drink festival

Shetland Oyster Company's Winston Brown at the 2023 festival alongside Claire White. Photo: Dave Donaldson

THE TWO-day Taste of Shetland food and drink festival kicked off at the Clickimin earlier today (Saturday) with a range of live cooking demonstrations, workshops and stalls.

Chair of Shetland Food & Drink Marian Armitage said there was a “buzz” around the Clickimin as visitors sampled various foods and watched the live shows.

Coinneach MacLeod A.K.A The Hebridean Baker hosted a cooking session on the stage for over an hour, entertaining the audience with lots of stories and songs as he baked a traditional shearing cake.

Armitage said: “He was brilliant. The reason we got him was because of the tradition of baking in Shetland. Lots of folk bake all kinds of stuff, so it’s fitted in really well.”

MacLeod was “over the moon” to be invited up to Shetland for the visit, as his first trip up to the isles.

Being from the Hebrides he said he knows his own island very well, but hasn’t had the chance to come to Shetland before.

The Hebridean Baker at the festival. Photo: Dave Donaldson

“We’ve got so much in common but we are very different,” he said. “So many people have come up to me today and chatted about their version of recipes I’ve got, and what they’ve made.”

He explained the story behind the shearing cake he made on stage. The baker said: “I decided in my third book that I wanted to explore the other Celtic nations because we have so much in common, but we’re all a wee bit different, a bit like the Scottish islands as well.”

The shearing cake is a Welsh recipe, traditionally eaten after farmers returned from shearing their sheep. MacLeod explained: “It’s quite a hearty, robust cake. In the olden days it wasn’t made with butter, it was made with the remaining bacon fat from breakfast which would go into the cake to make it more bulky as an afternoon treat.”

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MacLeod felt the storyline was fitting for the Scottish islands where sheep are also a significant part of the economy.

Two workshops took place, one focused on creating cheese using local milk and another hosted by Peter MacQueen, MacLeod’s partner, surrounding the art of hutting. Hutting is a traditional and rustic experience, going off the grid in a more basic dwelling to escape the demands of a busy day-to-day life.

Polycrub had its smallest polycrub on display in the hall to highlight that people can grow their own fruits and vegetables even in smaller gardens.

Armitage explained: “The peerie mootie poly sends out the message that with a very peerie space you can grow your own and get through this problem of there being no food when the ferries stop, and we need to have more locally grown food.”

There was a big turnout for the Hebridean Baker. Photo: Dave Donaldson

There were a variety of stalls highlighting some of the best Shetland has to offer for food and drink, and an international kitchen showcasing cuisines from around the world.

Shetland Oyster Company was attending the festival for the first time. Winston Brown who runs the company explained the idea came after they had found lots of oyster shells at the back of their croft house in Weisdale. He said: “We knew they’d done well at some point, and down at the shore the mussels are four deep at the rocks so we know there’s a good water flow in Weisdale Voe.”

He added that coming to the festival was a “milestone” for the company, giving a first chance to interact with the public.

Shetland Food and Drink chair Marian Armitage.

Brown said: “We’ve had such good feedback, and from people who know oysters after having them before.” The oysters were fresh, flavoured with lemon and lime.

Scalloway Meat Company ran the café throughout the day with a range of spooky goodies and pies, while there are also some activities for the bairns including face painting.

The Primary Peerie Bites competition will run tomorrow (Sunday), giving young people in Shetland the chance to compete and show off their cooking skills. There will also be another session with MacLeod where he will make a Hot Toddy Bundt Cake.

Taste of Shetland continues tomorrow at the Clickimin Leisure Complex in Lerwick, between 10am and 5pm.

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