Nick Nairn Headlines Shetland Food and Drink Festival
The Taste of Shetland Food and Drink Festival returned with a bang earlier this October, for two jam-packed days of Shetland food, drink and entertainment in the Clickimin Centre in Lerwick.
For the second year running, this highlight of Shetland’s ‘foodie’ calendar was made possible through generous sponsorship from Scottish Sea Farms.
Some 1200 visitors passed through the doors over the weekend eager to explore and learn about the finest offerings in Shetland food and drink through a wide variety of SFAD member stalls from the recently launched Shetland lamb biltong to the award-winning Shetland Sea Salt.
Headlining the event was Scottish celebrity chef and restaurateur Nick Nairn, for his first live cookery demonstration post-COVID.
Nick Nairn has been a regular visitor to Shetland since the mid 1990s when he was up filming Wild Harvest for the BBC.
Nick recalls, “I remember thinking at the time: strange place, no trees, nice people. Funny sheep that run down the middle of the road. I started eating stuff here way back then and I thought there's something quite singular about island food.”
“You do have something quite unique here. You've got terroir, you've got something that says this is from Shetland, and the thing that defines Shetland food is just the sheer quality of it.”
Nick kicked the festival off with a live cookery demonstration, showing us step-by-step how to make three different complete meals in under an hour. He started with an authentic tikka marinade for Shetland lamb with served with homemade chapatti, cowchumber and a yogurt dressing, followed by spaghetti with sassermaet meatballs in an Italian tomato sauce and finishing off with salmon with a miso dressing and an Asian slaw.
Everything was made from scratch, from the freshly toasted spices in his garam masala to using a blow torch to create the scorch marks on the flatbreads.
This was followed by a seafood demonstration, where he taught us how to clean and prep lobster and squid before making three different seafood dishes: stuffed whole lobster with a garlic butter sauce, pan-seared squid with Bok choi and a salmon ceviche and cucumber starter.
“When I had my first restaurant, my signature dish was a seared fillet of salmon and I put this on the menu written as Shetland Farmed Salmon. Shetland salmon was of such high quality back then, it stood out miles above everything else and I was reminded of that when I was cooking salmon at the festival.”
This year’s festival also saw the return of the popular Peerie Bites competition, sponsored by Northlink.
On the Sunday, six primary and secondary-age children cooked on stage with Nick Nairn, whipping up culinary delights with Shetland produce.
These included Willam’s Shetland sirloin steak with baby tattie wedges, Lennie’s fish bannocks, Lowra’s spaghetti and meatballs with hidden veg sauce and Rory’s wraps with homegrown carrots, nasturtiums, rocket and peas, not to forget granny's tomatoes.
It was Erin MacBeath, age 9, who impressed the judging team made up of Nick Nairn and representatives from Northlink with her Polycrub tomato risotto, to win first prize in the Primary category, while Vaila Thompson won first in the Secondary category with her creative Shetland biltong bowl.
Northlink will be working with the Peerie Bites contestants to create a special dish onboard their ferries in the near future.
New to this year’s festival was the introduction of the International Cuisine Stall sponsored by EnQuest. Shetland is called home by people from a wide range of cultures and their recipes and food stories form part of our modern cultural identity. This year visitors had the chance to enjoy some of these recipes including German potato soup with smoked sausage and Latvian grey peas with bacon.
Joanne Williams, SFAD Project Assistant, said: “The International Kitchen was a great draw. It heartwarming to see people enjoying food from around the world and asking lots of questions about that person's home country.”
Masterclass sessions were held in the Loch Bar by some of Shetland’s talented foodies, from bannock making sessions by Kevin Smith, a sourdough bread-making class by Gus Dow and a Swiss meringue buttercream cake decorating class by Emma Leask.
There was children’s entertainment, including face painting, games and a tasting stall, while live music was played by the talented Haltadans. Lunch was served by the Island Deli café.
This year’s festival also saw the introduction of Shetland’s Best Banger competition, with eight different types of sausages from local butchers and SFAD’s very own Mary Andreas, competing for the trophy. Uradale Farm, with their native Shetland beef sausage, won.
Marian Armitage, SFAD Chairperson said, "It was splendid to see so many folk at the Taste of Shetland Festival this weekend.
Our members really enjoyed speaking with the public and sharing the stories of their produce.
Nick Nairn’s demonstrations showed how our wholesome Shetland ingredients can form the base of straightforward and delicious recipes with clever peerie twists to add interest.
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Joanne Williams, SFAD project assistant said, “It was excellent to be back to some normality and fantastic to see our members interacting with their customers, old and new, and making new contacts!
Overall, the festival was a resounding success and I feel really proud to have been part of it!”
Mary Andreas, SFAD Finance Officer: “What a pleasure it was to be part of the SFAD team running this year’s Festival under almost normal circumstances again! Our members did Shetland proud, their stalls were mouth wateringly eye catching.
A lot of work goes into this event and it was so gratifying to see folk enjoying it. A huge thank you to everyone involved!”
Nick Nairn commented, after finishing his first cookery demonstration: “It's been a pleasure cooking in front of a live audience again after two and a half years and you can see these guys have been queuing here for half an hour to tuck into the food I’ve cook. So, I’ve got to be doing something right, yeah?”
A huge thank you to everyone who came to support the Taste of Shetland festival this year. We were so glad to welcome you back to a festival that looked much more like one we would have had pre-pandemic.
Many thanks to our wonderful stall holders, who provided the guests with a true taste of Shetland’s amazing array of small food businesses, offering samples of everything from gin and beer to baked goods, specialty coffee, chocolates, and sample sized deli platters!
A huge thank you Christiane who pulled the international kitchen stall together and to all those who came along to cook and share a dish from their cultures.
A big thanks to Nick for travelling to Shetland to share all his cooking tips and knowledge with us, your passion for our local foods was fantastic and we were so delighted to have you here. Also, many thanks to comperes Jane Moncrieff and Claire White who guided us through all the cooking demonstrations and events on the main stage.
Well done to all the bairns who took part in the Peerie Bites cooking competition sponsored by NorthLink Ferries, you all made some spectacular dishes!
Thanks to all those who ran the brilliant masterclasses sponsored by EnQuest, you all did an incredible job and to those who attended we hope you learned everything there is to know about, cake decorating, deboning a lamb, serving the perfect cup of coffee or whatever caught your interest!
Thank you to Lannie Travel who took on our social media, we hope that you had a great time at the festival.
And finally, a big thanks to our sponsors Scottish Sea Farms Ltd and everyone involved in volunteering, organising and helping at the festival: the festival could not happen without you.