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Monthly Archives: October 2022

A Taste of Shetland Food and Drink Festival 2022: an Australian’s Perspective

It’s not a surprise to readers of this blog that I love Shetland. I fell in love when I first visited in 2019.

These northerly islands with stunning scenery, rugged coastlines, windswept beaches and marvellous unique wildlife capture the imagination.

I love the islands’ Viking heritage, too, evident in archaeology, language and place names.

But it’s the food and food culture that really draw me to the islands. An abundance of local produce, a cultural shared food heritage from the many influences of sea locked islands and a generosity of spirit to share and connect with food make for some wonderful food experiences.

So it was with great delight that I learned that the Taste of Shetland Food Festival was back again as a live event in 2022.

The pandemic has put on hold so many festivals and celebrations, and when a food festival returns from a place I hold dear, there was only one thing to do – book my ticket and fly from Australia!

So a week in Shetland – some walks, tours and good restaurants – culminating in a fabulous foodie weekend. I crammed a lot into one Saturday in the Clickimin Leisure Complex in Lerwick as I already had my Sunday organised going to Unst, with Chris Dyer of Garths Croft, which was another unique cultural experience in Shetland not to be missed.

So here’s a snapshot of my day and some photos which I hope capture the spirit of the Festival. First up, after the official opening, Nick Nairn, Celebrity Chef Cooking Demonstration:

A highly entertaining and informative session where Nick cooked lamb tikka skewers, sassermaet meatballs and miso salmon. All highlighting local Shetland ingredients. Nick knows his stuff and I’ve never laughed so much in a cooking show!

Next, a wander round the stalls. So many fabulous food and drink providers showing off their products! I could have eaten half of Shetland in a walk around. And I possibly did eat quite a lot of the lovely samples…

Too many providers to mention them all here, the photos will give you the idea. And lunch was a delicious beef pie from Scalloway Meat Co and a chance to sit down!

The afternoon was spent in two fabulous masterclasses, learning more about sourdough and bannocks.

Sourdough by Gus Dow taught this sourdough baker a whole lot more about the science of sourdough. Gus started with a Halloween pumpkin loaf fresh from the oven and then baked a couple of batard loaves, as well as showing how to make a sourdough starter. Great stuff!

Shetland Bannocks by Kevin Smith was the definitive workshop on bannocks for me, giving me insiders’ tips to shaping and cooking these notoriously tricky flour items. And I learnt some new Shetland vocab too. Can’t wait to try these new skills!

I also got to meet Marian Armitage, Festival Chair, “Proud Shetlander, home cook and award winning food writer”. Wow! My Festival experience was complete.

For more info on the Festival and A Taste of Shetland, click here for the website.

A great day all round, meeting, talking and eating – so congratulations to the organisers and to all involved for a successful 2022 Festival.

“Garths Croft Bressay Shetland”

Greenwich Bread

Here’s a quick recipe for bread that doesn’t require kneading. You can mix this bread up quickly, but it does require a long slow prove.

I’m travelling at the moment and currently in London, staying with friends. I haven’t made bread, let alone cooked, for two weeks! So I decided I’d whip up a quick loaf.

I used whatever ingredients were on hand – plain flour, rolled oats, yeast, salt and water, and sunflower and sesame seeds. All good for a rustic loaf!

It’s a heavy loaf, because of the rolled oats, which also made it difficult to get a good rise. But that’s part of baking a rustic loaf. You are not going dainty here!

I made this bread by hand, proved it in a makeshift tea towel and bowl prover, and baked it straight on a baking sheet.

The bread is named for Greenwich in London, and is pictured with the Thames in the background.

And if you’re interested in the famous original “no knead” bread recipe, my version is posted here.

Ingredients

325g flour

75g rolled oats

10g salt

10g dried yeast

325g water

20g mixed seeds for the topping – I used sunflower and sesame seeds

Method

In a large bowl, mix the flour and oats. Put the salt on side of the bowl and the yeast on the other. Pour in the water and roughly mix until combined.

Cover with a tea towel and leave for half an hour. Without actually kneading, stretch and fold the dough over on itself three or four times. Cover the dough again with the tea towel, or with cling wrap or my favourite a plastic shower cap. Leave for 12 hours at room temperature.

The bread may not rise very much – I found the oats were a little heavy. This is no big deal. Now turn the bread out onto your work surface and roughly shape into a ball. Put into a bowl lined with a tea towel that has been liberally sprinkled with flour.

Cover again. Leave at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight – good to do if you’re making bread in the morning. If your bread did miraculously rise a lot on the first prove, put it in the fridge for this second prove. My bread didn’t rise significantly, so I left it at room temperature.

Half an hour before you went to bake, preheat your oven to 210 degrees C. Put a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray.

After the second prove, turn the bread out of its bowl onto the baking tray. Sprinkle some flour on the top, then the mixed seeds, pressing them lightly into the dough. Lastly cut a cross in the top of the bread.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the bread is brown on top. The bread needs to be quite brown as an indication that it’s properly cooked inside.

Remove from the oven and let it cook for half an hour before tucking in! Great with loads of butter and raspberry jam…

Caramelised Onion Traybake

This is an easy and tasty dish perfect for lunch or my favourite, a simple supper.

It’s more of traybake than a tart, as it’s baked in a cake tin or pan. But there’s nothing to stop you from baking it in a traditional tart or pie dish, or even a normal baking dish.

The recipe came about because I had loads of beautiful red onions, plus a few brown ones on hand. I had just been to the Spring Harvest Festival at Vaucluse House run by Sydney Living Museums where I came away with a big tub of Vanella Cheese ricotta.

So caramelised onions on creamy ricotta on puff pastry was the go! Baked as a traybake made it easy to cut into slices for serving.

Not too tricky, give it a go!

Ingredients

3 large brown onions

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 red onions

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

300g ricotta

3 free-range eggs

Salt and black pepper

1 sheet of puff pastry (approximately 180g, if you’re using block puff pastry)

Method

Cut all the onions into rings. No need to be too precise – they can be quite chunky. Reserve the rings from two of the red onions.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat on the stovetop. Add the olive oil. Put in all the onion slices except the reserved red onion slices. Add the salt and brown sugar.

Cook for several minutes until the onions are soft and caramelised, turning occasionally. Now add in the reserved onions and cook for a further couple of minutes, until the onions have only just started to soften. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C fan forced.

Grease your cake tin/pan or tart dish or baking dish.

Mix the ricotta, free range eggs, salt and black pepper with a spoon or fork. No need to blend or process.

Place the sheet of puff pastry snugly inside the tin/pan/dish, cutting it or stretching it to fit your dish. If using block pastry, roll out 180g into a shape to fit the size of the dish.

Soon the ricotta mixture over the puff pastry. Layer the onions on top, making sure the red onions you cooked last sit on the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden round the wedges and the ricotta is set.

Serve warm or cold, with a green salad and crusty bread. You can freezer left over slices too.

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