SHETLAND is showing off its culinary prowess this weekend in a festival celebrating the archipelago’s diverse food and drink culture.

The Taste of Shetland festival is an annual event which puts the island group’s food on show, highlighting businesses from small independent chocolate producers to industry giants like Salmon Scotland – who sponsor the event.

The festival is host to a number of stalls from Shetland-based food and food-related businesses, as well as a packed schedule of workshops, events and competitions.

The National:

READ MORE: Scottish Takeaway Awards 2023: See all the winners

Among stallholders this year are the Shetland Oyster Company – launched this year and selling the first commercially available Shetland-grown oysters – and Polycrub, a storm-resistant polytunnel/greenhouse hybrid built on Shetland to allow people to grow produce for longer throughout the harshest weather conditions.

Other stalls include:

  • The Shetland Distillery Company Ltd
  • Uradale Farm
  • Paparwark Furniture
  • Shetland Wool Adventures & 60 North Publishing
  • The Shetland Times Bookshop
  • Cooke Aquaculture Scotland
  • Eventastic
  • Scalloway Meat Company Ltd
  • The Chocolate Box
  • Blyde Welcome coffee
  • The Hand-Made Fish Company
  • SAC Consulting
  • MM yummycakes

Marian Armitage, chair of Shetland Food and Drink which runs the weekend’s events, said: “The food festival is the highlight of the year – and it's our most public event.

“Shetland Food and Drink is a membership organisation and we have about 80 members, and that includes small one-person businesses, right up to the really big guys like the salmon industry.

“And that's kind of deliberate because I think that represents what we do in Shetland. We sell and produce food on a vastly varying scale.”

Each year, the festival brings in a high-profile chef to put on a demonstration for the festival and show off what can be done with food and drink in Shetland.

In previous years, Nick Nairn, who was the youngest Scottish chef to win a Michelin star in the 1990s, and Gary Maclean, Scotland’s first National Chef, have taken to the festival’s display kitchen.

This year, Hebridean Baker Coinneach MacLeod – who rose to fame on TikTok in 2020 – is showing off his skills at the event.

Armitage said: “Baking is obviously his thing, and that sits quite well in Shetland because we are kind of a group of islands where baking is very important.

“One of the things we have on Sundays, all over Shetland in the summer, is what we call Sunday Teas, which take place in a kind of a country hall, really as a fundraiser and just the array of baking is absolutely something to behold.”

READ MORE: The island nation 'punching above its weight' on world stage after independence

She continued: “We've got various people doing demonstrations. We have a big demonstration kitchen and we have people doing stuff in there for the two days, including the Hebridean Baker.

“In addition to that we have we have an international kitchen, just to celebrate the wide range of people that live in Shetland.

“And these are just people who have volunteered to come and make a dish from their own culture or their own cuisines and then let people taste it.”

Yesterday the international kitchen served up Czech, Indian, Dutch and Filipino food, and today festival-goers will be able to try out Slovenian, Latvian, Swedish and Italian dishes too.

Armitage even took to the stage herself yesterday to demonstrate two of her own dishes, including a recipe for salt-baked salmon – in which the fish is encased and cooked entirely in salt – and another inspired by Sassermaet – a spicy ground Shetland beef.

She added: “We're also very proud of the fact that we have this children's cooking competition called Peerie Bites – peerie is the Shetland word for small.

“The idea is that it's children and we have three finalists of primary-school age and two finalists of secondary-school age. And every year we give them a kind of brief as to what they have to do.

“This year, they have to produce a pie or tart of some kind, that obviously uses Shetland ingredients, and then they make it onstage in front of the public.”

READ MORE: Scottish firm praises power of games in Holocaust education

Armitage, who was a school teacher for more than 30 years, added: “I think what it says is that we really value the fact that children are learning to cook, often do that at home, and it's something that we want to encourage.”

She added that the festival aims to both give publicity to Shetland’s diverse food and drink and to celebrate the culinary culture of the islands.

She said: “The goal is certainly to raise the bar. And that's what we have, I think, quite successfully done since 2017.

“It's just to make folk aware of the range of things that are produced in Shetland.

“Fish, meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, all of those things are on in some way at the festival.”