A very belated Happy New Year to you all! 2014 was a really busy year with some brilliant moments but also a lot of hard work. Some of the highlights were: 60 North magazine being published in print; setting up this blog; an amazing trip to Iceland where I met a lot of interesting people and instantly I fell in love with the harsh but but immensely inspiring and spectacular place; a first-time visit to Berlin where we met with my uncle and aunt that I hadn’t seen for over ten years; Shetland Wool Week which attracted 300 keen knitters and wool enthusiasts to Shetland… and the biggest thing of all – our house renovation which is still ongoing. Phew.
So here’s to a year filled with experiences, good books, projects, travel, unforgettable moments spent with friends and family and lots of fun things! A year when we all find more time for ourselves and spend it meaningfully, it being just sitting down for a while reading a chapter to two, making something, going for a walk, or just stopping for a bit and think about the world. And let’s grow food, flowers and trees. That’s the best fun!
Shetland winter can be pretty harsh so it’s important to find a way to keep positive and motived however it has been hard this past fortnight. It has been a time of relentless rain, hail, snow, lightning and gale-force winds. To be frank it’s been bleak so all those new year’s resolutions of getting back to some sort of fitness regime and healthier eating seem to have disappeared only to be replaced by cravings for substantial portions of hearty and comforting food. But I’m optimistic, with Up Helly Aa round the corner, the brighter days must surely be getting closer.
Before Christmas I bought a piece of Reestit Mutton from our favourite butchers Scalloway Meat Company but somehow it didn’t get used. So when searching the fridge for some inspiration and ingredients at the beginning of the week, when the weather was particularly bad, I decided to make a deliciously warming and nourishing Reestit Mutton tattie soup.
Reestit Mutton is a traditional Shetland way of preserving mutton which is first salted in brine and then hung to dry traditionally in the rafters (reest) of the house above a peat fire. The smoke from the peat fire helps to season the meat.
Reestit Mutton Tattie soup is an acquired taste and personally I wasn’t really keen on it initially. However it does grow on you. In fact after ten years in years in Shetland, several Up Helly Aa and the occasional wedding I can say there’s nothing better to warm you up than tattie soup and bannocks – combination is simply perfect. Traditionally it is a thick hearty soup but personally I like the version that is served in Peerie Shop Cafe which is a relatively clear broth with large chunks of vegetables.
Reestit Mutton Tattie Soup
Serves 8 – 10
250g Reestit Mutton
cold water to cover
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 1.5 cm chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut in 1 cm thick slices
1 small turnip, peeled and cut in chunks
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves, 5 peppercorns and 5 allspice berries (optional)
Place mutton and spices in a large pot. Add enough cold water to come about 2cm above the mutton. Bring to boil and continue to boil until soft. To speed this process up I use a pressure cooker. With this method it takes approximately 25 minutes, otherwise boil for 1 and a half hours.
Remove mutton and set aside. Water will be very salty, so pour off some and add more cold water. Stir in the potatoes, carrots, turnip and onions. Return to boil, and simmer until tender.
OPTION 1 (the ‘stick to your ribs’ version: Mash the vegetables with a potato masher or large fork. Remove the meat from the bone, tear into shreds and add it to the soup. If too thick, add a little water or vegetable broth.
OPTION 2 (my favourite clear broth option): Leave the vegetables in chunks and add the shredded meat. Serve with bread or bannocks with butter.
500g of plain flour
1 tps (large) baking soda
1 tsp of cream of tartar
1 tsp of salt
Buttermilk for mixing
Mix the dry ingredients together. Make into a soft dough with the buttermilk, just as soft as can be easily handled. Turn on to a floured board and roll out gently until 1.5 cm thick. Cut in squares or rounds and bake on a moderately hot griddle or in fairly hot oven for 10-15 mins.