Reestit Mutton Tattie Soup

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bannocks

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.

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Enjoy!

A quick carrot & celeriac salad

Life has been hectic recently – so apologies for the lack of posts – I’ll get better I promise.

Here’s a quick recipe for a delicious seasonal carrot and celeriac salad which makes a nice crunchy side dish and it is very healthy too.

At the weekend I was busy working at the Shetland Food Fair where Promote Shetland ran cookery demonstrations but I made sure I had some time to go around the stalls and do some shopping as there was a great selection of lovely local produce on offer. I bought yummy pork sausages from Gateside Croft, goat meat from Sandwick Pork company, Shetland honey from Scoop Wholefoods and a celeriac and carrots from Transition Turriefeild as our root produce didn’t come to much this year.

The goat meat is in the slow cooker as we speak and I quickly threw together this lovely salad (I might just eat the lot now) as I fancied something crunchy and sharp to serve with the dinner. In fact the salad is so tasty I thought I have to share the recipe with you immediately. So here it is:

Peel and great three large carrots and one small celeriac. Use juice of one lemon, a table spoon of olive oil, a table spoon of cider vinegar, a teaspoon of honey (Shetland of course in my case), pepper and a tiny pinch of salt to season the salad. And if you like capers throw a small handful in too. And take a big spoon to sample… Enjoy!

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Healthy Snack Recipe – Homemade Energy Bars

Do you sometimes feel like something sweet yet you want your snack to be healthy and nutritious? I like shop-bought granola bars but they tend to be loaded with sugar so I decided to try to make my own. This recipe is very simple and the two main ingredients are bananas and rolled oats.

Bananas are an amazing fruit. They are a brilliant source of energy and they are good for digestion, are probiotic and are a good source of fibre, Vitamin C, Potassium, Manganese and Vitamin B6. Eaten raw they are a delicious and satisfying snack. But they are also brilliant for baking as they take place of sugar, eggs and fat.

The great thing about these bars is they have no added sugar and you can whip them up in just a few minutes. They are a perfect mid-morning snack or they are also fantastic for picnics or days out walking.

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Homemade Energy Bars

Makes one 25 x 25cm tray

2 large, ripe bananas

2 cups rolled oats

1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates

1/4 cup raisins

Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

You can also add chopped wallnuts or hazelnuts, chopped dried apricots, dried berries or seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower or linseed.

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Heat the oven to 180°C and line a 25 x 25cm square baking tray with baking paper.

Peel the bananas and mash them thoroughly in a medium mixing bowl; the bananas should be essentially liquid.  Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the dates, raisins, spices and any other ingredients you’re using.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan and press it well. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Place the baking tray on a rack to cool. When the tray is mostly cool, cut into bars. I use pizza cutter which makes the job easier.

Enjoy!

 

Rhubarb Schnapps

Pulling out a first few stalks of rhubarb in early May must surely be one of the most delightful things in gardener’s year. There’s nothing more exciting than taking of a rhubarb forcer (in our case an old burning bin) and being rewarded by lush, vividly pink, super-long stalks that almost beg to be eaten raw, just dipped into sugar! Forcing rhubarb is probably not a common thing in Shetland but covering the crowns will encourage the plants to make early growth and these forced stalks make a great substitute for fruit when there is little else available from the garden. m_IMG_3085 In Shetland cooking with rhubarb has a great tradition as it grows really well. In fact so well that a whole recipe book has been devoted to it. Rhubarbaria, written by the late Mary Prior – a frequent visitor to Shetland, is a brilliant and inspiring cookbook of every sort of rhubarb recipe. Rhubarb with meat or fish, vegetables, as a pudding, as a jam or in chutney are all included in this extensive resource. And since my rhubarb plant seems to have established itself quite well over the past couple of years I’m hoping I’ll have enough to keep cropping throughout the summer to be able to try a few recipes from the book. I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of a lamb and rhubarb stew! Here’s a recipe for rhubarb schnapps, a delicious, refreshing and seasonably pink drink.  m_IMG_6228 1. Chop the rhubarb finely to expose maximum surface area. Pulsing it a few times in a food processor makes the job much faster. Place in a glass jar add the vanilla pod (cut in half; lenght wise), cover with vodka by approximately an inch or so, seal, and allow to steep a month. Over this time, the flavour and colour will leach out of the rhubarb, leaving the alcohol pink and the rhubarb yellow-white. 2. When the rhubarb has finished steeping, strain it from the alcohol, and filter the solution through several layers of cheesecloth.  3. Measure the final amount of alcohol – this is your base number. In a saucepan, heat 1.5 times that amount of water, and 1/2 – 3/4 that amount of sugar, depending on how sweet you like things. To give an example: 4 cups rhubarb alcohol would need 6 cups of water and 2-3 cups sugar. Let the sugar syrup cool, then add it to your filtered alcohol. 4. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Let age for at least a month before enjoying. Rhubarb schnapps keeps at any temperature, but is especially delicious straight from the freezer. Try adding it to your Cava or Prosecco, just like Kir Royale. m_DSC_1732

Using up the last of last year’s beetroot – borscht

On this relatively cold and windy night (yes, it is summer after all) I felt like cooking some nice comforting food. After checking what’s in the fridge I discovered a poly bag with some of last year’s beetroot which kept remarkably well.

So I decided to make a big pot of borscht, a traditional Eastern European soup of possibly Russian or Ukrainian origin. I have a brilliant recipe from my friend who cooked the soup for us when visiting Shetland a few years ago. Since then I’ve been addicted to this authentic hearty soup.

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Here’s the recipe:

3 tbsp olive oil

250g beef

4 medium potatoes cubed

1/2 cabbage or a jar of sauerkraut

4 carrots grated

2 medium raw beetroot  peeled and cubed

2 onions chopped

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

100g tomato puree

2 beef stock cubes

2 bay leaves, 5 allspice berries, marjoram,salt and pepper

1.5l water

 

1. Cut the beef into cubes, brown it off in the olive oil, then add water, stock cubes, salt, pepper and spices and boil until the meat is tender.

2. Add potatoes and after ten minutes add shredded cabbage or sauerkraut

3. In a separate pan fry onions until golden brown, then add the carrot and beetroot and fry for 5-7 minutes, then add tomato puree and garlic. Add this in the first pan and boil for further 20 minutes.

4. Serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Delicious with rye or sourdough bread.

 

There are many recipes and ways of cooking borscht and if you fancy experimenting and trying a different version follow this link.

Nettle Soup

If you enjoyed reading about nettles yesterday here’s a delicious recipe for you to try.

Nettle soup is eaten mainly during spring and early summer, when young nettle leaves are available.

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Nettle Soup:

A mixing bowl full of freshly picked washed nettles

1 large onion

4 medium sized potatoes

1/2 celeriac (optional)

1 vegetable stock cube

Herbs – whatever fresh herbs you have to hand. I used parsley, chives and dill.

1/2 cucumber or 2 large slices of pickled sliced cucumber (optional)

1 tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper

Sour cream or yoghurt

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1. Peel the potatoes and celeriac and cut into small pieces. Boil for 15 minutes or until soft.

2. Chop the onion finely and fry in olive oil.

3. Drain the potatoes and celeriac and add them to the onions. Add salt and pepper.

4. Remove the leaves from the nettles and add them into the pot discarding the stems as they can be stringy.

5. Add finely chopped herbs and cucumber if you are using it.

6. Add a pint of boiling water and the stock cube (it’s better if you crumble it in the pot as it dissolves better)

7. Boil for three minutes, take the pot off the heat and whizz it up with a hand blender.

8. Serve with yoghurt or sour cream and fresh crusty bread.

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Bon Apetit!

 

Rhubarb, ginger and orange jam

Last week Marian Armitage, who is currently writing a Shetland cook book, came to the office to speak about her ideas for A Taste of Shetland blog since she is one of the contributors. Marian is a Shetland but funnily I met her in London last May, at A Shetland Night in London. And since then we’ve kept in touch.

One of Marian’s posts on A Taste of Shetland was about making the best of the glut of rhubarb at this time of year and making Rhubarb, Ginger and Orange Jam which sounded delicious. The great thing was that Marian brought a jar of her jam with her so I had a chance to taste it. Orange peel makes a lovely addition to the preserve and since there is still plenty rhubarb in the garden and I like the idea of ‘free’ food I decided to make my own batch.

Unfortunately I didn’t have stem ginger which the recipe calls for so I decided to use fresh ginger. I think I should have cooked the jam for longer than just 20 minutes as it turned out quite runny and hasn’t set properly but it tastes delicious and it will be perfect for using in puddings or eating with youghurt. Will keep trying though as practice makes perfect…

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Makes 10 Jars

Ingredients:

  • 2kg rhubarb, 1cm chunks

  • 2kg granulated sugar

  • inch long piece of root ginger, peeled and  julienned

  • zest of one orange, thin strips

  • vanilla powder (optional)

Method:

  1. Tip the rhubarb pieces into a large bowl, along with the sugar, ginger and vanilla powder.

  2. Leaving the mixture sit for 2 hours, turning with a spoon every 30 minutes.

  3. Once most of the sugar has dissolved, tip the contents of the mixing bowl into a large sauce pan and bring to a brisk boil.

  4. Boil the orange peel in a small amount of water for 20 minutes, strain and add to the rhubarb mixture.
  5. Turn the heat down and simmer for approximately 40 minutes, until the rhubarb has broken down.

  6. Transfer the jam into sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool. Store in a cool dark place, once open in the fridge.