Chef Tony Singh filled the Clickimin main hall with the scents of the sub-continent on the opening night of the Shetland Food Fair.
For the first time the event is being held separately from the annual craft fair and attracted a wide range of the isles food and drink producers.
Mr Singh, a prize-winning chef who once had an “amazing job” on the Royal Yacht Britannia, was the special guest and told the decent-sized audience that food was an international language.
With that in mind he made a dhal-inspired dish topped with pan-fried Shetland scallops. The dhal he said was just like making a lentil soup and the recipe was so simple it could be made with children.
Into the pan went lentils water, onions, ginger and Shetland-grown chilli along with garam masala spices, salt, turmeric and a touch of chilli powder. Lentil soup – Indian style.
Mr Singh arrived in Shetland on Wednesday and spoke of how he impressed he was with local ingredients – especially the fish.
“The produce has been stunning,” he said.
On Wednesday he cooked up a seven-course treat at the Scalloway Hotel. “All the courses were local produce: lamb, turbot, scallops… it was just stunning.”
Mr Singh was greeted onto the stage by members of the Lerwick Jarl’s Squad before his demonstration as organisers aimed to launch the event in style.
But the main focus of the weekend will be the substance – the food and drink produced locally.
Co-organiser Jill Franklin, of pickle maker Shetlandeli, said: “It’s really great to see all the producers together and it’s been really great to see the level of interest from companies and caterers and the tourist industry…
“[Producers] have taken more space than last year and people are launching new products and a lot of companies have grown since last year.
“I think it’s a really thriving sector.”
Among those launching new products was the Da Kitchen Bakery, run by Stephen Thompson from the kitchen at Burravoe Hall. New on sale was a lamb bridie, cheese scone and a fresh cream horn – filled with Shetland Dairy cream.
He said the food fair was a big event for the company and would help raise the profile.
“It’s good that it’s able to stand on its own… it was a bit cramped and restrictive last year. It’s definitely a lot better, I’m sure it will be well supported.”
“It’s hard but it’s worth it because it is getting your products about and there’s such a diverse range of products.”
Artisan cheesemaker Caroline Henderson backed up that view. “It’s one of the biggest one’s [food markets] of the year. We’ve been doing this for the last five years, this is the big one on the Shetland food calendar.
“It’s been the national year of food and drink in Scotland and there’s been a new impetus with Shetland Food and Drinks [which has replaced the food producers’ association].”
The range of products goes from Sandwick free-range pork, to gin distilled by Shetland Reel Gin in Unst. The distillery was also launching a new product – a gin infused with locally harvested seaweed.
Debbie Strang said it had been a hectic year since the original drink was launched at last year’s festival. “We have taken out the locally grown apple mint and used locally sourced and harvested seaweed, bladderwrack… it’s a really great product and it still tastes like gin.”
Other companies launching products included Ms Franklin’s Shetlandeli, Frankie’s Fish & Chips which now sells its own batter mix, Lerwick Brewery and Shetland Fudge.
The fair continues today and tomorrow. More coverage in Friday’s Shetland Times.