Month: November 2017

A real Christmas cracker

Nothing says Christmas quite like a performance of Tchaikovsky’s well-loved ballet, The Nutcracker. A feast for the eyes and ears, it’s nonetheless an extremely challenging and time-consuming production to put on: with the story necessitating a large cast, opulent costumes and loads of on-stage action. Would Shetland Community School of Ballet manage to rise to the occasion? Read December’s magazine to find out. With photographs by Dale Smith.

Starting over…….

January is an excellent month for taking stock and making plans. Setting aside some quiet time to consider the good, bad and the ugly of the year before, while reflecting on how to avoid the pitfalls of the past means that the new year really can be “just like starting over” as a great, (bearded) legend once sang.

2017 was certainly a great year for our magazine: we had fun putting every single issue together and we were thrilled to scoop our national award at the end of the year. We’re working really hard to make Shetland Life even better, so you’ll see a few changes coming soon. Please don’t forget to keep in touch and tell us what you think.

Anyway, welcome to our first issue of this year. We have a special Up-Helly-A’ theme, featuring an interview with Lerwick Guizer Jarl Stewart Jamieson and his family, recollections of country Up- Helly-A’s from Marsali Taylor, a beautifully evocative piece of writing from poet James Sinclair, and vintage photography from Dennis Coutts. We hope you like our stunning front cover, courtesy of the talented illustrator Alexa Fitzgibbon.

Some extensive research conducted in the latter half of 2017 revealed that, for a sizeable part of Shetland’s population, the best thing about Up-Helly-A’ is not the sight of the galley burning or the long night of revelry which follows. No, it is the prevalence of the many magnificent beards, which light up the dark days and bring warmth to the coldest part of the year. That’s why the Shetland Life team has been working tirelessly to bring you a selection of some of this island’s hirsute hunks. Whatever your facial hair preference, I think you’ll enjoy our beard feature on page 12. If you’re new to beard-growing, we also have some beard maintenance tips, kindly provided by local barbers, Just Gents.

Another plus point about this month is the numerous opportunities it affords for us to get together and enjoy some of Shetland’s finest musical talent. A Winter Shetland Showcase promises to be a brilliant night of acoustic performances, and there will also be a great programme of musical entertainment at this year’s Fiery Sessions. Read more about both events on pages 16-18.
A classic New Year’s Resolution is to cut down on alcohol consumption. If the thought of going cold turkey fills you with dread, but If you’ve had a bit too much in the way of port and whisky recently, you may wish to start the year in a more Viking spirit, with a glass (or even a drinking horn) of mead. Find out more about Alex Garrick-Wright’s visit to Viking Mead in Scalloway on page 8.

We have plenty more to inspire, inform and delight. From Cooking Challenge finalist Karen Malone’s locally sourced vegan recipes to Richard Shucksmith’s underwater photography tips and COPE’s advice on new year gardening, this issue will get your year into gear.
For those of you who have included health and fitness goals in your list of New Year’s resolutions, don’t miss our special sport-themed issue which is coming up in February and which promises to be full of motivational stories and tips. See you then!

Reflections apo hands

Last month’s Wool Week saw the launch of a very special book, which gives voice to the shared memories of local knitters. Reflections apo hands is the fruit of a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland, Shetland Arts, photographer John Coutts and playwright Jacqui Clark. Shetland Life met Ann Williamson and Laura Whittall to hear the story behind this inspirational and far-reaching project – don’t miss the full story in November’s magazine.

More than words

Shetland Library is about more than just books – it’s a real hub of community activity throughout the year.

For our special literary themed issue we visited the library with photographer Dale Smith in an attempt to capture some of the vitality of this special place.

Winning recipe

Thank you to the winner of the 2017 Shetland Cooking Challenge, Susan Msalila, for kindly sharing her winning recipes with us.

Check out November’s Shetland Life to read Susan’s account of winning the competition (she also shares a recipe for beetroot and crab samosas).

Here’s a recipe which makes the most of delicious Shetland lamb.

Lamb and orange khoresh (Diane Henry)


3 oranges
40 g butter
2 tsp caster sugar
olive oil
675 g lamb from the leg, cut into 2 cm cubes
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
275 ml orange juice
Juice of 1 lime
275 ml lamb stock or water
salt and pepper
3 carrots
good handful of mint leaves, torn
2 tsp orange flower water (optional)
25 g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped, to garnish


1 Remove peel (no pith) from the oranges with a vegetable peeler, and cut into fine strips about the size of a match. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, cook for 2 mins, then strain. Heat half the butter in a small pan and add the orange rind. Stir, then add the sugar and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, until the sugar has melted and the rind has lightly caramelized. Set aside.

2 Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the lamb cubes over fairly high heat, so that they get a good browning on the outside. You should do this in batches to ensure that they get properly coloured. Remove and set the lamb aside.

3 Add another 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan with the rest of the butter. Fry the onion until soft and translucent. Sprinkle on the cinnamon and cardamom and cook for another minute. Add the juices, stock and water, and the lamb, with any juices that have run out of it. Season, and simmer gently for about 1 hour, or until tender.

4 Peel the carrots and cut them into batons about 6 cm long. Remove the white pith from the oranges then, cutting close to the membrane, remove each segment. Add the carrots and caramelized orange peel (reserving a little for garnishing) to the lamb once it is tender. Simmer, uncovered, for a further 10 min, adding the orange segments in the last few min with half of the mint.

5 Stir the orange flower water, if using, into the khoresh and serve, scattered with the remaining mint and orange peel and the pistachios


200 g couscous
250 ml stock
25g butter
25 g dried apricots
25g dried cranberries
Selection of fresh vegetables, cut into small pieces – I used courgette, rainbow chard leaves and stalks

Chop the apricots into cranberry-sized pieces, and soak together with the cranberries in enough orange juice to cover them.  If you have time, leave them for several hours to plump up, if you haven’t then give them a short blast in the microwave to hurry them up.

Put the stock in a pan and bring to the boil.  Add the butter and the couscous, cover and turn off the heat.  After about 10 minutes stir with a fork to break up any clumps, and add the vegetables, apricots and cranberries (drained of excess orange juice).  Check the seasoning, add salt if required.  Leave another 10 minutes, on a very low heat for part of the time if it seems to have cooled too much.  Serve with the lamb.


This really needs to be made ahead of time, although if you only start it when you start cooking the lamb it will have thickened up somewhat.

Put 500g of natural yoghurt (Greek style is best) in a cloth lined sieve (something like a j-cloth, or muslin square).  Pull up the corners of the cloth so the yoghurt is enclosed, tie the top, and hang it from a cupboard door handle or other convenient place where it can drip into a bowl for a couple of hours.  Once it is thick enough – you are looking to get about 200ml of liquid dripped out – take it out of the cloth, mix in some salt and 1 – 2 mashed garlic cloves, to taste.  The flavours will develop as it stands, so better to start under seasoned and adjust.  Serve really cold.  This will keep in the fridge for days, and is great as a healthy alternative to mayonnaise on all sorts of things.

Roast Tomatoes

If you can’t get the sweet soy sauce, you could substitute with ordinary soy sauce mixed with brown sugar.


400 g of tomatoes, either halved, quartered, or cut into 6 depending on how big they are.  You want to end up with something about bite size.
2 tablespoons of sweet soy sauce (also called Kecap Manis)
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste


Put the tomatoes cut side up in a shallow casserole dish, in a single layer.  Sprinkle on the other ingredients.  Cook at 180 C for 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and the sauce has amalgamated and thickened up a little.  Serve at room temperature.

November’s issue out now!

This year’s Wordplay festival looks set to be one of the best yet. With a first-class guest list performing readings, panel discussions, children’s sessions and book signings along with several events for aspiring writers, it should be an invigorating few days. What a perfect way to lighten up what can otherwise be a dank and dreary month.

Although Wordplay may be our annual literary highlight, I think it’s fair to say that Shetland is a great place for lovers of literature to live, having year-round events for bookworms and budding writers.
Shetland Library plays a crucial role in helping to create a lively and lightsome culture around reading and books. It is a place very close to my heart. When my children were small, the library was our second home, and we were always given a warm welcome by the lovely members of staff (even being offered a lift to the Gilbert Bain when my son attempted some impromptu shelf-abseiling and split his ear open). When my toddlers were having a crabbit day, the promise of a trip to the library usually got them into a more reasonable frame of mind. Fast forward ten years, and it still has a second-home status, although the children like to make their own way there now…

Hopefully, our Shetland Library feature will give you a flavour of the warmth and liveliness of this very special place.

On arriving in Shetland, I was struck by how local writing talent was so well nurtured through writing groups and mentoring schemes. This supportive climate has allowed some exceptional talent to bloom. These islands have produced no shortage of writers, as a flick through this magazine will tell you: from the rapidly rising star of Malachy Tallack, to well-loved poets and novelists on the local literary scene, to up-and-coming writers such as Sally Huband (who speaks about her experience of winning a Scottish Book Trust New Writer award in this month’s magazine).

Of course, writing is just one type of craft at which Shetlanders do very well at. This being November (craft fair time) we have some crafty offerings of a different type too. If only the rules didn’t prevent me from entering this month’s competition! I will be seriously envious of anyone who wins the hamper of craft goodies we have up for grabs. Continuing the craft theme, we have the tracks of Wendy Inkster’s life, and a meet up with the maakers and yaakers of Anderson High school.

Of course, literature and knitting are by no means mutually exclusive, as the book Reflection apo hands so gracefully proves. It was a privilege to meet Laura Whittall and Ann Williamson to speak about the inspiration behind this project. As Ann pointed out, what could make a better stocking filler than this beautiful book? (Apart from the December Shetland Life that is).

There are loads of delights to look forward to this month: not just Wordplay, but ballet performances, theatre productions and so much more. Enjoy.