Our regular food blogger Rosemary Moon has been picking some perfect Orkney produce to enjoy this Christmas.
So much has changed since I shared my recipe for gin jellies with you last Christmas.
This extraordinary year has deprived our local food producers of much of their tourist trade and that is a huge loss, both for them and for the retailers who sell their products. There have been no Farmer’s Markets and no festivals at which the Taste of Orkney producers could strut their stuff. Perhaps the biggest loss to the calendar for this largely rural community was that of Agricultural Show Week in August, culminating in the very traditional County Show.
So, there will be no turkey on our table this year. Christmas will be the finest that Orkney has to offer, bought from local shops. I’m not actually sure that anyone here grows Brussels sprouts but hey, there are enough other veg options in the fields.
I’ve never been a great one for doing the expected and so I shall be more than happy with some ribs of beef or a shoulder of lamb if we decide to have meat. My choice however, in Scotland’s Year of Coasts & Waters, will be to go big on fish. If I can find some halibut steaks for Christmas Day that will make me very happy - they are so meaty they could indeed be served with bread sauce if the fancy takes us.
Boxing Day lunch has always been my favourite meal of the year - cold cuts and baked tatties with some crispy coleslaw and pickles to counteract the richness of the previous day’s feasting. Years ago, when I helped to launch a new magazine for Waitrose, we had a very popular feature on a Scandinavian spread for Boxing Day and that will be my inspiration in 2020 - for a very good reason indeed.
The islands have produced world class whiskies for years - indeed centuries in the case of Highland Park. Recent years have seen our three gin distilleries scooping countless awards with one also making vodka - just look back at last year’s gin jellies to get a flavour of the Orkney gins on offer. This year, however, my top discovery has been the Akvavit from the Orkney Gin Company.
Drink neat and the pepper, spice and herbs dance across the tongue. With tonic, ice and a slice it is one of the few spirits that both my husband and I enjoy (I love them all!). This award-winning Scandi spirit is the perfect thing to enjoy with a feast of Orkney smoked seafood and many of these wonderful products are available to you too if you are outwith the islands. Be quick mind, and get your order in now!
We are just spoiled here for choice. Pierowall Fish are based in Westray but have a fish shed in Kirkwall as well as supplying through many local shops. I am completely hooked on their rollmops with cider and orange.
Humes Artisan Foods are a family micro-business with a flair for the unusual. Neither their smoked olives or mussels use raw material from the islands but the magic is added here and magic it is indeed. Their smoked mackerel scooped a three-star Great Taste Award this year and their Smoked Queenie scallops are a delicious treat. It’s a mild smoke on their salmon but it is perfect with the peatier Highland Park whiskies or the spice in the Akvavit.
Jollys of Orkney can supply you with any sized packs of smoked salmon as well as some sides and packs cured with either local gin or whisky. They do selections of salmon too, as well as hampers of Orcadian produce. I’ve sent a good few sides of salmon from Jollys away this year and all have been received with rave reviews. Finally, if you have been to Orkney and wish to support our producers, you might well remember Judith Glue’s shop opposite St Magnus Cathedral. She also offers a wide choice of hampers.
Remember, be quick, both for last posting dates to ensure that you get your Christmas treats in time, and to be certain that I won’t have bought all the smoked fish before you!
Wash your hands, eat and drink Orkney and stay well.
Take a look at our Taste of Orkney Christmas Gift Guide for some other delicious island produce ideas.
Rosemary Moon ‘retired’ to Orkney after a long association with the salmon industry in the islands. The author of 19 cookery books and countless more recipes, including writing for Waitrose and Lakeland, she has brought journalists and food writers to Orkney in the past to show off our diverse and delicious food and drink. After several holidays here Rosemary and her husband Nick have settled in South Ronaldsay but, once a cookery writer always a cookery writer, Rosemary is finding it impossible to stop jotting down the new recipes that she is creating with the island produce.
The Promoting Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.