The Big Bannock 2014
by Elizabeth Atia -
Last weekend I had the privilege of attending one of the most unusual and hilarious events I have ever witnessed in Shetland - The Big Bannock, dubbed by some as Shetland's biggest celebration of nonsense.
This annual two-day event held in North Roe began at the turn of the century as a way to raise funds for Cancer Research and other local charities. So far it has raised over £100,000.
The Big Bannock is a community-spirited event, light-hearted and filled with entertainment which goes on well into the night. Tickets are like gold-dust and they tend to sell out quickly, so imagine my delight when I was handed a pair by my daughter's Girl Guiding group leader. The presence of the Walls Girl Guiding Up Helly Aa squad was requested to join in with a games session along with some North mainland squads. I did my duty as 'Mam's taxi' and brought along a camera, just in case there was A Taste of Shetland story to be found.
The weather was bright and clear and there was just enough of a breeze to keep the midges at bay. Tents had been set up around the hall for barbecues, tombolas, face painting and a beer tent complete with DJ. The hall was set up for a band, The Vatersay Boys, to play later on that night.
Plenty of Shetland seafood was available in the barbecue tent - Shetland scallops, haddock and herring in oatmeal sizzled, tempting, on the fryers.
Sassermeat, sausage and steak rolls with plenty of onions were on offer as well as plenty of sweets, home bakes and drinks.
A bouncy castle and game where you try and knock your opponent over with a foam bat were popular attractions with the children, but the most entertaining thing I saw was the yarn race.
An annual event at the Big Bannock, each of the invited Up Helly Aa squads have to thread a ball of wool through the clothing of each squad member and wind it back into a ball at the end as quickly as possible.
The girls ended up winding the wool around a willing (?) volunteer instead of into a ball!
It was a tie between each of the three teams at the end so the first Jarl to correctly identify a popular television theme tune played (poorly!) on a trumpet was judged the winner.
Marissa Henry, Jarl of the Walls Up Helly Aa squad correctly guessed Coronation Street and the girls walked away with the trophy! This game has been played at The Big Bannock since it began and this will be the first time a female name will be engraved on the trophy. The girls were rather pleased with themselves.
Much to my delight there really is a big bannock at The Big Bannock. Each year has a different theme and this year it was Happy Days so a big strawberry bannock recipe was developed by the Voe Bakery.
Here is how you make A Big Strawberry Bannock!
The 'Happy Days' Big Strawberry Bannock 2014
Servings: 1 big bannock
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 90 minutes
- Voe bakery self raising flour - 1 large bucket
- Shetland Dairies milk - 25.5 pints
- Strawberry crusha - 2 bottles
- Caster sugar - 1 bag
- Vegetable oil - good glug
- For a bannock this size you will likely need to construct a purpose-built oven. Concrete blocks, a galvanized steel box, chicken wire, insulating foam and some gas cannisters will make short work of this.
- Preheat oven. Although it's not customary (or advisable) to stick your head in a gas oven - needs must.
- Gather your mixing tools. Snow shovels are particularly useful here.
- Pour flour into mixing tray. Funky trousers are essential for this step.
- Pour the contents of the Strawberry Crusha bottles into the milk.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the sugar.
- Add the flavoured milk and oil.
- Mix it up.
- Mix it up good! Put your back into it boys! Shake it like a Polaroid pictir!
- Dust a baking tray with flour.
- Get someone to check to make sure you've done it right, preferably someone slightly elvish with a feather in his cap.
- Klert bannock mixture onto the baking tray.
- Press dough down with hands to cover baking tray (under the watchful eye of some fierce warrior maidens)
- Carefully carry tray to oven.
- Bake for 60-90 minutes, depending on oven temperature and thickness of bannock. When cooked, prop oven door with fence post to cool bannock before serving.
- Bring the Big Bannock to the table (this requires many hands!)
- Do a sniff test. Make sure it's edible.
- Slice and serve...
- ... there's plenty to go around!
- Don't forget the butter!