A Visit to Marian in Scatness

by Elizabeth Atia -

One of the many things I enjoy about being a food writer are the opportunities I have to meet a wide variety of fantastic, like-minded people. One of these encounters was with the inspirational Marian Armitage, teacher, writer and fellow Taste of Shetland contributor. We'd made contact last autumn while she was researching her Shetland Food and Cooking book and we only managed to rearrange our busy schedules and meet up for the first time last week.

Tempted by the offer of some of her sourdough starter I drove down to Scatness, on the south mainland of Shetland, to visit her for lunch in her beautiful family home.

Conversation was mainly food orientated, and I thoroughly enjoyed every word. We discussed the wealth of produce available on Shetland and she showed me, from start to finish, how to make her fabulous sourdough bread before giving me some starter and lending me one of her bannetons so I could get started right away to make my own.

Lunch was in the conservatory overlooking the incredibly picturesque west Voe of Sumburgh. I had the chance to try Marian's home made quince paste made from fruit grown in her London garden (delicious!) and I tried manchego cheese for the very first time. This hard, salty ewe's milk cheese from Spain accompanied the quince paste and sourdough perfectly. I also got a sneak peek at the book she's writing - it's going to be fantastic!

I didn't pay a visit to Marian empty handed. I'm currently in a 'clearing out the deep freeze and store cupboard' phase in my kitchen. During the autumn months I tend to freeze fruits, vegetables and meat (mostly Shetland lamb) for the winter, ensuring that we have enough supplies for a few weeks at least, should we get snowed in (it hasn't happened yet, but I do like to be prepared). One of the plastic tubs I found in my freezer was filled with pumpkin purée, made from slow roasted organic sugar pumpkin from Transition Turriefield, my veg box suppliers on the west side of Shetland, last October.

My favourite recipe to cook pumpkin in is my grandmother's pumpkin loaf and I brought this recipe with me when I immigrated to Shetland from Canada 15 years ago. So, since I was planning on visiting, I whipped up two loaves using defrosted Turriefield pumpkin purée and some of their gorgeous, vibrant-yolked free-range eggs.

Not everyone has access to sugar pumpkins to make their own purée, I realise, but Scoop Wholefoods in Lerwick sell a fantastic organic purée that I've used with success before. I'm also aware that this isn't a particularly seasonal recipe to be sharing in Spring, but I reckon this delicately spiced pumpkin loaf is excellent year round. It's also great because it makes more than one loaf, one for you and one for a friend (or freezer!).

Pumpkin Loaf

Course: Main

Servings: 2 large loaves

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

  • Nutmeg - 1 tsp (ground)
  • Cinnamon - 1 tsp (ground)
  • Cloves - 1/2 tsp (ground)
  • Ginger - 1/4 tsp (ground)
  • Shetland eggs - 4
  • Salt - 1.5 tsp
  • Sunflower oil - 250 ml
  • Caster sugar - 620 grams
  • Pumpkin puree - 300 grams
  • Water - 180 ml
  • Plain flour - 525 grams (sifted)
  • Bicarbonate of soda - 2 tsp
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease and line 2 or 3 loaf tins (depending on size - 2 large or 3 smaller tins)
  2. Mix together spices, eggs, salt, oil and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Add pumpkin purée and water and combine thoroughly.
  4. Sift together plain flour and bicarbonate of soda. Add to wet mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf tins and bake for 60-75 minutes, until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. You might need to loosely cover the top with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent burning.
  6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Loaf freezes very well.
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