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Balmoral Show: World class verdict on food producers from MasterChef's Campion

BY RACHEL MARTIN

A top television food critic has raved about Lough Neagh eel, describing the product as "magnificent".

MasterChef's Charles Campion - a frequent visitor to Northern Ireland - told the Belfast Telegraph that local food producers have nothing to fret about when it comes to pleasing the British market post-Brexit. "They shouldn't have to worry about pleasing the mainland because what they're producing is already world class," he said.

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"I was particularly impressed with the Lough Neagh eel - it's currently one of my favourites - it's absolutely magnificent.

"This stuff is not just as good as anything you'd get in the mainland, this is as good as anything you'd get anywhere in the world."

On his latest trip to Northern Ireland, Mr Campion visited the Balmoral Show with Food NI and led a delegation of British industry experts to judge the organisation's food awards.

"I was very impressed with what was on offer in the quality of the produce," he said.

"Notably, the stand was a lot larger this year than last year - and it's great, because it shows how people are really starting to become interested in good quality food and drink here."

The judging panel also featured influential food writers and stylists Xanthe Clay, Lucas Hollweg and chef Jeremy Lee.

This year the Food NI Pavilion included more than 100 food businesses with everything from preserves to chocolate, gin and even chorizo represented, but despite all the competition, it was a milk producer from Co Armagh who came out cream of the crop.

Organic raw milk from Weir's Farm was pronounced the winner.

"You look at milk - and yes it's white and looks like milk, but then you taste it and this was absolutely fabulous - it was creamy and full of flavour," Mr Campion said.

Food NI chief executive Michele Shirlow described Balmoral as an important showcase for Northern Ireland food producers.

She estimates that the Northern Ireland Food Pavilion alone is worth between £500,000-£1m in promotional value to the sector.

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