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Mighty Spud Awards 2016: Search on to find Northern Ireland's tastiest potato dishes

By Margaret Canning

Published 19/01/2016

Michelle Shirlow, Angus Wilson and Paula McIntyre launch the search for Northern Ireland's best potato products
Michelle Shirlow, Angus Wilson and Paula McIntyre launch the search for Northern Ireland's best potato products

The hunt is on for Northern Ireland's best potato dishes as nominations open for the inaugural Mighty Spud Awards 2016.

Chef Paula McIntyre is leading the search for the tastiest potato dishes, with gongs for the Mightiest Chip, Mightiest Mash, Mightiest Potato Innovation and Mightiest Healthy Potato Dish.

Restaurants, pubs, takeaways and members of the public are all invite to nominate a worthy potato creation.

Judges include Angus Wilson, founder of Wilson's Country Potatoes, and Michael McKillop of Glens of Antrim Potatoes, as well as Ms McIntyre, and Food NI chief Michele Shirlow.

Mr Wilson - whose company is one of Northern Ireland's biggest potato growers - said the awards reflected the versatility of the vegetable.

"You can do so many things with it as both a convenience product and a slower-cooked product - there's a whole new move to have potatoes which you can get ready in three to five minutes, for example," he said.

He said 'value added' potato products - such as those being celebrated by the awards - were one way of improving low potato prices from supermarkets.

Earlier this month, Comber farmer Robin McKee said that he was receiving only 14p per kilo for his potatoes from the big supermarkets - which were then selling them on for £1 per kilo. Mr Wilson said: "Lower prices tend to be cyclical. It's all around supply and demand. Any products that are over-supplied will have lower prices."

And weather was a major culprit, he said. "Weather can make the crop 20 to 25% more plentiful, while consumption trends will mean it varies only 2% to 3%."

Despite the protestations from some farmers, he said he believed prices were currently "above average" as crops had been affected by variable weather conditions over the growing season.

Paula McIntyre said the campaign aimed to highlight the potato as "mighty, not humble".

"The spud is more than just a bit on the side - whether it is triple cooked chips, creamy champ or decadent potato gratin, it is impossible to imagine meal times without it," she added.

Entries can be made via www.mightyspud.com/awards and close at noon on February 15. Following the nomination process, entries will be shortlisted for tasting and four winners will be announced. Join the conversation on Twitter @MightyNotHumble

Belfast Telegraph

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