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England takes the double crown at the World Porridge Making Championships

The coveted title of World Porridge Making Champion is heading south of the border after two competitors from England took the top prizes at the World Porridge Making Championships event in Carrbridge. 

Published: October 14, 2019
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Traditionally considered a Scottish staple, the championships once again showed the dish's global appeal, with the Golden Spurtle heading to England this year, after being won by two Swedes last year.

Lisa Williams, who runs a social enterprise and a community cafe for adults with learning disabilities in Trimley St Mary in Suffolk, was crowned this year's World Porridge Making Champion, while founder of innovative food and drink start-up Rude Health, Nick Barnard from London, took the Speciality title.

Surprised and thrilled to have won the coveted World Porridge Making Champion title, which is awarded to the contestant deemed to have made the best traditional porridge using just three ingredients – oatmeal, water and salt, Lisa said: “I am surprised and thrilled to win the World Porridge Making Championships.

"I discovered the Golden Spurtle in 2015 and immediately fell in love with the competition. In 2016 I made it to the final six and have been chasing the dream ever since.

"I absolutely love the competition. From the moment you step into the village hall you are welcomed like family. It’s hard to describe but from the flags and the tartan, to the people from the village who organise everything, the ladies who serve the porridge, the volunteers who wash up our equipment, the porridge parade, the bagpipes - its just magical!

Lisa’s winning recipe was made with half Hamlyns Scottish Oatmeal and half Hamlyns Pinhead Oatmeal, along with Maldon Sea Salt.

She said: “I didn’t use to use salt in my porridge, but I saw Nigel Slater using it years ago and have been doing the same ever since."

The judging panel, which was formed of former head chef at Gleneagles, Colin Bussey, former head chef at Gleneagles; patron chef of the Auld Alliance in Kingussie, Lydie Bocquillon; and chef lecturer at Perth College UHI, Neil Mugg, tried over 60 different recipes on the day before deciding on the winner.

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Presenting Lisa with her prize, Colin said: “The scoring was very tight between three of the six finalists but Lisa’s porridge had a beautiful texture and a lovely flavour - it just came together."

As well as the traditional porridge competition, there is also a speciality category for oatmeal combined with any other ingredients, leading to a wide variety of sweet and savoury entries.

This year’s speciality winner, Nick, produced a Maple Pecan Porridge, which featured Rude Health oatmeal, pecans from Roux Farm in South Africa and Guernsey Cream from Hurdlebrook Farm in Somerset.

This year, a new award was added with the  Silver Spurtle following the exact same rules as for the Golden Spurtle, but with one key difference – all the contestants are young persons under 16.

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Each competitor had 30 minutes to produce a traditional and speciality dish for judging.

Joining Swedish representative Hjalmar Nofors (14) were five local competitors: Stewart Blair (10), Hannah Prigmore (11) and Carlin Beattie (15) from Carrbridge and Alanah Davies (14) and Leona Shek (15) from Grantown.

The three judges were previous winners of the Golden Spurtle and the Speciality trophy, Lynn Benge and Neal Robertson, and Peter McNab, award-winning Head Chef at the Muckrach Country Hotel.

Local lad Carlin Beattie of Carrbridge was the winner of the Traditional competition for the best porridge made from just oatmeal, water and salt. He carried off the Silver Spurtle Trophy and goes down as the first winner of what will undoubtedly become a coveted award.

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Carlin and Hjalmar with the four other Silver Spurtle competitors. Picture: James Ross

Hjalmar Nofors for his Speciality dish of Go Gröt (Good Tasty) Porridge – add mashed bananas and cinnamon to a base porridge, add 12ml Scottish whisky. Serve with cloudberry jam and Russian yoghurt and sprinkle with cardamon.

In coming to their decision, Judge Peter McNab said: “That was really tough. The standard was very high in both categories – congratulations to all!”

Event Coordinator Charlie Miller said: “We are thrilled with the interest the Silver Spurtle competition has attracted both locally and internationally, and look forward to seeing this new generation of porridge makers coming through, perhaps even to challenge for the Golden Spurtle in the years ahead”.

Organised by Carrbridge Community Council, the championships are now in their 26th year and are sponsored by Hamlyns of Scotland, the Banffshire-based producer of Hamlyns Scottish Oatmeal and Hamlyns Scottish Porridge Oats.

Charlie Miller said: “This year’s competition attracted competitors from 11 different countries including Sweden, Canada, Germany, France, Poland and from across the UK. It has been a fantastic weekend celebrating a mutual love of porridge. Congratulations to our winners, well done to all competitors, and thanks to our sponsors and to everyone who came to watch them battling it out.”

Hamlyns of Scotland managing director, Alan Meikle, said: “It’s great to see that it’s not just us Scots who are so passionate about porridge. It’s really interesting to see how something made from just oatmeal, salt and water can vary so much, and of course we love seeing the culinary flare in the speciality event. Congratulations to the winners, and also to Carrbridge Community Council on another excellent event.”

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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