The Guildhall in Derry-Londonderry was a hive of activity last night for the Northern Ireland heat of the World Pesto Championship. Ten contestants gathered to make the classic Genoese sauce with oil, cheese, basil, garlic, pine nuts and salt. No machines were allowed. A pestle and mortar each and the ingredients were all provided.

The competition was open to everyone from chefs to home cooks. The winner this year was Lyn Thompson who works at Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil producers in Limavady.

“I am thrilled and delighted to have won the competition considering the high level of contestants and chefs who were taking part. I am really looking forward to going to Italy for the finals in April next year” said Lyn.

“Lyn’s pesto won on taste, texture and performance” said the competition organiser, Magne Haugseng.

“It came closest to the classic Italian ideal for mortar-based pesto. It had the best combination of flavours from the seven ingredients: the two cheeses, the garlic, the pine nuts, the basil, the oil and the salt.

“It is very easy to add too much salt as the cheeses are also quite salty, or to overdo the garlic, for example. Balancing the input of these independently minded flavours, Lyn managed to reach that magical mix, which lifted her pesto enough to stand out.

“It was not an easy task for the judges, as all the contestants really excelled.”

The Northern Ireland heat of the World Pesto Championships was sponsored by Food NI. CEO Michele Shirlow said

“This is the second time we’ve held a heat in Northern Ireland. We’re delighted that it was held in Derry-Londonderry, runner-up in the RAI’s Foodie Town competition. We look forward to more events like these during next year which has been designated the Year of Food.