Cooking competition winner made the food ‘people really want to eat’

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Vegetables and meat were at war last week in a cooking competition finale.

“Cooked absolutely perfectly, perfect texture, perfect consistency. Everything on it was textbook perfect. I was quite surprised at how the flavours came together very very well.”

This was the feedback given by the executive chef James Dugan at Amberley Castle when presenting Paula Daly with her winning prize in this newspaper’s Masterchef-style competition.

The resident from Amberley Road, Horsham, was delighted to win a dinner and night at the hotel for two but was amazed to have beaten her rival finalist, Carol Naughton from Pasture Hill Road, Haywards Heath, who had cooked a venison dish.

“When I saw the judges tasting the venison I thought ‘oh dear I have no chance here’ because it was obviously very very good.”

The winning vegetarian, who grew up in Australia, had produced a butternut squash risotto with pear and blue cheese which she invented with her daughter one Christmas.

“A risotto for Christmas might seem boring but the cheese makes it interesting. With veggie dishes it’s about not just finding what to put in, it’s about finding what people really want to eat.”

Editor in Chief of this newspaper, Gary Shipton, began the prizegiving by thanking Amberley Castle and judges Philippe Diez and Mr Dugan for hosting the event.

Mr Dugan said: “It’s always lovely to see the locals and see the food. You create wonderful flavours and textures.”

Runner-up Carol was happy to have been invited for lunch at the castle as part of the prizegiving ceremony.

“When they told me I was a finalist I was totally surprised. I couldn’t really remember what I had sent in!

“Venison casserole with cranberries is a lovely winter warming dish full of flavour and slightly unusual.”

The two finalists were chosen from hundreds of entrants who had sent in their favourite recipes to the annual competition organised by this newspaper and Amberley Castle.

Mr Shipton said: “Once again, the standard of entry was incredibly high and I thank all readers who took the time and trouble to enter.

“For those who weren’t successful they can still enjoy a special lunch here for £25 using the voucher on this page.”