ONCE the food of peasants, the humble Irish stew is about to be celebrated in a world championship cooking competition.
The first-ever World Irish Stew Championships will take place in Co Sligo in the weekend following St Patrick's Day.
'SÓ Sligo', a festival that will celebrate the food and culture of the north west, will invite amateur and professional chefs to compete to make the best Irish stew.
Festival chairwoman Margaret Heffernan described the competition as the centre-piece of a festival that would showcase a wide range of foods.
"We have so much fabulous food in Sligo and wonderful dining experiences. We were looking for something that hasn't been done before when we came up with a world Irish stew championship," she said.
The idea was proposed by Sligo-based local radio chef Joe Shannon, of the Radisson Blu hotel in nearby Rosses Point, who will be one of the judges.
Another will be TV chef Neven Maguire, and approaches have also been made to a top New York Irish stew expert to join the panel.
"The origins of the Irish stew go back to days when English landlords used to throw scraps of lamb to their impoverished tenants. It was usually the neck of the lamb which the landlords didn't fancy," Mr Shannon said.
He said that contestants would also be judged on their choice of side-dishes.