Prawn peeling championship puts ‘Taste the Wild’ food festival on culinary map

To add to Scotland’s medal success at the Olympics the country can now celebrate the crowning of a new national champion – Britain’s fastest prawn peeler.

Winner Elaine Bowman of the Steam Inn

Photograph by: Gerry McCannWinner Elaine Bowman of the Steam Inn

The UK’s first ever Prawn Peeling Championship took place in the picturesque west coast fishing port of Mallaig.

The hotly contested competition aims to become an annual event to rank alongside the World Stone Skimming Championships on the Inner Hebridean island of Easdale; the Golden Spurtle Porridge Making Championships in the Highland village of Carrbridge, and the Cullen Skink World Championships held in the North east fishing village that gave its name to the fish soup.

More than 70 contestants, from as far a field as Germany and the USA, took part in the challenge to shell 10 prawns in the fastest time with their names being added to a Top Gear-style leader board.

Despite stiff competition final victory went to Elaine Bowman, aged 42, a local chef with more than 20 years experience. Her time of just 28.9 seconds puts her on target to attempt the World Record, currently held by a peeler in Sweden who managed 22 prawns in 79 seconds.

Youngest competitor Jemma McDougall, aged 11.

Photograph by: Gerry McCannYoungest competitor Jemma McDougall, aged 11.

“It’s great to be named Britain’s first Champion Prawn Peeler but then I’ve had lots of practice. I didn’t realise how fast I was. I think next year I’ll have to go for the world record,” said Elaine who walked away with a ceremonial tankard and £40 cash prize.

Prawn peeling is already practiced in Norway and Sweden where local fishermen thought up the championship as a way of attracting tourists and highlighting their produce.

Mallaig, which lies at the end of the spectacularly beautiful Road to the Isles, is the main commercial fishing port on the west coast of Scotland and more than half of the £10million a year it generates in fish landings comes from prawns.

“Prawn fishing has been an important part of Mallaig for generations and it’s time people realised just how good Scottish prawns are instead of buying imported stuff,” said Sine Davis, one of the organisers of the competition which was part of the first Taste of the Wild Food Festival in Mallaig celebrating local artisan food produce.

“We wanted to do something fun to help promote Mallaig and the Road to the Isles as an important destination for food lovers. There is so much more to this area than beautiful mountain scenery and white sandy beaches.”

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