Food is featuring large in this year’s Oxford Literary Festival which continues at Christ Church until Sunday. Lovers of fine food are really well catered for this year, as are those who love curry and spicy dishes. One of the highlights of the festival took place last night when Atul Klochhar prepared dinner at Gee’s Restaurant where the winner of the new £7,500 Jeremy Mogford Food and Drink Literary prize was presented with her prize.

Atul is one of the first Indian chefs to be awarded a Michelin star, and is now considered the most critically acclaimed chef in Britain. He features in BBC’s Great British Menu series and is a regular on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. He has published three cookery books: Fish Indian Style, Simple Indian: The Fresh Tastes of India’s New Cuisine and Atul’s Curries of the World, which is an intoxicating collection of recipes gathered from all corners of the globe. He examines curries cooked in his native India, Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and even the UK, showing how one country shares with, yet differs from, the next. This, along with his other publications, is proving particularly popular with spice lovers. The Jeremy Mogford food and drink literary prize was won by 41-year-old Emma Seaman, from Devon, who wrote a delightful short story entitled A Dish of Chocolate Ice Cream, which she admits has been buzzing round in her head for some considerable time. She said it was a story that evolved after a holiday in France. “When I found out about the Mogford prize, I knew it would be the perfect medium for this story, and so began to tip it out of my head.

“The trouble about having a story in your head is that it buzzes round and round until you can get rid of it. Once it is on paper and pinned down it stops nagging,” she said.

The story took Emma, who is mother to two young girls aged five and seven, about two weeks to write. Much was written while travelling to work as she leads a busy life as mother and businesswoman running a small company that helps small businesses get up and running. Emma, pictured, has already had several short stories published in anthologies and writes for the Eat Dartmoor website about local food producers and food outlets. She also devises recipes from ingredients harvested in Devon. Writing fiction, however, is her real love, she has just finished writing a novel entitled Lookey-Likey. Although the novel is not saturated with food images, she says she is such a foodie that food always manages to creep into her writing. Because food has so many meanings, there is so much you can say about it. Her prize-winning short story is about a chef who comes to understand the power of food on presenting a simple unadorned dish to a woman whom he would have preferred to give a more ornate dish. It is a superb little story that makes you think twice about the way food talks to us all.

“Food is sensual and anything sensual is easy to write about. Food is not just fuel, it’s very immediate,” Emma added.

Because Emma and her husband Andy both share a love of food, they celebrated her win with a gourmet meal last weekend. And just an hour after she was told about her win, her husband received a call from a company offering him his dream job — so they both had reason to raise their glasses to the way wonderful things can happen, and so unexpectedly.

Donald Sloan, Head of School at Oxford School of Hospitality Management, said he was so delighted to have been the one to inform Emma that she had won the prize, because she is such a delightful woman and was so excited. As one of the judges he said: “We have been overwhelmed by the number and quality of entries. It has been fascinating to read such diverse works of fiction, all of which reveal something about the complex roles that food and drink play in our lives.

“With Jeremy Mogford’s generous support, it seems we have created a competition that will encourage established and aspiring writers from around the world.”

The closing Festival Dinner this year takes place in Christ Church’s Great Hall on Saturday. The guest speaker is the best-selling historian and travel writer William Dalrymple. He is a multi award-winning historian, travel writer and broadcaster famed for the narrative skill he has brought to his amazing books.

Following the dinner, Dalrymple will talk about his book Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, his first travel book in a decade.