In the knight garden

Jane Hall meets a young chef with a taste for home grown produce in his medieval fortress tea room

He may only be 21, but when it comes to food, chef Luke Orwin has a very mature head on his young shoulders.

He talks as passionately about flavours, delicious seasonal ingredients and cooking with nature’s best as other people his age do about football or nights out on the town.

3Having said that, he does like his sport (Newcastle Eagles basketball team, since you ask) and his nights in the Toon (Pleased to Meet You being a favourite destination), but ever since the North Shields-born chef can remember, food and cooking has been his number one priority.

He has worked at Northumberland’s Matfen Hall, at former Newcastle restaurant Pan Haggerty, and with 2007’s North East Chef of the Year David Kennedy, whose love of foraged, seasonal, home grown, sustainable and artisanal foods is well known.

Now Luke is putting all that knowledge to good use as head chef at the North East’s newest heritage attraction, Auckland Castle.Here, Luke and his team keep the castle’s popular tea room in the Bishop’s Library stocked with home-cooked, seasonal
food, from soups and sandwiches to salads and cakes.

And food miles can be measured in just metres now that the walled kitchen garden, at what was the home of the Bishops of Durham for nearly 900 years, is back in production.

The renaissance of the half-acre plot yards from the kitchen door of the medieval fortress in Bishop Auckland allows the chefs to go out and pick produce as they need it – and it doesn’t get fresher than that.

2“Enjoying good food is one of the simplest pleasures in life, and food doesn’t come any better than when it’s made from ingredients prepared and served within minutes of being picked,” says Luke, who took on his own allotment in North Shields earlier this year after a four-year wait.

The quality of the food at Auckland Castle’s tea room, which can be accessed without having to pass through the pay barrier, ensures it has become a popular destination in only its first season and a new Kitchen Garden Pavilion providing extra dining space has been built to accommodate the growing number
of visitors.

Around 90% of the fruit and vegetables used in the kitchen are found within 400 metres of the kitchen and, thanks to the warm winter and spring, there has been a glut, resulting in a range of Auckland Castle jams, chutneys and pickles served and sold here.

“There is so much to choose from and it’s fantastic being able to pick everything at its best,” says Luke. “It does make more work but I’d rather be physically digging it up, preparing it and cooking it than everything arriving freshly washed in a bag. Having such garden-fresh ingredients at my fingertips means I can also ensure our menu is kept exciting.”
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6Rhubarb marshmallow
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5Auckland Castle pancetta, leek and mustard quiche
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Auckland Castle is open 10.30am‑4pm every day except Tuesday, admission £8 for adults over 16. Anyone who takes part in the castle’s on-going consultation process will receive a £4 admission refund. The tea room, which is free to access without having to pass through the pay barrier, is open 10am-4pm daily except Tuesday. To pre-book afternoon tea or discuss dietary requirements, tel 01388 743 750

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