ONCE again the crowds lapped up what was on offer at a North-East event which has become a key date on many a food lover’s calendar.

The two-day Bishop Auckland Food Festival saw thousands of people descend on the town at the weekend to try and buy fantastic produce from more than 150 stalls, and take part in master classes and celebrity events.

Walking around the market place and grounds of Auckland Castle was an assault on the senses as traders served up all manner of dishes including sizzling burgers and sausages, colourful chutneys, pretty cupcakes and pungent curries.

Teacher Lynsey Brown, from Bishop Auckland, said: “It is great to see locals out and people coming to the area to regenerate the town and support the castle and traders.”

A big hit on both days was The Urban Rajah’s Great Indian Food Feast- a pop-up restaurant in the castle grounds.

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Catering students and staff from Bishop Auckland College worked with TV chef and food writer Ivor Peters, known as The Urban Rajah, to serve traditional Indian cuisine to around 1,000 people.

Mr Peters said: “I think it exceeded everybody’s expectations, the students really stepped up and didn’t just look at it as a bit of work experience.

“They really took pride and responsibility for their jobs, whether they were washing up, prepping or serving they owned their role, they enjoyed it and I’d say they showed their mettle and were harder grafters than in some of the kitchens I’ve worked in.”

One diner, Margaret Blenkin, a retired teacher from Bishop Auckland, said: “The food is very good but the best thing about it is that local young people have been involved.”

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Enjoying their first visit to the event were friends Justina Griffiths, Mandy Ellwood, Diane McDougall and Eve Allan from South Shields.

They watched a cookery demonstration by Sunday Brunch presenter Simon Rimmer, took part in a chocolate masterclass and dined in the pop-up restaurant.

Miss McDougall said: “We’ll definitely be back, I love all food and there was so much choice we just had to pick a couple of things and leave time for lunch and a look round.

“It really was fantastic.”

Fans of hit BBC show The Great British Bake Off saw contestants Cat Dresser and Kimberley Wilson go head to head in a Battle of the Bakers, hosted by series four favourite Glenn Cosby.

The audience had to answer questions to win them extra ingredients and helped Cat win the morning challenge with a lemon dessert and Kimberley level the score in the afternoon with boozy fruit tarts.

Festival organiser Kate James, of Durham County Council, said: “Each year we listen and respond to the feedback.

“This year we put in more seating, covered areas and kids activities and all the new events we tried went down really well.

“Lots of people turned out to enjoy and support the event.”