The nation’s favourite foodie bikers, Si King and Dave Myers, chat to Emily Peagram about their love of the UK’s diverse range of gorgeous grub.
Where did your inspiration for your new book, British Classics, come from?
Dave: We’ve been cooking together since 2004 and this is our 21st book. We’ve created around two and a half thousand recipes, so it’s kind of like our greatest hits remastered. It’s a book where there’s very little slack and hopefully people will want to eat everything. Britain is such a multicultural country and we’ve got foods from all over the world. We think that chicken tikka masala or a Bangladeshi fish curry are as relevant as liver, bacon and onions. There’s also a few quirky recipes in there, like our Swedish Meatballs – the association with IKEA and furniture shopping makes it part of British culture to us.
Si: You can’t put up a wardrobe without meatballs! We want people to cook and get in the kitchen. Dave and I go to great lengths to make sure that each individual recipe is tested five times before it goes anywhere near the page. We understand that when people buy the book they invest money and time cooking for someone that they love, so we wanted to make sure they can rely on our recipes.
You focus on familiar and comforting food in the book, is this something that resonates with you both?
Dave: Yes absolutely, particularly the roast chicken with herby stuffing. We take the reader through every step, give them little tips to take their cooking to the next level and really get the best from the ingredients.
Si: A lot of our fans have followed us from the very beginning and that’s the great thing about food, you never stop learning. Dave and I have spent our careers celebrating classic British food and bringing dishes that weren’t really known about to the forefront.
What are your favourite recipes from the book?
Dave: I think my favourite is the Bengali Fish Curry. We cooked that years ago for a cricket team and ended up using English mustard seeds in there, it was an absolute cracker. Scallops, Crispy Bacon, Black Pudding and Mashed Potato is another amazing dish. All the juices mix into the mash and it’s just glorious. It can be used as a starter but also as a fantastic evening meal.
Si: The Chicken Tikka Masala is so great. Dave and I spent a lot of time developing it and I just love it.
Which dishes inspired you as youngsters?
Dave: For me it’s got to be the Lancashire Hotpot. I remember as a little boy looking forward to the crispy sliced potato on the top and adding black pudding to enrich it. I like to put some kidney in there as well for extra flavour. We also both grew up with plate pies. Every Northern household had an old plate that was known as the pie plate. So we would often make a dish with shortcrust pastry on the bottom, savoury minced beef loaded up and then pastry on the top. It’s basically a savoury mince pie and it’s so good!
Si: Pan Haggerty, it’s a traditional North Eastern meal made in a frying pan. A boulangerie-type dish with potatoes cooked in stock with onions and carrots, layered with bacon or any leftover meat you’ve got left. Cover it with cheese and put it in the oven. The stock becomes so intense in flavour and for me it’s very evocative of a particular time and place.
What are your New Year’s cooking resolutions?
Dave: I’d like to eat more veg. Like a lot of people I’ve cut down an awful lot on my meat. I try to adopt that Mediterranean outlook where it is something to be savoured and used for a special occasion. I think it’s good for the planet. I’m going to try to put some passion into the veg that I’ve grown in the same way I would for steak or some king prawns. I have to give my home-grown
Si: Mine is to eat less meat as well, but I have some fantastic fish suppliers close to where I live. I want to eat a broader spectrum of fish.
Dave: You know what you need to do, Si? You need to buy yourself a small fishing boat, because you’ve been meaning to do that for the last 20 years and this will help to develop your food passion.
Si: I love it! I’m taking you on a date.
What are your favourite healthy recipes that will pack in lots of flavour?
Dave: Mine is a healthier take on fried chicken. Take a whole chicken breast, smother it in fat-free yoghurt, dip it in a mix of panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Make sure it has a good coating of that and bake it. The yoghurt seals the chicken and makes it totally juicy while the crumbs on the outside go crispy. It’s much lower in calories and something I often make for myself and my family. The leftovers make a brilliant chicken wrap.
Si: Any curry dish for me because there are no calories in spice!
The Hairy Bikers’ latest book, British Classics, is available to buy for £22 from amazon.co.uk. Published by Seven Dials.