Five minutes with The Hairy Bikers Si King and Dave Myers
The beloved TV cookery duo, The Hairy Bikers, first burst onto our screens back in 2004 and this September they’ve launched a new food podcast called Heart & Sole – an ideal kitchen listen. Kerry Fowler caught up with Si King and Dave Myers to hear about their treasured food memories, TV recommendations – and split opinions on tripe.
What’s your first memory of food?
Si King: Boiled egg and soldiers with my grandfather. I was three years old, sat on his knee at home in Kibblesworth in County Durham. He was a winder at the pit, so a very responsible job. My grandfather was very particular about putting salt and a little bit of pepper on the top of the egg, which I didn’t quite get at that age – all those black bits on it. The bread was made by my mum. It was a working-class mining community: it was all about the bread.
Dave Myers: My mum used to make soft white baps every day. I always tried to eat them when they were hot, and she used to say, “They’ll give you stomach ache.” I’ve never been able to make them like she did.
What’s the first recipe you properly learned to cook?
Dave: We had an old cooker in the house and it had come with its own recipe book from during the war, the Radiation Cookery Book. My mum had multiple sclerosis from when I was about seven years old, and my dad was on shifts and didn’t get home until 10pm. One time my mum was in bed and couldn’t cook so I cooked my dad a cheese and potato pie from this book. I made it in an enamel dish, with mashed potato, cheese and breadcrumbs. It was pretty decent and when Dad sat down to eat it, made by me at aged seven, he had a tear in his eye. I can remember it as clear as day.
What’s the one recipe you can’t live without?
Si: Oil, garlic and chilli spaghetti – I would die a thousand deaths if I couldn’t make that.
Which food do you detest?
Dave: Tripe, tripe, I hate tripe. Si likes it. When I was a kid it was honeycomb tripe soaked in malt vinegar for a couple of hours. It was like eating rubber.
Si: There’s absolutely nothing I don’t eat. Even tripe – I love it.
What’s the one ingredient you’d take to a desert island?
Si: Salt. But then I wouldn’t need it because of the sea… So seasoning.
Dave: Salt. But Si said that. So garam masala: it can enliven anything really. I find fish like pollock hard to make delicious, but in a curry it can be ok – or of course I might find other strange creatures from the deep…
What’s the meal you’d miss the most while there?
Si: I like fresh water fish, so even though I could fish in the sea, that would be the thing I’d want to eat.
Dave: I could say something fancy like sashimi, but it would be a good pizza. I love pizza – simpler the better.
You can have a one-off dinner party on your desert island. Who would you invite and why?
Si: George Monbiot, Noam Chomsky, the musician John Bonham, Robert Pirsig who wrote Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe.
Dave: I’d invite my wife, then it would be Si – so we could share the cooking. Oh yes, Penelope Cruz. I have had a crush on her ever since I saw her in the film Jamón Jamón. That image of her with the ham has stuck with me for years.
Which cookbook would you take with you to the island?
Si: The Hairy Bikers’ One Pot Wonders – shameless plug, but hey-ho.
Dave: I love cookbooks. One I got recently is Pasta Grannies, a wonderful book that started off as a YouTube channel. Each Italian nonna or granny has a recipe, and they make the most wonderful meals from next to nothing. They all have their tales and I love the stories. It’s so simple but the food is delicious. That would keep me occupied on the island.
How were your plans affected by Covid-19?
Si: My son and wonderful daughter-in-law’s – well, not yet – wedding was postponed. We’re going to do it next year.
Dave: Our stage tour got cancelled. We’d sold 35,000 tickets!
Which meal did you cook the most during lockdown?
Si: Lockdown was interesting for me because it was me and the dog – my boys are all grown up. But I still had the mindset of making food for the family, so I thought I’d cook for the community instead and deliver meals. Where we live is relatively rural with an elderly community, and it was great. I got lots of selection boxes to say thank you at Christmas.
Dave: Oxtail ravioli. I’d make the pasta and would cook the oxtail for hours and hours, make a really rich sauce, then serve it with parmesan. If you have time, like we did in lockdown, you could experiment – and that was a dish I liked to work on.
And what did you binge watch on TV?
Si: I re-ran The West Wing, to rekindle my faith in the political system… Killing Eve. And I became really good at the video game Assassin’s Creed.
Dave: Peaky Blinders. The Good Wife kept us going. The Americans. We binge-watched a lot.
Where’s the first place you ate once restaurants reopened?
Si: House of Tides on the quayside in Newcastle; Dave and I went back there and it was great.
Dave: Read’s restaurant in Faversham. I live in Kent and it’s not far from us. It’s a wonderful restaurant in a Georgian house – Si and I have been there, too. I managed to get a table at the last minute. It was rather strange, that first time when we could go and eat out again – but lovely.
Tell us about your new podcast, Heart & Sole?
Si: It’s all about food! We invite guests on to talk about their attitude to food, what shapes their food memories, what they cook, their signature dish, their relationship with food. It’s so interesting. I absolutely love it. Emma Freud was our first guest and she was wonderful.
Dave: It came about because we had a good relationship with Knorr, who are the sponsor. Si and I are all about cooking, chatting and riding motorbikes – so this is the chatting side of it. We talk with people we want to talk to, people we have connections with. Si and I are both in The Grand Order of Water Rats [an entertainment industry fraternity and charitable organisation] and musician Rick Wakeman was our sponsor for that, so he’s one of our guests. It’s people’s food memories: food cuts through race, religion and politics, and people always can recall something they loved. It’s joyous because you sit down for an hour and chat – it’s catching up with old chums, really.
The Hairy Bikers have been working with Knorr to encourage people to “cheat on meat, as it’s better for them and the planet”. The Hairy Bikers’ new podcast Heart & Sole, sponsored by Knorr, is available wherever you listen to podcasts and includes weekly recipe inspiration. New episodes and recipes every Monday.