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Stir crazy; FOOD & DRINK: The Hairy Bikers are back on the road again, but this time their doing things a bit differently, finds Matt Thomas.

THEY'RE an unlikely pair, the Hairy Bikers. Part of that unlikeliness is down to the remarkable consistency of their behaviour, which seems to be the same regardless of whether or not the cameras are rolling.

As our interview slot rolls around, Dave Myers and Simon King burst into the room in a blur of northern accents and bonhomie.

"I'm just putting the kettle on for a cup of tea, if that's OK with you," bellows Si, rather sweetly, while Dave busies himself with rearranging the desks, shedding half of their contents in the process.

It's a routine that will be familiar to anyone who's ever seen their shows, an even mix of slapstick klutziness and charm, leavened with a lot of shouting.

In a lot of ways, their unlikeliness is at the heart of their marketability. The very fact that they're not the sort of people you expect to see on TV makes them ideal.

They don't trade in male aggression like Ramsay, baffle you with whizzkid science like Blumenthal or preen like Stein.

They belong to a matier species of cookery television, resolutely un-starry and friendly, outside the world of cheffy pretension and angst.

What you get with the Hairy Bikers is a couple of mates, mucking about.

But hang on. Cranking out four series of The Hairy Bikers' Cookbook between 2004 and 2008, last year's 30-part Hairy Bikers' Food Tour Of Britain, the six-part Hairy Bikers: Mum Knows Best, the fourpart Hairy Bakers, and Saturday Kitchen, newspaper and quiz show appearances between them doesn't sound much like mucking about.

And now, having straddled the world of TV like two hairy colossuses, they've turned their attention to the theatre with The Hairy Bikers' Big Night Out - their fans' best chance yet to get the full Hairy experience, in the raw, they insist.

"Honestly, with us, what you see is what you get," insists Si. "People come along in the full knowledge that there's going to be chaos, there's going to be laughs, things are going to go wrong.

"It's going to be something like our appearances on Saturday Kitchen with us cooking and generally mucking about, and we'll be doing dinner for a couple of audience members.

"But more than that, we're going to be telling the story of how we met and how the show came together."

"There's going to be stuff like our screen test," adds Dave.

At the risk of dispelling the mystery of the genesis of the Hairy Bikers, the pair met through the TV and film industry.

Dave, after a spell in the furnaces of Barrow, was a sought-after make-up and prosthetics man and Si an assistant first director and location manager who worked on one of the Harry Potters.

Specifically, they met on the set of a Catherine Cookson mini-series.

But although they were well-placed to pitch their idea for a cookery series, they insist they're not media insiders or much more than a pair of northern chancers.

"Honestly, there's no grand master plan," says Dave. "We're just reaching a point at which we feel comfortable with saying we've got anything much we could call a career, let alone plotting to take over TV."

"It was honestly nothing more than saying to each other, 'come on, man, wouldn't it be awesome if we could do the stuff we like doing anyway, riding bikes, talking rubbish and cooking, and see how far that would take us?'," chips in Si.

"It's taken us by surprise as much as anyone. There's no point claiming that it hasn't changed anything at all, because obviously it has, but while things are a bit different, we're still the same guys we were when we started out on this."

Some of those changes have included Dave, a keen sailor, giving up his beloved catamaran and Si finding his leisure time similarly squeezed.

"It's a case of dropping everything and running out with the fishing rods any time I get a spare minute, these days," he laughs.

So why, then, do a 45-date UK tour? "The idea actually came about thanks to Bob Mortimer," says Dave. "Yes, that Bob Mortimer - off Shooting Stars.

"I ran into him with my wife at a hotel in London after an awards ceremony. We were all pretty far gone and he said that he wanted us to come on Shooting Stars and we did that and it was a great laugh.

"So when the chance to do something like this came up we jumped at it."

"Yeah, he's been a great help with the gags and everything," elaborates Si.

If it weren't for the pair's enthusiasm, all this talk of London hotels and secret, starry collaborations might lend the lie to their down-to-earth image.

But it's hard to fault the pair when they speak so engagingly about cooking.

"The thing about Welsh cooking," says Dave, "is that it's so entangled with your idea of nationality. Your lamb, your seafood, the produce is a matter of national pride."

"And not just traditional stuff, there's places doing charcuterie that put Italian produce to shame," chips in Si.

"That's our big crusade really," says Dave. "We want people to feel as much pride of, and love for, food as we do. That's what we try to do in all our programmes."

"And apart from that, we just do what we want," says Si.

And it's not hard to believe him. The Hairy Bikers' Big Night Out is at Cardiff's St David's Hall on Wednesday. Call 029 2087 8444 for tickets. To get you in the mood, try your hand at these two recipes from Si and Dave CHICKEN IN BRANDY (serves 6) Splash of olive oil 30g butter 6 chicken breasts 1 red onion, finely diced 100ml good brandy westernmail_20100130_017_null_01_magazine 170g white button mushrooms, wiped and trimmed 100ml double cream Sea salt and black pepper Method Preheat the oven to 150[degrees]C/Gas 2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan. Add the chicken breasts and cook briefly to seal in the juices. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent but not coloured. Remove the pan from the heat. Warm the brandy, pour it into the pan and ignite, then wait for the flames to die down. Add the mushrooms, pour over the cream and season well. Transfer everything to an ovenproof dish and cover with foil.

Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour. Serve with some rich mustard mash.

APPLE & BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE (serves 6) For the filling: 3 eating apples, peeled, quartered and cored 2 Bramley cooking apples 2 tsp cinnamon 100g demerara sugar 300g blackberries For the crumble topping: 175g plain flour 1 tsp cinnamon 140g soft brown sugar 35g porridge oats 180g cold unsalted butter Method: Put the quartered apples in a bowl and shuffle them around to mix them up a bit.

Mix the cinnamon with the sugar in a separate bowl. Put half the apples in an oven dish and sprinkle with a third of the sugar mixture.

Add the blackberries and sprinkle with the second third of sugar mixture. Cover with the remaining apples and add the remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Now make the crumble topping. Put the flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix well, then stir in sugar and oats. Cut the butter into small cubes, add to the mixture and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture is the texture of breadcrumbs. Lay the crumble mixture on top of the fruit. Preheat the oven to 170[degrees]C/Gas 3 and bake the crumble for about 40 minutes. Keep an eye on the top. Serve with custard.

FOOD & DRINK 2

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The Hairy Bikers - Dave Myers and Simon King
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 30, 2010
Words:1297
Previous Article:REVIEWS.
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