The Hairy Bikers – aka Si King and Dave Myers – have just completed a food tour of Italy, France and Spain for their new cookbook and accompanying TV series The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure.
We met up with the lovable duo to get the lowdown on what they love about Mediterranean cooking…
Your previous food tours include the UK, America and Asia. What attracted you to the Med this time?
Dave: 'We’d always thought the Med had some of the best food in the world, so this was a dream. We discovered some brilliant recipes, like tumbet, a veggie dish from Majorca. Cooking that recipe is like bringing the sunshine of the Mediterranean to your plate.'
How did this trip compare to your other adventures?
Dave: 'I think this has been my favourite adventure because it’s ticked a lot of boxes. We met so many wonderful chefs along the way and I learned so much about food. Applying the Med touch of using good oils and vinegars has changed the way I want to cook.'
Si: 'We’ve been four times around the world now and what’s great about it is that the people we meet and the places that we go are so lovely and people want to talk about their culture and their cuisine. The celebration of diversity is what always makes these trips so great.'
What do you love about the flavours of the Med?
Si: 'They’re so fresh and clean.'
Dave: 'I love the variety, too. You might not think of the food as spicy, but Italian ’nduja sausage with peperoncino chillies is so tasty. And Corsican meat dishes, cooked with olive oil and wine, are very mellow.'
Did you taste any weird and wonderful new dishes?
Si: 'On Carloforte, an island off Sardinia, they call tuna ‘the pig of the sea’! It’s such a precious resource, they really embrace nose-to-tail eating. So we had tuna testicles with olive oil and lemon juice. It was surprisingly very lovely and the taste was quite mild!'
The Hairy Bikers’ Sardinian minestrone
Do you have a favourite recipe from the book and if so, why?
Dave: 'I love the Pasta E Ceci, it’s basically pasta with a vegetable chickpea sauce and it sounds boring but it’s so addictive when you get it right – we put anchovies in ours just to give it a bit more flavour and it really works. It’s one of those dishes that’s simple but also a bit clever.'
Si: 'Mine has got to be the Seafood with Saffron Fregola, I mean again really simple, nothing complicated about it at all but oh man it’s so good.'
The Hairy Bikers' chicken and sage traybake
Has Mediterranean food changed over the years?
Si: 'I don’t think it really changes – from region to region, the food has been cooked the same way for many years and I think that’s part of the identity of the cuisine. We met a lady called Michaela who was 110 years old – she put her long and fruitful life down to eating homemade minestrone. Awesome!'
What’s the secret to living a healthy Med lifestyle?
Dave: 'It’s all about balance. Being from the north, I tend to live on pork products, like bacon and sausages. In contrast, Mediterranean food is so varied.'
Si: 'In the Med, people still bring food they grow at home into a marketplace for others to buy. So you get amazing seasonal produce. There’s very little processed food – and that’s the secret, really.'
The Hairy Bikers' orange and almond cake
Do you have any top tips for losing weight and eating better this January?
Dave: 'Get on the scales on 2 January and don’t delude yourself – we are both going to do it, too!'