The Hairy Bikers are two big soft blokes you'd trust with the family silver. Their recipes should be simple to follow, failsafe, foolproof, and filling. But does the reality match up to the hype?
The Hairy Bikers are a phenomenon. Forget sexed-up lifestyle cooking shows (that’s you Nigella and Sophie Dahl), complicated cheffery (Heston, we can’t keep up) and worthy ethical eating (you know who you are). The Hairy Bikers, Si King and Dave Myers, just tell it, and cook it, like it is.
This is the approach that has won them the hearts of home cooks up and down the country. The results are in to prove it – their books repeatedly hit the top of the best-seller charts and Mums Know Best on BBC2 cemented their down to earth attitude and willingness to listen to what we, the people, want to cook and eat.
Brand new Hairy Bikers TV and cookbook
A second series began recently, and a new book, Hairy Bikers’ Best-Loved Recipes, Mums Still Know Best, is on the shelves.
You would expect to find a bearded biker down the caff, munching his way through a fry-up instead of serving up wholesome home-cooked food. The unexpected was the Hairy Bikers’ original shtick. They soon revealed they were just two decent, huggable friendly blokes, as keen to make their next meal a memorable one as the rest of us.
They’re not pros
They make no secret of their lack of training. Rather they emphasize their slapstick, have-a-go attitude in the kitchen, so few viewers are put off.
When it comes to choosing and eating food, it’s all beaming and purring and diving in for seconds. The Hairy Bikers’ trick is not to make anyone feel ashamed of enjoying a damn good feed.
Mums’ kitchen secrets
The book includes favourite recipes from British mums as well as reworked classics from the Bikers. The opener is sure to get a smile from the sternest of critics – it’s Cream of Tomato Soup with Fried Cheese Sandwiches.
What’s not to like? But don’t be fooled by appearances. Straight after the tomato soup comes a recipe for Rouille & Croutons, so you can posh up your soup and practice some new cooking techniques into the bargain.
The book reads like an A-Z of what you want to cook for your family that evening, or for Sunday lunch, a special birthday or a big celebration.
Potted Salmon and pork belly
I choose Potted Salmon and Roast Belly of pork with Apples & Sage for a big family lunch to please the little ones as well as the adults. This is simple but not basic or everyday food. And both recipes are really, really easy, and inexpensive.
The Potted Salmon involves poaching one salmon fillet with lemon and bay, and another in butter. Whizz the first one with cream cheese, dill and some smoked salmon; then fold in the second fillet, cut into chunks. Put into individual serving dishes, pour over the poaching butter, and you have a smart starter.
The pork belly takes time but little effort. The 1.5kg joint, which feeds 8 (or 6 hungry people), costs less than £8. You season both sides with thyme, salt and pepper, then whack in a hot oven (Gas 9/240C) for half an hour. Turn it down for a further hour (Gas 4/180). Then, for the final hour, add in the mixture of sliced apples, onions and sage, lying the pork on top.
It all turns out perfectly.
Lemon curd cake
Sadly the same can’t be said for the Luscious Lemon Swiss Roll, filled with Home-made Lemon Curd. The cake mixture seems light enough as it goes into the tin, but it comes out, albeit in one piece, hard. Unsurprisingly it cracks as soon as I try to roll it.
Having gone to the bother of making the curd and buttercream icing, I slice the sponge into strips and make up little sandwiches – hardly the desired effect but just as tasty, and the sponge softens with the filling.
The Lemon Curd is an incredibly easy and satisfying recipe, though, and would be nice to make as a gift.
Only Jamie and Nigella outsell these boys. The bikers and their books are people pleasers extraordinaire, after all. Who isn’t tempted by Macaroni Cheese, Egg & Bacon Pie, Syrup Sponge or Summer Pudding?
The recipes aren’t confined to homely classics, though it is all what I would term ‘comfort food’. There are recipes for tapas such as tortilla and albondigas (meatballs), and a few different curries, as well as fancier food like fillet steaks stuffed with goat’s cheese. Though God knows how they split the recipes across the 8 sections, because essentially they’re all a similar mix of sweet, savoury, big eats and smaller plates.
It is a shame one of the recipes I tried out failed, as the whole point of the Hairy Bikers, really, is that their recipes are simple to follow and should be failsafe, foolproof, and filling. They are, after all, two big soft blokes you’d trust with the family silver.
Perhaps it was just me. Have you tried any of their recipes? How have you found them – easy or hard? Do they live up to their reputation in your opinion? Let us know using the comments box below.
Buy The Hairy Bikers’ Best-Loved Recipes for £10 on Amazon and try out the recipes yourself!
Also worth your attention
More recipes by The Hairy Bikers
Be the first to comment
Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature