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Life

Hairy Bikers on the road again around the Baltic

Wife-carrying and fish-pickling – it's all in a day's work for the Hairy Bikers, who are back with an intrepid TV series and meaty new cookbook. Jeananne Craig catches up with the bearded buddies

Si King and Dave Myers met more than 20 years ago when they were crew members on a TV adaptation of a Catherine Cookson novel

HAIRY Bikers Dave Myers and Si King were determined to throw themselves into the action while making new BBC Two road trip series Northern Exposure – even if that meant a spot of wife-carrying.

The pair circumnavigated the vast Baltic Sea for the six-part series, which sees them biking and exploring the cuisine of countries including Poland, Sweden, Russia and Finland, where King was persuaded to indulge in a favourite local sport.

"Dave said, 'I think he would like a go at the wife-carrying', and I went, 'Pardon me, WHAT?'" King recalls.

"I disappeared down the boardwalk with this very light and lovely lady attached to my neck going, 'See you later lads, I'm not coming back.'"

The trip had been in the pipeline for a few years, but had to be put on hold after King received emergency treatment for a life-threatening brain aneurysm last year.

Today, the 47-year-old dad-of-three is recovering well – although he admits he does have to keep an eye on his fatigue levels, given the high-energy nature of the Bikers' work.

Myers, meanwhile, says getting back on the road with his pal (who he met more than 20 years ago when both were crew members on a TV adaptation of Catherine Cookson's The Gambling Man) has been "magic... like putting on a pair of comfy shoes".

"It's better than ever really, because we appreciate it a bit more," the former Strictly Come Dancing contestant adds.

The pair slimmed down in 2012 after embarking on a healthy eating kick, but admit they are feeling a bit softer around the edges again, after enjoying such delights as strawberry vodka cheesecake and pickled fish during the filming of Northern Exposure.

"After the three months on the road in the Baltics and Sweden, we need to practise what we preach a bit really," Myers (57) confesses. "We've both put half a stone on and need to shift it."

The busy pair have also released a new cookbook, The Hairy Bikers' Meat Feasts, in which they celebrate meaty recipes, from shepherd's pie and chilli con carne, to pies and curries.

After almost a decade on TV (the first series of The Hairy Bikers' Cookbook aired in 2006), the pair are still learning about food all the time.

"We're not trained chefs and we haven't got a restaurant, but we've had the most incredible opportunities to experiment with food," says Myers.

Want to try some recipes from the Hairy Bikers at home? Here are three from Meat Feasts.

:: The Hairy Bikers' Meat Feasts is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £22 hardback, eBook £12.99. The Hairy Bikers' Northern Exposure is on BBC Two on Tuesday nights.

HAM AND PEA SOUP

(Serves 4-6)

300g split peas (green are traditional for this Finnish recipe, but yellow are fine)

Pinch of bicarbonate of soda

1 small ham hock

1 onion, stuck with 2 cloves

2 bay leaves

1 blade of mace

1 onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1tbsp hot mustard

100ml whipping or double cream (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper

Soak the peas overnight in a big bowl of cold water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda – bicarb helps to soften pulses.

Put the ham hock in a large saucepan, cover it with cold water and bring to the boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and drain, discarding the water. Rinse the ham hock and the saucepan to get rid of any starchy foam that may have accumulated.

Put the hock back in the pan and cover with 1.5-2L of water. Add the onion with cloves, the bay leaves and mace to the pan. It's a good idea to tie them all in a piece of muslin, but it's not essential. Just remember they're there and remove them before blending the soup. Bring the water to the boil and simmer for an hour.

Drain the split peas and rinse them well. Put them in a separate saucepan, cover with water and bring them to the boil, then boil hard for 10 minutes. Drain and add the split peas to the pan with the ham hock, along with the diced onion and carrot. Simmer until the peas are tender – this will take about 45 minutes to an hour. Check the water level regularly and add a little extra if necessary – the soup shouldn't be too thick.

Using tongs, fish the ham hock out of the pan and remove the onion, bay leaves and mace. Set the ham aside until it's cool enough to handle, then break it up, pulling the meat into pieces and discarding the skin and bone.

Add the mustard to the soup, check the seasoning and add some black pepper to taste – you shouldn't need any salt because of the ham. Blend to a rough puree – a quick whizz with a stick blender is all you need – then add some of the ham to the soup and warm it through. Lightly whip the cream, if using, and gently fold it into the soup, then garnish with the remaining ham and serve.

:: CORNED BEEF HASH

(Serves 4)

600g floury potatoes, diced

1tbsp oil or 15g dripping or butter

1 large onion, chopped

400g corned beef, chopped (homemade ideally, but you can also use canned)

1tbsp tomato ketchup

1tsp Dijon mustard

A dash of Worcestershire sauce

2tbsp finely chopped parsley

Flaked sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fried eggs, for serving (optional)

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and add water to cover them. Bring the water to the boil, then add salt and simmer for two to three minutes. Drain the potatoes and set them aside.

Heat the oil, dripping or butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently until it has until softened and is turning a golden-brown. Add the potatoes and the corned beef, then press the mixture down in the pan with a spatula and leave it to cook for five minutes.

Add enough water to the ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce to make a pourable mixture, then add this to the corned beef and potato. Add the parsley and season with pepper – be careful with salt as the corned beef will already be salty – then stir. The underside should have started to turn a deep golden-brown.

Continue to cook, stirring and pressing down the mixture, until it is all completely heated through, the potatoes are tender, and a lot of the mixture has taken on some colour. Good served with fried eggs.

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