In The Hairy Bikers' Food Tour of Britain, Si and Dave are back on their bikes, sampling the best of British fare from across the isles. There are 86 counties in the British Isles and the Bikers have covered 30 of them, from Aberdeenshire to Cornwall, Fermanagh to Norfolk, north to south, west to east.
Covering 15,000 miles in their culinary tour of Britain’s counties, they meet the locals and learn about how the land and the produce has informed the way we eat. In each episode, the Hairies will taste that county's 'signature dish'. They visit local food producers and hunt for their ingredients before cooking the county's traditional favourite on location in front of an audience of locals. The crowd are then invited to sample the food and pass their verdicts.
The boys are then pushed outside their comfort zone as they face a cook-off against some of each county's best chefs to create a unique dish using local produce that typifies the county. Not used to cooking in the kitchens of fine-dining restaurants, the Bikers need all the help they can get to find inspiration and source their ingredients.
Dave says: “We have gone head-to-head in cook-offs with some of the best and most respected chefs in the country, often Michelin-starred. Then we do a blind tasting for local food enthusiasts. It's good fun and challenging – and when the victor is announced there are a few surprises!
“What we've found is that food in Britain is going bonkers. People are more concerned now with what they're eating. To research each recipe, we set off and find two or three local food heroes: for example, there is a lady in Herefordshire who comes from generations of producers of berries used for Ribena. Now they are using the blackcurrants to make cassis which rivals the French. We also visited England's leading escargot producer in Herefordshire and the finest Welsh charcuterie in Monmouthshire. In East Sussex we visit RidgeView vineyards with a sparkling wine to rival the best champagne in the world.
“We source salt marsh lamb, scallops from Rye, oysters from Colchester, mutton producers from Dumfries and Galloway, oats from a mill in Alford in Aberdeenshire, mussels in Anglesey. We see some stunning beef. Everyone loves steak and chips and native British beef is a true treasure we can't ignore.”
Si laughs: “We have had some real food epiphanies: asparagus in Evesham, picked from the ground at the very start of the season and then cooked on a griddle with salt and pepper. Completely delicious. At Ormskirk in Lancashire we dug up new potatoes and cooked them there and then. Amazing. At Goosenaugh we saw corn-fed ducks and chickens, supplied to top chefs like the Roux Brothers and Marcus Wareing, all buying from a man in Lancashire.”
He continues: “We've spent two-and-a-half years going around the world investigating other people's cultures. We wanted to get back to our roots and celebrate the food culture we have in Britain. It's just as much an exploration of wonderment for us as it is for the viewers to discover all these local foods. There are some amazing cultural dishes in the UK that have been cooked for hundreds of years that have nearly been forgotten about. We want to revive those great old recipes. Have you heard of Shropshire's fidget pie, for instance? It's based around gammon and cooking apples with potatoes, sage and onions. Delicious. We've discovered lots of great dishes like that.”
David adds: “In Cornwall, we made proper Cornish pasties at the Eden project; we have made Malvern pudding, Cheshire cheese soup in the jaguar house at Chester Zoo; Cullen Skink soup in Moray. In Scarborough we made my mum's Yorkshire pudding with Si's mam's gravy; in Wales we made Carmathenshire cockles, laver bread and Welsh salty bacon; in Somerset we cooked Somerset chicken, a traditional dish heavy with apples. These are dishes born out of the land and generations of cooks perfecting the recipes.”
Simon hopes the series will give local producers a well deserved boost and convince shoppers there is good value to be found outside major supermarkets: “It's a simple equation. The more we buy from local producers, the more successful they will be. We need more market-places – and they can be in supermarkets – where artisan producers can sell. That's how it should be, with your local supermarket selling local farmers' meat, dairy produce, eggs and bread. And if the producer can produce more it will get cheaper.”
David adds: “The British can and do produce some of the best products in the world. We hope that the series will be really inspirational for anyone remotely interested in food - let's get out there and feast!”
Si concludes: “British people really know and care about their food, there is a real pride and many regional treasures to uncover. We've had great craic, great food, fabulous locations and found great roads for riding motorbikes. By the end of the series we will have ridden 15,000 miles on our motorbikes – a proper food tour of Britain.”
The Hairy Bikers' Food Tour of Britain has been made by Cactus TV (Saturday Kitchen, Rachel Allen, Richard & Judy). Amanda Ross is Executive Producer and Dave Mynard is Series Producer. The Executive Producer for the BBC is Carla-Maria Lawson.