The Hairy Bikers are back on the road (mostly, an unprepossessing stretch of dual carriageway near Liverpool). This time they’ve positioned themselves as Everyday Gourmets, which included visiting top chef Tom Kerridge in his two Michelin-starred pub and cooking a dinner for a soldier who lost three limbs in Afghanistan.
On top of that, the boys also find time to cook Sunday roast, Thai red curry paste and butternut squash ravioli. That’s without the trip to the Chinese supermarket or a beer matching outing. They certainly manage to fit a lot in.
The central idea is cooking gourmet food on the cheap and it includes some useful little tips, such as popping air bubbles in ravioli with a pin. Their enthusiasm makes you think you could do it, too, even when your cheffing experience is limited to the odd Pot Noodle and ‘special sauce’ (tin of tomatoes, lots of wine).
One of the gourmet tricks is to seal bacon between two sheets of baking parchment and two oven trays to keep it nice and straight, and then fry bubble and squeak in a chef’s ring. But why mess with the English breakfast? It’s designed to be eaten slumped over on a mate’s sofa with a banging head and sudden flashes of embarrassment, or off a Formica table at a greasy spoon.
Some of the recipes are almost certainly considerably more faff than the Bikers make it look – rolling out ultra thin fresh pasta for example, and this is backed up by the constant references to ‘at the weekend, when you have a bit more time’. A drinking game centered around the word ‘time’ would be a very bad idea.
When the Bikers hammer a point, it stays hammered.
Having said that, not many food programmes could so effortlessly integrate the Spice Wars with the Dutch and a history of the immigration of Chinese food without making you feel lectured. True, the Bikers’ verve is occasionally like being greeted by a very friendly dog and Dave Myers always sounds surprised when he’s reading a voice-over, as if the facts he’s reading are a revelation to him as well as us.
Also, the unveiling of Dave and Si as the chefs behind wounded soldier Andy’s barbecue was genuinely moving, thanks to a helping of Army humour and Si King’s obviously genuine words.
I did long for someone to mouth ‘Who?’ on camera at the Big Reveal, though.