Belfast Telegraph

The Hairy Bikers talk coming Home For Christmas.

Simon King and David Myers have become national treasures, thanks to their passion for deliciously homely food. The bearded mates - better known as The Hairy Bikers - tell Georgia Humphreys about the inspiration behind their latest BBC show

How do you know when the countdown to Christmas has really begun? Maybe it's hearing more and more festive songs in the shop. Maybe it's the growing panic over Christmas shopping.

Or perhaps it's the Christmas cooking shows you find yourself avidly watching.

Simon "Si" King and David Myers - the Hairy Bikers to me and you - are among the TV chefs delivering some festive cheer on screen this year.

Here, the best mates dish out all the juicy details about their latest BBC One series, The Hairy Bikers Home For Christmas.

Festive return

Since King and Myers first met in 1995 - when working behind the scenes of a TV series - they've been the perfect pairing.

And not just because they both have such impressive beards.

Myers, who was a make-up artist specialising in prosthetics, and King, a former director and locations manager, soon discovered they both shared a huge love of food and motorbikes.

It's been a few years since a Christmas special from the duo - partly because, Myers says, they didn't want to "rehash what had already been done".

"Now we're a bit older and more 'mature', it's nice to do something in a comfy environment and talk to people about Christmas," he says.

"The food we've cooked and the people we've met have been a great experience, and that's really why we wanted to do it."

Their new and simple concept sees them chat to fascinating celebrity guests "with wonderful tales to tell", while rustling up belly rumble-inducing treats for them to try - and each episode has a different theme.

King insists their "mantra is still the same" for all their programmes. "We don't want to cook anything on telly that people can't cook at home - that's important to us," he says.

"We want people to cook in their homes because there is something very special about that."

Christmas cheer

Recent years have seen a successful foray by the pair into healthier food options and recipes.

When they released their first diet book, The Hairy Dieters: How To Love Food And Lose Weight, in summer 2012, it remained at the top of the bestsellers chart for six weeks. While this series does include a mix of lighter recipes - say, the winter salad and parsnip nests - it's mainly about indulging in the true spirit of Christmas (think sumptuous roast goose with ginger and orange stuffing and a mighty-looking Christmas Croquembouche).

"We had a big process of development where we thought about what we would like to eat if it was there in front of us, and worked it out in a way that people can and will cook it," explains Myers. "We hope that these recipes will become part of people's staple Christmas diets."

The pair have also come up with savvy solutions for how to use up leftovers, plus suggestions for the perfect New Year's party.

"The food reflects all the days leading up to Christmas, as well as those bits in between," says King.

"We have little tips and hints for how to make your money go a little bit further and how to impress at that special time of year."

Guest list

The pair have managed to nab a different celeb to star in each episode of the show. Names include Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis, Reverend Kate Bottley of Gogglebox and TV presenter Alex Jones.

"It's great for our guests to share their most intimate traditions and memories about Christmas when they were younger and how Christmas has changed for them all the way through their lives," says King.

Ask them who they're most looking forward to cooking with, and both Hairy Bikers find it tricky to choose.

"We've got such a lot of great guests, it's hard to pick," says Myers - before adding: "I'm very excited about Gloria Hunniford because she's somebody who's had 70 years in showbusiness. So having her coming in, and being able to cook for someone we have great respect for, I am looking forward to very much."

Will any of their guests join in with the cooking?

"It's all about the conversation, so if they're worried about chopping an onion, it's going to spoil that," says Myers. "We want to make them feel at home, pampered, loved and not nervous."

Sentimental value

Both Hairy Bikers have their own, slightly unusual, family Christmas traditions.

"When I was little, we always had new pyjamas," recalls King. "And I still do the same now, and the kids are in their late teens/20s.

"We go downstairs and open the presents with a bacon sarnie before slowly starting on the cooking."

For Myers, it's been a case of embarking on new - delicious-sounding - traditions.

"My wife's Romanian and they celebrate on Christmas Eve, so I've adapted to that," he says.

"So on Christmas Eve we have smoked sausages, pork ribs, polenta and the presents come out then too.

"But of course I still love Christmas Day, so what we've started to do is get the best of both worlds, with me still doing the full-blown Christmas lunch then."

Dear Santa

What do Myers and King want under the Christmas tree this year?

"I don't really want anything," professes Myers.

"There comes a point in your life where you've really got enough!"

King reveals he just wants "something simple, a great bottle of something or some socks".

"I like giving presents more than receiving," he adds.

Myers has a jokey suggestion for a gift: "After this programme, a good-quality diet plan might be in order."

Well, let's worry about that when January comes...

The Hairy Bikers Home For Christmas, Monday, BBC1, 3.45pm

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