The Hairy Bikers have hit the road again, aiming to whip up a special festive banquet in gratitude to those who supported Dave during his battle with cancer.
From Brummie bacon cakes and pancit noodles to roast beef accompanied by bone marrow and horseradish sauce, along with naan bread Yorkshire puddings, and a delectable fig and walnut tart, this unique programme promises an extraordinary three-course meal with a twist.
In May 2022, Dave shared the news of his cancer diagnosis, casting uncertainty over his future. However, now reunited with his close friend Si, the duo is making the most of their time together, embarking on a journey to source exquisite seasonal ingredients for the ultimate Christmas feast.
Interview with Dave Myers
We’ve loved your previous Christmas specials, what can we expect this time?
It’s a very different programme, it’s very personal, it’s very close to our hearts. It’s a very brave programme. I’ve been ill for the last 18 months and our work-life has been a mishmash and when it was muted we slowly got back to work and then we did a Christmas special. We wanted it to be different and there’s one thing about food and sharing it with people you love and care about, and it’s so much more vital to do that. This time we shared that food with people I owe my life too. There’s the nurses, the consultants, the physiotherapists who taught me to walk again. There was a guy who sold me a motorbike and got me back onto bikes, because I had to learn to ride again. It really is a joyous occasion. It’s a glorious celebration of life and Christmas. It’s a beautiful programme that we are both very proud of. It’s a Christmas I never thought I’d be here to enjoy and thanks to these people I am which I’m heartily grateful for. It’s not closure as I’m still having treatment but it’s a bloody good milestone.
If you could only pick one special Christmas food or drink item to have, what would it be and why?
In the last Christmas special we did where we had the families around the table for dinner, we ‘invented’ the frangipane mince pies. They’re epic, it’s only half the pastry so it’s slightly lighter but you’ve got mincemeat and then frangipane on the top with almonds. That’s become a staple. It’s something new that’s become part of our Christmas tradition and it’s really worth giving it a go. My family are Romanian so it’s not in their usual tradition but we’ve all got this taste for Harvest Bristol Cream Sherry, Madeira and a drop of Port. Those hearty, fig tasting Christmas drinks.
If we were popping round to your house for Christmas, what festive fare would you rustle up for us?
We do two Christmases in our house, my wife is Romanian and the family are used to a Romanian Christmas which happens on Christmas Eve so she cooks a buffet and you’ll find sarmale which is like a stuffed cabbage roll, schnitzels, a salata de boeuf which is a Russian salad, and polenta done with cheese and sausages. Then Christmas Day I just do turkey with all the trimmings. One thing I introduced my family too was Christmas crackers which is new to them. Boxing Day is a mishmash of both cultures and a free-for-all.
What ingredients – can be food or otherwise –make Christmas magical for you?
Family is the main ingredient and getting together during the festive season – and a good bottle of Cognac.
What are your earliest Christmas foodie memories?
It’s my dad every Christmas Eve making a turkey giblet soup. He would start the giblets off and cook that with some split peas. I didn’t like the gristle bits but I can smell it now. They used to give me the turkey heart as a treat which came out of the soup like a piece of rubber. I would quite happily munch away on that, I wouldn’t now. Then there was the traditional Christmas turkey with chestnut stuffing, it happened just once a year and it was special.
What are your favourite Christmas traditions?
We used to do it a lot more in Barrow-in-Furness but it was going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Midnight mass was always glorious, with everyone singing away to carols. That was something no matter how reticent everyone was my wife was quite insistent that we get ourselves out on Christmas Eve and indeed she would hold the presents hostage until we came back.
What would be the perfect present you would choose for Si?
A Newcastle United season ticket with access to the Platinum Box, that would be true love. Or a Newcastle United shirt and a bottle of cognac.
Do you ever sing Christmas carols/songs while preparing festive fayre, if so what’s the best one to inspire good Christmas cooking?
Rod Stewart’s Christmas Hits and a bit of Michael Bublé, they both fit the occasion. On Christmas Eve it will be obscure Romanian Christmas carols.
How important has it been to be back together for this Christmas special, and how great has it been to get back on the bikes together?
The importance of this Christmas special has been huge for me. I really wanted to, as did Si, show our gratitude. We’ve opened ourselves up enough without oversharing too much. The programme is really honest and from the heart. The whole thing worked from start to finish. It’s been amazing getting back on the bikes together, we set off down the road and Si was leading so I didn’t have to think about where I was going. That feeling of again doing what we’ve done for 30 years was magical. Si’s got shoulders like a bison and following that silhouette into the landscape was joyous. It was like getting my wings back.
How has the support of friends like Si and family helped you after your cancer diagnosis and how does that support continue to help you while you’re still going through treatment?
Knowing Si has been there is fantastic. A lot of the credit has to also go to my wife, she’s been there through it all with me from the start. It’s absolutely vital and I feel really sad for those people who have to go through it on their own.
How has food played a role in helping you during your treatment journey?
Food is vital when you’re recovering from cancer, one is appetite and one is getting the calories in. Sometimes I have to give myself a good talking to because if you’re feeling rough, you don’t feel like eating but you have to do it. There are moments when you get back into food that you look forward to it again. It’s important to find things that you like as well during that journey. It’s the stuff of life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prince or pauper, everyone has something that they like to eat. Pancit noodles now have legendary status for me.
Why was it so important for you both to throw a Christmas banquet for those who have helped you over the last 18 months?
I believe if you’re doing a food programme at Christmas, you have to feed people, and really the answer of who to invite and cook for was staring us in the face. It was the people who have been vital to both our lives for the past 18 months, it was a no-brainer.