Healthy Bikers keep on truckin’

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In March 2014, Hairy Biker Si King was “hit with a side swipe” when he was admitted to hospital with severe headaches and discovered he had a life-threatening brain aneurysm.

The TV chef had emergency treatment and is recovering well - “You know what I’m like, I just crack on and keep truckin’” - but the experience has made him appreciate life all the more.

Book Cover Handout of The Hairy Dieters: Good Eating by Si King and Dave Myers, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. See PA Feature FOOD Bikers. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Weidenfeld & Nicolson. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Bikers.

Book Cover Handout of The Hairy Dieters: Good Eating by Si King and Dave Myers, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. See PA Feature FOOD Bikers. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Weidenfeld & Nicolson. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Bikers.

“I nearly died,” the father-of-three says. “I wake up every morning and smile, why wouldn’t you? It’s a salient blessing.”

Today, King is back to business alongside close pal and fellow Hairy Biker Dave Myers, with public appearances, cookery demos and their third diet book, The Hairy Dieters: Good Eating.

The once roly-poly pair, who have been friends for more than 20 years and on our screens for almost a decade, slimmed down in 2012 after embarking on a healthy eating kick.

They are still committed to keeping the calories down — without sacrificing flavour.

“It’s about changing peoples’ perceptions - you can eat very well and eat good food without having lots of fat,” says King, who admits that some weight did creep back on after his health scare.

“For many years, I never looked at the scales, I just bought bigger clothes,” adds Myers, who appeared on the 11th series of Strictly Come Dancing — and admits he misses his weekly spray tan on the show.

“For middle-aged men who tend to put on weight and never used to when they were younger, you’ve just got to keep an eye on it. I’ve learnt an awful lot about food, and I think we’re better cooks for doing the diet projects.”

These days, the pair tuck into nutritious salads, smoked salmon and pre-packed prawns on the road. But they laugh as they admit that, pre-diet, they didn’t make the most sensible pit-stop choices.

“In the old days, we used to get those little boxes of cocktail sausages and there were about 40 in a box, we would have one of those alongside our lunchtime sandwich,” says Myers, from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. “Each sausage was 25 calories, so we were knocking back a thousand calories as a side dish!”

Life is returning to normal for County Durham-born King after a difficult year, but he doesn’t take anything for granted.

“It changes your perception to the life you lead, certainly,” the star adds. “But it’s gone from a huge negative into a positive, really. I’m incredibly lucky.”

Want to kick-start your New Year with a Hairy Dieter recipe at home? Here are three to enjoy.

:: BAKED FISH WITH RED PEPPERS AND TOMATOES

(Serves 4)

1tsp olive oil

1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges

2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced lengthways into strips

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 mild red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

100ml white wine

Pinch of saffron threads

200g canned tomatoes (or fresh)

2tbsp finely chopped parsley

2tbsp finely chopped fresh basil

1tsp grated lemon zest

Oil, for spraying

4 thick fish fillets (such as cod or haddock), about 150g each

4 thin slices of lemon

Flaked sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the onion and red peppers and fry them over a medium heat until they start to soften - you want them to stay fairly firm. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another two minutes, stirring regularly.

Pour the white wine into the pan and crumble in the pinch of saffron. Simmer until most of the wine has evaporated, then add the tomatoes. Cook over a low heat for another five minutes, then stir in the parsley, basil and lemon zest.

Cut four large pieces of baking parchment or foil - they need to be big enough to make a parcel for each fish fillet. Spray each piece lightly with oil and place a fish fillet in the middle. Season with salt and pepper, then put a thin slice of lemon on top and add a quarter of the red pepper and tomato mixture to each parcel. Bring two opposite edges of the paper or foil together and fold them together. Fold over the remaining two edges to seal the parcel neatly. Wrap the remaining parcels in the same way.

Place the parcels on a baking tray and put them in the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then open one slightly and check that the fish is cooked through. Take the parcels to the table so that everyone can open their own and enjoy the sensational scents.

:: PAD THAI OMELETTE

(Serves 2)

1tbsp vegetable oil

1 shallot, sliced

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks

1 small courgette, cut into matchsticks

5g chunk of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

100g shelled raw tiger prawns, roughly chopped

100g bean sprouts

Oil, for spraying

4 eggs

Flaked sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

1tsp tamarind paste (1tbsp if it’s not concentrated)

1tbsp fish sauce

1tsp palm sugar (or caster sugar)

1/4tsp shrimp paste (optional)

To serve:

2 spring onions, shredded

Handful of coriander, chopped

1tsp finely chopped peanuts

To make the sauce, mix all the ingredients together. Taste a little, and adjust the quantities of any of the ingredients to taste.

To make the pad Thai, heat the oil in a wok until smoking, then add the shallot, carrot, courgette, ginger and chilli. Stir-fry for about three minutes until the vegetables are starting to cook through, then add the garlic. Stir-fry for another minute, then push everything to one side of the wok and add the prawns. Cook for another minute and then pour over the sauce. Let it bubble for a few moments and stir in the bean sprouts. Set it aside and keep warm.

Lightly spray a large non-stick frying pan with oil and place it over a medium heat until hot. Break two eggs into a bowl and whisk, then season with salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the frying pan, swirling it around so the whole base is covered. Cook for a couple of minutes until the eggs are just about cooked through, then turn down the heat.

Put half of the pad Thai mixture in a line slightly to the side of the centre of the omelette. Sprinkle over half the spring onions, coriander and peanuts. Fold one side over the filling, then fold the other side over. Now roll the omelette over and out of the frying pan straight on to a plate. Repeat this with the other two eggs and the rest of the filling to make the second omelette and serve at once.

:: BANANA AND PINEAPPLE CAKE

(Makes one cake with 10-12 slices)

Oil, for spraying

175g self-raising flour

2tsp baking powder

1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp grated nutmeg

75g soft light brown sugar

2 eggs

3 bananas (about 250g), mashed

100g butter, melted

1tsp vanilla extract

100g pineapple, finely diced

Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas 4. Lightly spray the base and sides of a 2lb loaf tin with oil and line it with baking parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix in the nutmeg and sugar. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs, then add the mashed bananas, melted butter and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture and the diced pineapple to the dry ingredients, then gently fold everything together until you have a pineapple-flecked batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a cooling rack.

:: The Hairy Dieters: Good Eating is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £14.99, eBook £7.99. Available now