“Why did the chicken cross the road, roll in the mud, come back across the road, and then cross the road again and roll in the mud again?” asks one half of The Hairy Bikers, Dave Myers, eyes glinting.
“Cos he was a dirty double crosser!”
Spending time in the company of Myers and his good mate Si King is pure laughter-filled joy, particularly when they’re so enthused by their latest project. BBC Two’s Hairy Bikers - Chicken & Egg has seen the boys travel the world in search of the best recipes using, you guessed it, chicken or eggs, and now there’s a cookbook to accompany the series.
Puns abound, and today the boys are on great form, hence the chicken joke, which Myers follows up with, “One egg is never an oeuf!”
It’s a project that’s been incubating for 10 years.
“It’s always a book that’s been on the boil, really,” says Myers. “To a cook, they’re such useful ingredients. We’ve done some stand-alone cookbooks that have been very successful, like Great Curries, Perfect Pies, Meat Feasts, so why not Chicken & Egg?
“With Meat Feasts, we were a bit stuck for puddings, but this does tick all the boxes, from soups to starters, desserts, baking, you’ve got the lot with chicken and eggs.”
Filming the TV show took them to Israel, where they learned about the social history of chicken and visited the first place in the world it was eaten.
King explains: “We went on this archaeological dig in Jerusalem and down these caves where they’d found the first evidence of people eating chicken, you could see knife marks on the thigh bones of these chickens that were around before Christ.
“It was a massively important city for trade, for salt, silks and spices, so lots of people would come on their routes to take this stuff to market and they would have thought, ‘Hang on a minute, these birds aren’t just for eggs’.”
“Around 70% of Israelis apparently eat chicken once a day,” adds Myers. “When Israel was formed, they were struggling to feed people, so everyone was given 100 chicks. They reared them up, then had to give 90 back to the state when they were chickens and they were allowed to keep 10. That way you could keep some for eggs, kill some, and so it would go on.
“At this market in Tel Aviv, we put together a mezze platter and we had Syrian, Iraqi, Bulgarian, Venezuelan, Iranian, all doing something very different with chicken. All these different cultures had taken the same product and made this fantastic cuisine, it was very exciting.”
:: Chicken & Egg by The Hairy Bikers is published by Orion Books, priced £22.