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.

"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's one to enjoy.


(Serves four)

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.