Although commonly finding himself stuck in the mud while filming his latest TV series, Ade Edmondson has no such issues with his career.

“People get very nervous if you shuffle about, but I’ve always shuffled about,” says the Bradford-born actor, comic and musician, tucking into an early mince pie.

“I stopped doing Bottom because I wanted to do more. Stopping doing something that was very successful set off a renaissance in me, rather than my career. I feel a lot more fulfilled because I have my finger in a lot of different pies – and I have fun doing it.”

Ade’s latest ‘pie’ is a 20-episode series for daytime ITV1 that sees him travelling the country in search of weird and wonderful food.

“I’ve always had a Famous Five, Swallows And Amazons spirit in me,” says the 54-year-old.

Ade In Britain – which follows the success earlier this year of The Dales, in which he followed families living and working in the Yorkshire Dales – was his own idea, he reveals. “My bedside reading is old Shell Guides, with bite-sized bits of information about Britain, which send me to sleep in a very nice, interesting way,” he says.

“I was conscious that when you go around the supermarket, it’s full of European, Italian, French, Mexican, Chinese and Indian foods, and there’s no British foods as such, apart from a Cumberland sausage, if you’re lucky.

“But there’s loads of it, loads of weird names that I want to know about. What’s a Bedfordshire Clanger, a Sussex Pond Pudding and a Derbyshire Lobby?”

In each episode, Ade drives to a different county, dragging his portable kitchen behind him, meets people who are trying to keep traditional British grub alive, then cooks up his discoveries.

“The thing that shocked me most was eel. In the fens, we went out on a punt and caught some eel in these old wicker traps and stripped the skin off. It was like removing the glove from a lady’s hand, as the eel catcher said, because it peels off whole,” says Ade. “I cooked up a bit in the back of my van, with flour and butter. Delicious.”

For all the producers who are successful and manage to get their products into supermarkets, he also met those who are struggling.

“I went to see the last three liquorice bushes in Pontefract. There used to be acres and acres and they used to make those Pontefract cakes with them, but they get the liquorice root from China these days,” he says. “This bloke had one of the shoes for Chaplin to use in The Gold Rush, you know – in the scene when he eats his own shoe – it’s actually liquorice and they made them.”

Fans of the comic will be pleased to know the show is not without its comedy mishaps, including Ade getting stuck in mud – twice.

“That became a theme,” he admits. “In Bridgewater Bay, the whole camera crew got stuck, quite dangerously I thought. The tide was turning and it took us about 20 minutes to cover about 20 yards at one point, but we did get out and ran home covered in mud.”

He says his favourite aspect of making the series was being able to quiz other people about what they do.

“Usually, unless I’m making a programme, people are asking me questions about Bottom and The Young Ones. In this instance, that’s not on the agenda. I go out and I ask them about cheese-making or morris dancing,” he says.

“It’s a very privileged thing to poke into their lives and ask questions like, ‘Why are you restoring this stupid windmill on a commercial basis? Why don’t you just buy in flour?’ They break your heart because they’re so bonkers.”

When he’s not travelling around the country, Ade and his wife Jennifer Saunders, who married in 1985 and have three daughters, split their time between London and a smallholding in Devon, where, up until 18 months ago, they farmed animals.

“It was a hobby really and we used to eat the meat, but we just couldn’t eat enough. You kill a cow, give it away to everyone you know but eventually people say, ‘No, no more’,” he says. “My eldest daughter got married recently and she’s started raising pigs, so our freezer’s half-full of a pig!”

Last year, the couple faced one of the toughest challenges of their 25-year marriage, as Jennifer went through chemotherapy and radiotherapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2009.

Happily, she’s now well and is due to reprise the role of Edina Monsoon in three new Absolutely Fabulous specials to be shown from Christmas.

“It’s been fantastic, all the Js back together – Joanna (Lumley), June (Whitfield) and Jennifer,” crows Ade.

He’s reluctant to go into details about her recent battle. “We don’t really talk about it. We don’t want to be a ‘cancer couple’,” he says. “I had a bad interview with a newspaper and it came out all boringly cancer-related and you think, ‘Is that what we’re going to be forever after? People with or without cancer?’”

He’s keen to move on and is excited about future projects, which could include another series of Ade In Britain, an idea about making a programme about the history of the British pub and a final tour with his band, The Bad Shepherds, who perform punk songs on folk instruments, before they take a break for a year.

“We’ve been going hard at it for three years, it’s so much fun,” says Ade.

Ade In Britain is on ITV every weekday at 4pm.