Hairy time as Bikers get date with rumpy pumpy soup for Hairy Bikers

It took a nationwide search delving into secrets of the kitchen handed down through the generations to ensure a mouthwatering database of thrifty recipes was preserved for the future of the national cuisine.

But after speaking to grandmothers, mothers and daughters with a shared passion for slaving over a hot stove, the search for Britain's "lost" recipes – ranging from sticky date cakes to rumpy pumpy soup – finally reached its Christmas climax at a Yorkshire stately home.

The Hairy Bikers, Si King and Dave Myers, battled through icy conditions to film their Christmas special at Burton Agnes Hall, near Driffield, during the start of the cold snap earlier this month – after local residents turned out in force to save the show from becoming a turkey when Arctic conditions kept most of the invited audience away.

The special Christmas episode was the highlight of the acclaimed BBC 2 programme Mums Know Best to find Britain's most treasured recipes. The heart of the show has been the Mums Know Best Recipe Fair, tinged with nostalgia for village fetes of bygone times fused with the Hairy Bikers' range of international twists to traditional fare.

It has allowed generations of families from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life to swap their favourite recipes, cookery anecdotes and tips under the watchful eye of Food Historian Gerard Baker, of BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme fame.

Invited guests were asked to bring along their favourite family recipes and cooked examples – not only for sampling by the experts but also for the other mothers to copy. Contributors were also encouraged to bring along their old-fashioned trusty kitchen gadgets such as potato peelers, soda streams, meat mincers and pastry cutters.

The Bikers chose the Elizabethan stately home, decorated magnificently for Christmas, as the backdrop for the last show of the year because Mr Baker has connections with the place and is also a friend of the Cunliffe-Lister family, who live in the hall.

The Bikers wowed visitors with their culinary skills in their Bikers' grotto, using the finest game from the Burton Agnes estate and seasonal fresh vegetables from the Hall's walled garden to create the ultimate Christmas feast.

Throughout the day, mothers swapped recipes in the hall's dining room, where Mr Baker tasted their Christmas treats. The mums also cooked up a traditional Christmas storm in the Norman Manor House for the bikers to sample.

Olivia Cunliffe-Lister demonstrated to the Bikers and visitors how she crafts Christmas decorations for the hall using the most interesting and unusual natural materials from the award-winning gardens.

The day ended with a Christmas Feast in the hall, with the log fire and extravagantly decked Christmas tree from the estate's forest providing an atmospheric backdrop.

The programme aired on BBC 2 last night.

But the Yorkshire Post can reveal how close the show sailed to disaster on the filming day, Wednesday, December 1. Anna Briggs, the hall's marketing and events manager, said: "It had snowed heavily. About 100 tickets had been sold but only 30 of the expected audience turned up – leaving people from the village and hall staff to fill the gap.

"A village ring around was organised to gather the audience and save the programme.

About 80 turned up with their wellies with their children. Luckily Burton Agnes Primary School was closed for the day so all the children could come up and the mums were at home.

"The locals could never remember such a blizzard. It swamped the view of the marquee. The Bikers could not ride their bikes.

"The BBC was worried because Dave lives in Newcastle where he was staying, and there were fears he would not be able to make it. But he got here by train."

After filming, many were snowed in but at least the series was complete – and the Bikers reckoned it was well worth it. Mr King said: "We have rummaged in the bottom drawers, cupboards and memories of houses and families across the nation for their secrets, recipes and top cooking tips. It's been a great party."

Mr Myers added: "We've been around the world, baked ourselves into a frenzy and nibbled and cooked some of the best food in the country. It's been a time of something really special – truly delicious food from the people who know best."