NADIYA HUS­SAIN

NADIYA HUS­SAIN TALKS TO NATHALIE WHIT­TLE ABOUT ANX­I­ETY, THE RE­AL­I­TIES OF AN AR­RANGED MAR­RIAGE, AND HER NEW TV FOODIE AD­VEN­TURE

Woman & Home - - CONTENT - What would Nadiya tell her younger self? See be­hind the scenes of her w&h cover shoot at wom­anand­home.com/nadiya

Bake Off CURED MY PANIC AT­TACKS, NOW I’M HAPPY AND FEAR­LESS

Be­fore I meet Nadiya, 32, I won­der if post- Bake Off life might have changed the woman who charmed us with her “big fat Bri­tish wed­ding cake”, those fa­cial ex­pres­sions and that tear-jerk­ing vic­tory speech. Af­ter all, she’s since baked a cake for the Queen, pre­sented a doc­u­men­tary about Bangladesh, writ­ten three books and been named one of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in Bri­tain. But Nadiya has hardly changed. She tells me about the first time a stranger recog­nised her in the street. “This guy said, ‘I know you,’ and I looked at him blankly. Then he said, ‘That’s it, you work at H&M!’ and I said, ‘Yes!’ You can hardly say you’re from Bake Off, can you!” It’s clear how­ever that Nadiya’s now a self-as­sured, qui­etly con­fi­dent woman, and she has two more TV se­ries, Nadiya’s Bri­tish Food Ad­ven­ture and The Big Fam­ily Cook­ing Show­down, plus two more books on the way. She lives with her hus­band, IT worker Ab­dal, and their three chil­dren, Musa, 10, Dawud, nine, and Maryam, six, in Mil­ton Keynes.

THE NEW NADIYA

When I think back to pre- Bake Off

Nadiya, I hardly recog­nise her. I’D SUF­FERED FROM PANIC DIS­OR­DER [RE­CUR­RING PANIC AT­TACKS] FROM THE AGE OF SEVEN, AND THERE I WAS AT 30, HAV­ING SPENT

THE PAST 10 YEARS AT HOME WITH THE KIDS, US­ING THEM AS A SE­CU­RITY BLAN­KET WHER­EVER I WENT – I NEEDED A BROWN BAG JUST TO GET ON THE TRAIN ON MY OWN.

The big turn­ing point hap­pened be­hind

the scenes dur­ing week six. I’D BEEN US­ING SHOCK THER­APY TO HELP MY ANX­I­ETY – WHERE YOU SNAP AN ELAS­TIC BAND ON YOUR WRIST TO TAKE YOU OUT OF YOUR OWN HEAD – FOR NEARLY TWO DECADES, AND MY BAND SNAPPED WHILE I WAS BAK­ING. I’D FOR­GOT­TEN TO PACK MY SPARE BANDS, SO I SENT THE RUN­NER ON A MAD HUNT TO FIND ANY­THING THAT RE­SEM­BLED ONE. WHEN HE DIDN’T FIND ONE, IT FORCED ME TO STOP AND SAY, “YOU KNOW WHAT, I DON’T NEED THIS.” I’M NOT SAY­ING I’M CURED – HAV­ING PANIC DIS­OR­DER IS LIKE LIV­ING WITH A MON­STER

WHO REARS HIS HEAD EV­ERY NOW AND AGAIN – BUT I’M NOT LET­TING IT TAKE OVER MY LIFE ANY MORE. AND, BE­LIEVE IT OR NOT, I HAVEN’T WORN AN ELAS­TIC BAND SINCE.

BAK­ING FOR THE QUEEN

When I got the email ask­ing if I’d make a cake for the Queen’s 90th birth­day last

year, I thought it was a hoax. WHY WOULD SHE WANT ME TO MAKE HER BIRTH­DAY CAKE? IT FELT COM­PLETELY SUR­REAL. ON THE DAY, I WAS TAKEN INTO A TINY BACK ROOM IN THE WIND­SOR GUILD­HALL AND GIVEN A WOB­BLY TA­BLE TO AS­SEM­BLE THE CAKE ON – LET’S JUST SAY IT WAS A BIT TRICKY! THEN DUR­ING THE PRE­SEN­TA­TION, THE QUEEN SAID TO PRINCE PHILIP, “THIS IS THE YOUNG LADY WHO WON THE BAK­ING COM­PE­TI­TION,” AND I THOUGHT, “GET IN, YOU’VE MADE IT NOW – THE QUEEN JUST IN­TRO­DUCED YOU TO PRINCE PHILIP!”

AND HE SAID, “YES, DEAR, I KNOW WHO SHE IS, BUT WHAT FLAVOUR IS THE CAKE?” BRIL­LIANT.

HOPES AND DREAMS

Get­ting my own cook­ery show, Nadiya’s Bri­tish Food Ad­ven­ture, feels a bit like

a wild dream. AS A KID, I’D PER­FORM PRE­TEND COOK­ERY SHOWS TO MY BROTH­ERS AND SIS­TERS, THEN THEY’D GET BORED, SO

I’D LINE UP ALL MY TED­DIES AND PIL­LOWS

AND USE THEM IN­STEAD. FOR­TU­NATELY, THIS SHOW IS A LIT­TLE MORE SO­PHIS­TI­CATED! YOU’LL SEE ME TRAVEL ACROSS THE UK MEET­ING LOTS OF IN­NO­VA­TORS OF FOOD – PEO­PLE WHO’VE COME UP WITH EX­CIT­ING WAYS OF US­ING DIF­FER­ENT IN­GRE­DI­ENTS AND NEW WAYS OF GROW­ING THINGS – AND I’LL BE CRE­AT­ING MY OWN RECIPES TOO. I DON’T WANT TO SPOIL ANY­THING, BUT ONE THING I CAN TELL YOU IS I’VE NOW BEEN ON A BOAT WITH A CRAB FISH­ER­MAN… AND I DEF­I­NITELY DON’T HAVE SEA LEGS!

I’d love to work with Mary (Berry), Mel (Giedroyc) and Sue (Perkins) again, but I’m afraid the ru­mours of a TV show

aren’t true… yet! I’VE SEEN MARY A LOT SINCE Bake Off THOUGH, AND THE LAST TIME SHE SAID, “I DON’T DO SO­CIAL ME­DIA AND I DON’T DO TEX­TING, BUT I THINK ABOUT YOU EV­ERY SIN­GLE DAY.” THAT WAS LOVELY. >>

I’d love to sit here and tell you that I have a plan, but I don’t – I’m wing­ing

it, mostly. WHAT I’VE LEARNED OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS IS THAT IT’S OK TO BE SCARED – I’M NOT AFRAID OF BE­ING AFRAID ANY MORE. SO IF SOME­BODY SAYS, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO JUMP OUT OF A PLANE?” AND IT SCARES THE LIFE OUT OF ME, I’LL DO IT ANY­WAY. SE­RI­OUSLY THOUGH… PLEASE DON’T ASK ME TO JUMP OUT OF A PLANE!

LOVE AND LUCK

Grow­ing up in Lu­ton with Bangladeshi par­ents meant there was a lot of con­flict

when I was grow­ing up. MY DAD WORKED AS A WAITER IN A RESTAU­RANT AND MY MUM STAYED AT HOME, AND THEY WERE CON­STANTLY TRY­ING TO RECRE­ATE THE BANGLADESH THEY LEFT BE­HIND IN THEIR TWEN­TIES, SUCH AS PAY­ING ABOVE THE ODDS FOR EX­OTIC VEG­ETA­BLES, AND MY BROTH­ERS, SIS­TERS AND I WOULD BE SAY­ING, “COME ON, WHY NOT JUST GO TO TESCO?” THEY WERE VERY TRA­DI­TIONAL AND THERE WAS THIS REAL FEAR OF GIRLS GO­ING OFF TO UNIVER­SITY TOO (NONE OF US WENT), SO THEY TRIED RE­ALLY HARD TO PRO­TECT US, WHICH BE­CAME SUF­FO­CAT­ING. I DON’T RE­SENT THEM FOR SOME OF THE DE­CI­SIONS THEY MADE THOUGH BE­CAUSE I NOW KNOW THAT THEY DID IT BE­CAUSE THEY WERE AFRAID.

It was ac­tu­ally me who asked my dad to

find me a hus­band. I WAS 20 AT THE TIME AND, BACK THEN, I DIDN’T KNOW MY OWN MIND – DOES ANY­ONE AT THAT AGE? IF I’M HON­EST, I DID IT BE­CAUSE I WAS LAZY, AND I THOUGHT I’D STRUG­GLE TO FIND A HUS­BAND AS I WASN’T VERY GOOD AT TALK­ING TO PEO­PLE. SO DAD ENDED UP CHOOS­ING THE SON OF ONE OF HIS BEST FRIENDS, AND WHEN I MET HIM FOR THE FIRST TIME, I THOUGHT HE HAD A LOVELY FACE, A LOVELY REAR END AND A GOOD JOB – AND THAT, FOR ME, WAS ENOUGH FOR MAR­RIAGE. HOW NAIVE I WAS!

My first day of mar­ried life was awk­ward

– of course it was. I’D ONLY MET THIS MAN ONCE BE­FORE AND SUD­DENLY HE WAS MY HUS­BAND AND WE WERE LIV­ING TO­GETHER – WE WERE BOTH IN­CRED­I­BLY NER­VOUS. I LEARNED VERY QUICKLY THAT MAR­RIAGE IS HARD AND IT TAKES SO MUCH WORK BE­CAUSE THIS IS THE ONLY PER­SON IN YOUR FAM­ILY THAT YOU HAVE NO BI­O­LOG­I­CAL CON­NEC­TION TO – THERE’S NOTH­ING TO SAY THAT YOU CAN’T PART WAYS TO­MOR­ROW AND NEVER SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN. YOU DON’T HAVE THAT DE­FAULT AN­SWER OF, “WELL, WE’RE KIND OF RE­LATED BY BLOOD.”

It took two years and two kids later to re­alise, “Wow, I ac­tu­ally re­ally love this

guy.” IN MANY WAYS I FEEL I GOT LUCKY WITH AB­DAL, BUT ONE THING I DO KNOW ABOUT AR­RANGED MAR­RIAGES IS THAT THEY FORCE YOU TO GROW TO­GETHER – AND AB­DAL AND I HAVE GROWN SO MUCH TO­GETHER THAT WE COULDN’T BE WITH­OUT EACH OTHER NOW.

Our lives have changed so much over the past two years and our saviour has

been talk­ing through it. I KNOW IT MUST BE HARD FOR HIM – I WAS AT HOME FOR 10 YEARS AND SUD­DENLY I’M NOT THERE ANY MORE AND HE HAS A FULL-TIME JOB IN IT, WHILE LOOK­ING AF­TER THE KIDS IN-BE­TWEEN. AND WE DON’T AGREE ON EV­ERY­THING

– IN FACT, WE PROB­A­BLY DON’T AGREE ON ANY­THING – BUT EVEN WHEN WE’RE BOTH COM­PLETELY EX­HAUSTED, HE SAYS, “WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS, I AM NOT GO­ING TO GO THROUGH ONE MORE SLAMMED CUP­BOARD, NADIYA!” – AND THAT HAS DEF­I­NITELY MADE OUR RE­LA­TION­SHIP STRONGER. One of our favourite things to do to­gether is to put on an 80s playlist – lots of Cyndi Lau­per, Madonna, Boy Ge­orge – and hang out in the kitchen. HE’S AW­FUL IN THE KITCHEN – HE’S ONE OF THOSE COOKS WHO ASKS DAFT QUES­TIONS LIKE, “HOW MANY GRAMS IS A TEA­SPOON OF SALT?” AND THEN I LOSE IT AND I’M OFF. SO IT USU­ALLY ENDS UP WITH ME DO­ING ALL THE COOK­ING AND CLEAN­ING, AND HIM AND OUR LIT­TLE GIRL DANC­ING AROUND THE DIN­ING TA­BLE!

The funny thing about Bake Off is that I spent 10 weeks on TV while Ab­dal got about four sec­onds on there, yet ev­ery­one was say­ing, “Oh, look at Nadiya’s hus­band,

isn’t he hand­some!” HE LOVED IT. IT HASN’T STOPPED EI­THER. JUST THE OTHER NIGHT HE SAID TO ME, “I STILL GET MES­SAGES FROM WOMEN ON TWIT­TER, ASK­ING IF I’D MEET UP WITH THEM – WHAT KIND OF A MAN DO THEY THINK I AM!” IT DOESN’T BOTHER ME BE­CAUSE I KNOW IT MAKES HIM FEEL GOOD… HE’S STILL GOT IT!

MODERN MOTH­ER­HOOD

I have to ad­mit, I wouldn’t want my own chil­dren to have an ar­ranged mar­riage. IF THEY CHOOSE IT, I WON’T STOP THEM, BUT I THINK FIND­ING SOME­BODY YOUR­SELF HELPS YOU TO LEARN A LOT ABOUT YOUR­SELF AND YOUR OWN STRENGTH. THAT’S SO IM­POR­TANT, ISN’T IT? AND THE RE­AL­ITY IS THAT I’D RATHER SPEND MY LAT­TER YEARS GO­ING ON CRUISES AND ROAD TRIPS THAN FIND­ING PART­NERS FOR MY CHIL­DREN! My daugh­ter, who’s only six, is al­ready dis­agree­ing with ev­ery­thing I say and my dad says, “Karma my dear, karma!” I WANT ALL THREE OF MY KIDS TO HAVE EV­ERY OP­POR­TU­NITY I DIDN’T HAVE – I WANT THEM TO GO TO UNIVER­SITY AND I WANT THEM TO MAKE MIS­TAKES BE­CAUSE THEY’LL LEARN FROM THEM – AND I’LL AL­WAYS BE HERE

WITH A BED­ROOM AT HOME FOR THEM.

One of the things I do worry about for

them is racial abuse. I’VE EX­PE­RI­ENCED IT MY WHOLE LIFE – VER­BAL ABUSE ON THE STREET AND, MORE RE­CENTLY, COM­MENTS ON SO­CIAL ME­DIA –

AND IT KILLS ME ON THE IN­SIDE KNOW­ING THAT ONE DAY THEY’LL HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT TOO. I

TRY NOT TO BAL­ANCE THE SCALES WITH NEG­A­TIV­ITY AND IN­STEAD I WALK AWAY SMIL­ING AND THINK­ING, “I FEEL SORRY FOR YOU FOR BE­ING SUCH A HOR­RI­BLE, NEGA­TIVE PER­SON.” THEN I THINK, “OH, I WISH I’D SAID

THIS OR THAT” – WE ALL DO THAT SOME­TIMES, DON’T WE? A LOT OF PEO­PLE WON’T AD­MIT THEY’VE EX­PE­RI­ENCED RACIAL ABUSE, BUT I THINK IT’S IM­POR­TANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. WE MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO ERAD­I­CATE IT, BUT WE CAN LEARN HOW TO IM­PROVE IT.

RULES AND RELI­GION

A lot of peo­ple think wear­ing my head­scarf – a hi­jab – is re­stric­tive, but ac­tu­ally it makes me feel in­cred­i­bly

lib­er­ated. IT’S NOT SOME­THING THAT WAS EVER EN­FORCED ON ME; MY PAR­ENTS

WEREN’T PAR­TIC­U­LARLY RE­LI­GIOUS WHEN I WAS GROW­ING UP AND MY MUM DIDN’T WEAR ONE, THOUGH SHE DOES NOW. BUT IT’S A CHOICE I MADE WHEN I WAS 14 BE­CAUSE I DIS­COV­ERED IS­LAM – AND IT WAS THE FIRST RE­LI­GIOUS “ACT” I MADE. IT MEANS I CAN’T RE­MEM­BER EVER FEEL­ING THE WIND GO THROUGH MY HAIR, BUT DO I MISS IT? NO, BE­CAUSE I FEEL SPE­CIAL IN MY HI­JAB AND

THIS IS WHO I AM NOW – AND THAT WILL NEVER CHANGE. AND IF MY DAUGH­TER DE­CIDES SHE WANTS TO – OR DOESN’T WANT TO – WEAR ONE? THAT’S HER CHOICE TO MAKE TOO.

Of course there are times when I’m

al­lowed to take my hi­jab off. I’M AL­LOWED TO SHOW MY HAIR TO WOMEN AND TO MEN I COULDN’T THE­O­RET­I­CALLY MARRY – MY HUS­BAND, DAD, SONS, BROTH­ERS – ALL THOSE I’M

RE­LATED TO. IT DOES MEAN, THOUGH, THAT IF THE AMA­ZON DE­LIV­ERY GUY TURNS UP, I HAVE TO QUICKLY WHACK IT BACK ON – OR I HAVE TO FIND A HOODIE WITH A DRAW­STRING… IMAG­INE OPEN­ING THE DOOR TO THAT SIGHT! Un­der­neath my hi­jab, my hair is ac­tu­ally long and curly. I GROW IT UN­TIL I CAN SIT ON IT, THEN I’LL CHOP IT ALL OFF (I END UP WITH WHAT LOOKS LIKE A MOP!) AND GIVE IT TO A WIG-MAK­ING CHAR­ITY FOR GIRLS. IT TAKES ABOUT THREE

YEARS TO GROW

OUT COM­PLETELY, SO IT’S NOT A QUICK PROCESS. I LOVE THE FACT THAT I DON’T HAVE BAD HAIR DAYS AND I DON’T HAVE TO WASH MY HAIR EV­ERY DAY, BUT THERE IS AC­TU­ALLY SUCH A THING AS A BAD HI­JAB DAY! SOME­TIMES, IT WILL JUST KEEP POP­PING OFF, WHICH CAN GET QUITE AWK­WARD.

TAKING TIME OUT

My three sis­ters are my life­line and when­ever I have a gap, they’ll text me

say­ing, “Can we come round now?” AND THEY’LL NEVER TURN­ING UP EMPTY-HANDED. RE­CENTLY, ONE OF THEM CAME OVER WITH A LAMP, A MAS­SIVE POT OF PILAU AND SOME SAND­WICH FILL­ING BE­CAUSE SHE HAD TOO MUCH. THEN AN­OTHER TURNED UP WITH A FISH CURRY AND A CHICKEN CURRY. WE HAD A RIDICU­LOUS MISH­MASH OF CURRY, BROWN RICE AND FATTOUSH – IT WAS BRIL­LIANT! I’m start­ing to be­come one of the “Mums” at the school gates, which I’m en­joy­ing. THE KIDS HAVE ONLY BEEN AT THEIR NEW SCHOOL FOR ABOUT A YEAR, AND WHEN I TURNED UP FOR THE FIRST TIME, NO ONE WANTED TO TALK TO ME – I THINK THEY WERE TOO NER­VOUS OR SCARED. BUT I’M START­ING TO FIT IN NOW AND BE­COME A PART OF THE “CIR­CLE”. THEN AGAIN… WE HAVEN’T HAD A BAKE SALE YET!

There’s some­thing won­der­ful about not hav­ing to put on any shoes and stay­ing in your py­ja­mas all day, isn’t

there? I LOVE THAT DOWN­TIME WHEN AB­DAL, THE KIDS AND I ARE ALL ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR PLAY­ING WITH LEGO OR DO­ING SOME PAINT­ING. IT’S HEAVEN.

Now that I eat so much cake, I’m on a con­stant mis­sion to find ways to en­joy

ex­er­cise. THE KIDS AND I ALL HAVE OUR OWN BIKES NOW, SO WE GO CY­CLING IN THE WOODS WHILE AB­DAL JOGS ALONG­SIDE WITH THE KIDS SHOUT­ING, “KEEP UP, DAD!” AB­DAL’S JUST JOINED THE SAME GYM AS ME TOO – BUT I HAVE TO AD­MIT, IT MEANS I SPEND MOST OF MY TIME ON A TREAD­MILL WAV­ING AT HIM, WHILE HE’S MOUTHING, “CON­CEN­TRATE!”

NADIYA’S BRI­TISH FOOD AD­VEN­TURE (Michael Joseph, £20) is out on 13 July; the ac­com­pa­ny­ing eight-part TV se­ries will air on BBC Two in the sum­mer. W&H

NADIYA WITH HUS­BAND AB­DAL AND THEIR THREE CHIL­DREN

NADIYA WAS DE­LIGHTED TO HAVE A CAR­ROT CAKE BAKED FOR HER BY W&H FOOD DI­REC­TOR JANE – FIND THE RECIPE AT WOM­ANAND­HOME.COM

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