Nadiya’s playing by her own rules
The Great British Bake Off winner enjoys ignoring well-worn tradition when it comes to food. She tells Ella Walker that her new cookbook contains a fish finger lasagne and an upside down cheesecake, and why she’s strict when it comes to family mealtimes
Nadiya Hussain is a total rule-breaker these days. “I’m a part of two very different worlds — I’m British and I’m Bangladeshi,” the 33-year-old explains. “And because I’m part of these two amazing worlds, I have no rules and no restrictions.”
Three years on from winning Great British Bake Off, the Luton-born home cook is back with a new cookbook and accompanying BBC series, Nadiya’s Family Favourites, in which she comprehensively “demolishes” the pork pie.
In fact, she’s entirely reimagined the classic picnic snack, and gone and stuffed a hot water crust pastry case with a samosa filling.
“I’ve taken the pork out and put the samosa in,” she says, giddy on her own culinary power. “I have no rules, and because I have no respect whatsoever for tradition, I can do whatever I want, and that’s why I feel so lucky.”
This recipe collection also sees her flip a baked cheesecake upside down, make a single eclair into a colossal cakey-roll, invent a fish finger lasagne (really), swap the prawn in prawn toast for chicken, and ‘spike’ a dish of macaroni cheese with piccalilli. The woman’s a maverick.
However, her approach to clashing and mixing flavours and food-based institutions has triggered some tutting and huffing. Notably, she attracted criticism from the “Cornish pasty police” after she made some packed with lamb, apple and peas. “I got a massive telling off,” she says, with an equally massive grin. “What’s wrong with changing things around and making them taste different?”
Food, Hussain says, is meant to be fun and experimented with. “It’s an expression of love. Why not mess about with it? It’s fun and it’s exciting; food is meant to bring joy and happiness — and bring families together.”
She might be all about breaking rules in the kitchen, but she does have rules when it comes to sitting down to dinner. “There’s one rule in our house and it is, ‘This is not a restaurant, you will eat what you’re given’. That’s it, so if you don’t eat what you’re given, then you go to bed hungry, it’s as simple as that.” It’s tough love, but Hussain doesn’t feel guilty if her trio of kids — Musa, Dawud and Maryan — refuse to eat what’s available.
“I feel a bit bad that they didn’t eat, but they’ve learnt through time that I am not messing around,” she says.
Luckily, she and husband Abdal have managed to produce children that aren’t fussy