Exclusive Interview With Nadiya Hussain
From cake making champion to novelist, children’s author and presenter, there is no stopping The Great British Bake Off star Nadiya Hussain...
I don’t stand here and think that I am going to be doing this forever. For me I enjoy today, it’s about living for the moment, I just love what I do.
After stealing our hearts (and our stomachs) on the sixth series of The Great British Bake Off, Nadiya Hussain has gone from strength to strength. From TV shows and cookery books to fiction writing, it seems there is nothing that the 33-year-old can’t do! We talk to her about her appearance at the BBC Good Food Show in Glasgow...
Do you still find inspiration at events like the BBC Good Food Show? Oh absolutely! These festivals really show what’s happening in food right now. I think that the way people eat has changed so much. You can go to a festival like this and literally travel the whole world in one show, that’s what I love about doing it, you can find so many types of food.
Where else do you look for recipe inspiration? For me, a lot of what I cook and write is about my family and their tastes, likes and dislikes. Something could be flavour of the month one day and not the next!
How does it feel to be on the line up for the show alongside the likes of Paul Hollywood? I have to pinch myself, I can’t quite believe it! I keep telling my husband that I’m really lucky and he tells me that it’s not luck and that I’m good at what I do – I can’t quite believe that myself. It’s an honour and it’s incredible to be able to cook alongside such good cooks and great chefs. I like being here and I like doing this and I hope I can do it for a very, very long time!
On your British Food Adventure you visited Scotland, did you have a favourite place? We went to a remote part of Perthshire. I said to my husband that next summer I want to spend a week in Scotland and really discover and enjoy it properly.
Do you like spending time in Scotland? I have only been maybe four or five times and it’s always been for something work related. What I really want to do is come to Edinburgh and do the Christmas markets, which I hear are amazing! Do you think that the huge range of foodie options can make people nervous about getting into the kitchen? I think if you don’t naturally like being in the kitchen, it can be a little bit daunting to be around so many cuisines and different techniques. But for me, it’s not about the techniques, it’s about cooking with simple ingredients and making things taste delicious without needing specialised equipment or anything like that. That’s what I love about cooking and I don’t think you need to worry about the trends and what people are eating, it’s about what you like and what you want to cook.
Do you have a recipe that you recommend for inexperienced cooks? I think a lot of people think curries are daunting but I think they’re a really good place to start because it’s everything in one pot, there’s no messing around. I think anything with one pot, like a stew or a curry, is a good starting point. And if you want to learn how to bake but you are nervous around an oven, start simple with something like a tiffin or a rocky road.
How do you describe your own style of cooking? I think experimental and fusion. I’m not a big fan of sticking to traditional rules, even down to my mum’s curries. I kind of mess around with all of her recipes and she doesn’t like that! But for me it’s about ease and flavour without costing the world or taking too much time.
Would you say that you prefer cooking to baking? I have been cooking a lot longer than I have been baking. Baking is a relaxing time for me, it’s when I get to really unwind but when I am cooking, it’s for my family mostly and it’s about bish, bash, bosh, get it done! It’s hard to pick but baking is one of the things I love to do to relax so it probably pips it to the post, just!
You have been doing lots of food writing as well as presenting – do you think your passion lies there rather than in front of the camera? I think, luckily for me, my job allows me to do everything I love all in one. The cooking, the writing and the baking. The hardest thing to learn was to present myself when I do my own cookery shows, it’s taken me a few years but I actually really like doing that as well. It’s a new skill I’ve learnt and I really enjoy doing it.
Since The Bake Off you have been on an amazing journey, can you describe what it has been like? Those 10 weeks of being in the tent were surreal, it almost felt like it wasn’t real most of the time. It only really became real when the public watched it. In the last three years my life has changed so dramatically, sometimes I have to pinch myself. Without sounding morbid, the truth is that it’s here today, gone tomorrow. For me it’s about enjoying every moment, I don’t stand here and think that I am going to be doing this forever, I don’t. Everything has a sell by date. For me I enjoy today, right here right now. It’s about living for the moment. It’s changed my life and I pray to God that I can do it forever but for now, I just love what I do.
What’s been the highlight of the last three years since The Bake Off? Baking a birthday cake for the Queen’s 90th birthday – that was pretty special!
Who else would you love to cook for? David Attenborough. I would have to ask him what he likes first, I feel like he might not like curry. I would love to cook for Mary Berry when she can’t judge me!
Do you test your recipes on your family? Yes, they are my biggest critics and they are brutally honest. That’s what I love about them. When I put something in front of them and they don’t like it, they are very honest!
Do you have a go to family meal for when you are in a rush? Eggs are my favourite thing in the world. When they are really hungry, a Spanish omelette is the easiest thing to do. But when I cook, I always do double or triple amounts so that I make one meal to eat right away and then I can put two meals in the freezer. For every one meal I cook, I have already saved myself on two meals. Sometimes I find myself not cooking for weeks because I already have stuff in the freezer!
Why do you think it’s so important for families to cook together? We are so time poor now and we live such busy lives with busy jobs. This means that it’s really hard to make time to cook and eat together, which I think is really important. No matter where I am, I try my very best to be home for dinner. If I am late for dinner, they’ll Skype me and I’ll sit and talk to them while they eat.
What are your store cupboard essentials? Always eggs because they are the ones that will save you in your time of need when you need to make something quickly. I always have eggs and my spice box – it’s the thing that gives everything flavour – and a decent olive oil, that’s it.
A piece of equipment that every home should have? I think everybody should have a microplane. It’s such a cheap piece of equipment. I spent years zesting oranges using a box grater and thinking, this doesn’t add flavour to anything! And a simple, cheap microplane can add so much more flavour, you can zest anything so well!
Do you have more projects in the pipeline? I have but things I can’t tell you about! I have been writing my fiction novel and the second part of my first book is out in January. Writing is another thing that I love to do and I never imagined that I would be doing a fiction novel but I am very excited about that. I take situations from life including things that I have cooked and weave it into my books.
Will you be tuning into the newest series of The Bake Off? I am not going to be tuning in. What I am going to do is record it and fast forward the adverts. Admit it – everyone does it!
Nadiya will be appearing at the BBC Good Food Show at Glasgow SEC. The show runs from the 19th to 21st October, find out more at bbcgoodfoodshow.com/glasgow
Nadiya baked a cake for the Queen’s 90th birthday
Nadiya with original Bake Off judge, Mary Berry