Interview: Nadiya Hussain

by Catriona Beck
Interview: Nadiya Hussein

Most of you will know Nadiya Hussain from winning the 6th series of The Great British Bake Off in 2015. What is she up to now? Everything! After winning Bake Off, Nadiya has gained a multitude of titles since – author, baker, columnist and presenter to name a few.

Although her rise to fame was quick and fast-paced, Nadiya remains modest and is clear about what comes first. Being a mother and her time with her family. We love her ambition and her clear love for her craft and when we heard she was bringing out a new book in time for Christmas, ‘Nadiya’s Bake Me a Festive Story’, we got in touch with her straight away. She told us more about this new book, her journey after being crowned Bake Off winner in 2015 and what is was like to bake a cake for the Queen…

“I always left my cooking class in school with a spring in my step and smelling like butter and sugar… which is never a bad thing! I still sometimes can’t believe I won Bake Off after all that has happened. Two years ago I was in that tent. It’s amazing to think how my life has changed.”

Taylor Magazine: Tell us all about how you became interested in cooking?

Nadiya Hussain: In my younger years I spent a lot of time cooking but my curiosity about baking began when I went to high school. I grew up in a household where food was very important – my dad worked in the food industry and cooking and eating together was always really important for my family. I began food studies classes once every term at school which really honed my interest. I have always enjoyed classic baking and learning the different skill sets of each type of bake. So for example, different methods of making cake, meringues, butter-creams, pastry and so on. It was only about 8 years ago when I started experimenting and taking influences from all other parts of the world and incorporating it into my baking and cooking. 

Taylor Magazine: What made you want to apply for The Great British Bake Off in particular – why did baking interest you? How did you feel when you won?

Nadiya Hussain: It was my husband Abdal who applied on my behalf! He knew I’d given myself over to raising our children and that I loved baking. He said I should go for it and do something for myself. It was my home economics teacher who got me hooked on baking. I never used an oven at home and so when I was at school using the oven was such a novelty and often it felt like magic watching ingredients getting mixed up, tucked away and then out they came as a warm cake. My home economics teacher was always enthusiastic about baking and encouraged us to be the best we can be. I always left my cooking class in school with a spring in my step and smelling like butter and sugar…which is never a bad thing! I still sometimes can’t believe I won Bake Off after all that has happened. Two years ago I was in that tent. It’s amazing to think how my life has changed.

Taylor Magazine: You have also hosted your own show, The Chronicles of Nadiya, how was that? What were the highlights?

Nadiya Hussain: Doing The Chronicles of Nadiya was such a special thing for me. To go back to a place so significant to me, where my parents are from, where I got married and where some of my family still live. I love the bits I filmed with my Dad – that was definitely a highlight. Whenever I am in Bangladesh I always miss the feeling of carpet under my feet and my very clean bathroom!

Taylor Magazine: What was it like to rise to fame so quickly? Have you faced any difficulties with this?

Nadiya Hussain: Winning Bake Off was amazing but I genuinely thought that was it! I’d fly under the radar and I’ll just go back home and go back to normal life and actually I’ve done quite the opposite! I see the children less which can be hard but we have struck a balance. When I’m not around Abdal is and when Abdal is at work I’m at home. Being in the public eye means I can’t go out for a pint of milk in my pyjamas like I used to! Selfies are the new autograph it seems. I’ve learned over last two years about setting boundaries. So now if I’m with my kids I don’t do selfies. I’ll stop and say hello but when I’m with them its family time. I’m Mum first and foremost. But I’ve been able to do everything I’ve ever dreamed of. I’m shaping my future every single day and seeing where it takes me. 

Interview: Nadiya Hussain

Photo Credit | Adam Lawrence

Taylor Magazine: You’re also a newspaper and magazine columnist. What do you enjoy about this side of your career and writing in general?

Nadiya Hussain: I love to write and always have. In writing I express myself so being asked to do it as a job is a dream come true!

Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into cooking or baking as a career?

Nadiya Hussain: Always believe in yourself and follow your dreams. In a practical sense, practice, try things out, watch cooking shows, test recipes on your family (they’ll be honest with you!), make a mess and have fun!

Taylor Magazine: What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

Nadiya Hussain: Baking the Queen’s 90th birthday cake was amazing. I was so anxious about the whole experience. How can you make the Queen’s cake?! When I got the email from my agent I thought someone was pranking me. When I told my daughter I was making a cake for the Queen, and she said: “But you’ve made loads of cakes for Mary Berry!” As far as we’re concerned, Mary is queen in our house. It was an absolute honour to bake for the Queen and to be a part of history. I think she liked it!

Taylor Magazine: What is your go-to winter or Christmas recipe?

Nadiya Hussain: I always bake up a massive batch of biscotti and wrap them up prettily with cellophane and then whatever door we can see from our front door we hand these packs out. My children always ask if we will we get anything back and I have to tell them we don’t give to get. My older ones get that now but my six year old daughter still asks! And nothing beats ginger at Christmas time. The smell just conjures it up. There’s a lovely ginger cake recipe in my ‘Nadiya’s Bake Me a Festive Story’, book coming out!

Taylor Magazine: What is your favourite thing to cook or bake?

Nadiya Hussain: From the new book it has to be the Salmon and Green Bean Curry. It just takes me back to my childhood. I also love to cook my kids’ all-time favourite desert which is chocolate fondant.

Taylor Magazine: What is your favourite dish to eat and enjoy yourself?

Nadiya Hussain: I enjoy eating lots of things but usually I love the things that I haven’t made best so it’s a simple thing that I haven’t made. Like marmite crisps or pickled onion monster munch gets me so giddy! I love a chocolate dipped strawberry, so I look forward to when they’re at their sweetest. I absolutely adore cheese… I couldn’t live without it!

Taylor Magazine: Tell us an unusual fact about you.

Nadiya Hussain: I own a snow machine that Abdal bought me for Christmas one year! We pray for snow every Christmas morning. This year I might get it out!

Taylor Magazine: That’s amazing! What are your hobbies/favourite past-time apart from cooking?

Nadiya Hussain: I love to write and always have. When I was about seven I wrote a poem that won a national competition and that was it, I got really into reading and writing in a big way and I’ve been doing it ever since: reading, writing, lots of poetry. I express myself in writing quite a lot, although I’ve never kept a diary as a child, it was always make believe and stories.

Taylor Magazine: What is your favourite restaurant in London?

Nadiya Hussain: Loch Fyne is our favourite London restaurant. We all love seafood. We always have one oyster each.

Taylor Magazine: Lastly, what is your plan for the next 5 years? What should we expect to see from you?

Nadiya Hussain: More books definitely! I’d love to do more books for children especially.

“I’m just shaping my future every single day and seeing where it takes me. I love what I do and love the fact that all these amazing opportunities have opened up to me. And of course whatever happens in my future work wise, I’m first and foremost a mum helping my children to grow up into happy, healthy and good people.” – Nadiya Hussain

You can buy Nadiya’s new book here!

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