Exclusive! Star Mum Nadiya Hussain opens up about family, her new career and the Queen’s cake

One of the best stories coming out of successful cookery show Great British Bake Off is Nadiya Hussain’s whose ups and downs and final win was watched by 14.5million in 2015. Nadiya (31) is a London Mum and lives in Milton Keynes with her husband Abdal, sons Musa (9) and Dawud (8) and daughter Maryam (5). Over the past year she has had to learn how to deal with instant success and to ignore racist and sexist comments on social media. Nadiya has also listened to her kids’ advice when writing her children’s cookbook and the result is Nadiya’s Bake Me A Story, a unique hybrid of children’s recipe and storybook aimed at bringing families into the kitchen to spend time sharing stories and cooking. I recently met Nadiya at a Disney’s tea party to celebrate the DVD release of Alice Through the Looking Glass where she baked the Mad Hatter’s cake.

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Q: Your latest cookbook Nadiya’s Bake me a story is really original as it incorporates your recipes and your kids’ favourite stories. How did you come up with the concept for the book?
NH:
I’d always wanted to do a kids’ cookbook. My children are massive readers: they’ve always got a book in their hands and they love being read to. They also pester me in the kitchen while I’m cooking and that’s when the idea came to me – what if I wrote a book that stays in the kitchen with stories that are matched with recipes. The idea is that parents and kids can enjoy cooking together and then curl up and read a related story while they wait for the oven, or enjoy the story while they eat what they’ve made!

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Q: What is your personal favourite recipe from this book?
NH:
My favourite recipe from the book is the Blueberry and Orange Soda Bread. It takes all the laborious stages out of bread baking and makes for a quick and easy bread recipe that works so well warm, with lashings of butter.

Q: Nadiya, how has life changed since winning the Great British Bake Off?
NH:
After Bake Off, I 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’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. It’s really nice to see that my background paired with the win can inspire so many different people. What has really stunned me is how much it has inspired the younger generation to get in the kitchen. I have met many parents who have said that I have inspired their younger children to cook. Now, to me, that feels like the biggest achievement.

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Q: Where did you get the inspiration for the Queen’s official 90th birthday cake?
NH:
It took so much thinking and I was so nervous, 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. It all happened so quickly and I was just left scratching my head thinking ‘I just made a cake for the Queen!’ The Queen and Prince Philip loved that it was orange drizzle not a fruit cake which I was so pleased about. I made a lemon drizzle for the Bake Off final for Mary Berry, so I figured the Queen is the next best thing and I’ll make her an orange drizzle. When I told my daughter I was baking a cake for the Queen, she said: ‘But you’ve made loads of cakes for Mary Berry!’. As far as we’re concerned, Mary is Queen in our house.

Q: If you were Queen of Britain what would you do first?
NH:
I would change people who are negative on social media all the time and make money from being unkind. There’s so much sadness in the world already. The world is such a small place now because of social media and the Internet. When people say something mean it actually really hurts as though you were saying it to their face. I’ve been thrown into that environment and having to talk to the media, I know what it’s like when someone is negative and how much it stings, however as much as you don’t want it to affect you, when somebody says something mean about something as simple as the scarf on my head it’s quite upsetting.

 

Q: What are your biggest challenges as a mum in the public eye now? How do you balance your work life and your family life?
NH:
Not being able to spend as much time with the kids as I did before is hard but my husband Abdal and I manage and have a rule that one of us always needs to be there for the kids. The most important thing to me is that my kids are happy and that I am a good role model as a mother for them.

Q: What is your favourite cuisine of all time and why?
NH:
Like most people who enjoy food, I will tell you that I don’t have a favourite and I have a new flavour of the month every other day. At the moment I love Korean food and things like bibimbap and kimchi.

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Q: If you could get a chef to cook a favourite meal for you, what would you pick?
NH:
Something covered in cheese – I can’t imagine a life without cheese. Although my go-to meal is sourdough with an extra virgin olive oil and balsamic dip, followed by blue steak and sweet potato chips, and chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert. Heaven.

Q: What is your favourite restaurant in London?
NH:
I have to say I have not eaten in too many restaurants in London. But I love the Solace of Eating at Soho House. I would love to eat at the Rainforest Cafe with the kids.

Q: What is the London attraction that you love the most and why?
NH:
I would love to visit the London Dungeon but my kids are not quite old enough and actually I don’t know if I am brave enough either!

Q: What is your parenting style?
NH:
Abdal and I very much parent together. If he’s busy with work then I’ll be around more for the kids. Right now, it’s the other way round! But it works for us as a family and that is what is important – the kids being happy and well looked after.

Q: Who is the person who has inspired you the most throughout your life and why?
NH:
My dad. He’s a hard worker. Resilient and never gives up. Creative and witty. He has the biggest heart of anyone I know.

Q: Do you have a famous celebrity crush?
NH:
Sam and Mark (CBBC presenters Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes) are just lovely. I love working with them. And I’m a long-time admirer of David Attenborough.

Q: Where do you like to go on holiday with your young family?
NH:
We recently went to Disney World in Florida, which the kids absolutely loved, especially my 5-year-old daughter. Abdal and I were a bit tired by the end of it though! My sons didn’t really want to go and see the princesses but I said, ‘Come on, you have to do this for your sister’ so we all went and it was lovely.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
NH:
Marmite crisps. I love them!

Q: How would you like to be remembered?

NH: For being a good mother to my beautiful kids.
Q: What are you up to next?
NH:
I was given the opportunity to do three different writing projects; it was a no brainer for me. As much as I love cooking and baking, writing is one of my very first loves. It’s the way I express myself and I encourage my kids to express themselves that way as well. The thought of doing novels does not scare me one bit; I enjoy it so much. It’s very different to cookbooks but any style of writing, even if it’s something I haven’t done, I won’t hesitate to have a go. I love the process of getting it wrong and correcting it and seeing what does and doesn’t work. I loved making those mistakes, so I feel like I’m learning all the time. I don’t have a plan. I just see what opportunity I have every day. I always look forward to an email saying ‘Hey! Would you like to do this thing?’ Yes please! I’m shaping my future every single day and seeing where it takes me.

Q: Which pudding would you recommend London Mums prepare this Christmas?
NH:
There’s a zebra cake recipe in my new book, which looks and tastes great and is fun to make with the kids. Not all kids necessarily like the traditional Christmas cake so this is a good one for them.

 

Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story, out now in hardback priced £14.99 from Hodder Children’s Books.

Book Photography by Dan Annett.

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