Q&A: Nadiya Hussain

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Nadiya Hussain,  baker, writer and winner of the sixth series of The Great British Bake Off

The cookbook that has most influenced your cooking

I got a cookbook when I was 16 as a gift for doing well in my GCSEs. It’s an old book, full of classic British bakes, and I couldn’t live without it. I didn’t really have an oven till I was 20 and living with my husband. It was then that I really put these recipes into practice. I have since used these recipes a hundred times and they are tried and tested and the perfect base cases for anything more elaborate or tricky

Most memorable food you ate in childhood?

Every weekend, my dad would buy half a sheep and we’d have the whole family over. It was such a busy house that we’d all sit round on the floor and tuck in because we couldn’t all fit around the table. That’s a very fond food memory for me. My dad is such a sociable person and for him food is about love, sharing and togetherness and despite the hectic weekends my dad made food so much more than just eating. A value I carry with me today.

Your favourite food shop?

I don’t have a particular food shop that is my favourite. I live in a place where there are many farms nearby and often the farmers’ children leave signs leading up to the lay-by where they sell the windfall and over ripe fruit. I love the sporadic nature of finding over-ripened berries that turn into jam as soon as I get home

Most memorable meal in film/literature/painting?

The feast at the very beginning of Harry Potter when the tables look about 200ft long – that by far is my dream scenario. It’s such a beautiful sight and everything looks so tempting.

Your worst kitchen disaster?

I once had a bit of a kitchen disaster with a liquid chocolate cake. I baked it in a loose-bottom tin and it completely leaked out of the base. I ended up with an empty tin and cake all over the bottom of the oven. It hasn’t happened since, but I love that baking is all about trial and error

The first thing you taught your children to cook/ or were taught yourself?

White rice is such a staple of Bangladeshi cooking, so my dad insisted that this was the first thing we learned. I’ll admit, it’s not the easiest thing to master, but it’s such a fundamental part of so many meals for my family that it was important I got it right before I progressed on to other things.

What would you like your final meal to be?

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.

What is your secret talent [in or out of the kitchen]?

It’s not a secret any more, but writing! 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 and lots of poetry. I loved writing and adapting the fairy tales for Bake Me a Story it was so great to be able to get creative on the page and in the kitchen for one project.

What did you eat for breakfast today?

I had a cup of tea.

Which seasonal food do you most look forward to?

Again, I love a chocolate dipped strawberry, so I look forward to when they’re at their sweetest. But I also love when jack fruit is in season. It’s a fruit that is imported in from Bangladesh and when not ripe, it can be cooked in savoury dishes, and when sweet it can be eaten after dinner. I love multi-purpose foods.

Over-rated/ under-rated food/seasoning/gadget

I think we need to pay our dues to eggs because they are so versatile and can be used in so many ways. It is one of the ingredients that I have in abundance at home.

Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story: Fifteen stories and recipes for children by Nadiya Hussain is published by Hodder Children’s Books, £14.99, hodder.co.uk