Food & Drink: Great British Bake Off star Nadiya Hussain talks food, family and being herself

Nadiya Hussain.
Nadiya Hussain.
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Nadiya Hussain is, without doubt, The Great British Bake Off’s most successful winner.

Two years ago this month, the Luton-born mother-of-three first appeared on our TV screens, all wide-eyes and eyebrows, and won the hearts of the nation as well as the competition.

You might not remember anything she actually cooked all series, but there isn’t a single Bake Off fan who wasn’t stirred by her victory speech. “I’m never going to put boundaries on myself ever again,” she declared, as we all watched on teary-eyed. “I’m never going to say I can’t do it. I can. And I will.”

And she has. From fronting her own TV programmes and appearing on talk shows, game shows and cookery shows, to releasing four cookbooks and being asked to bake a cake for the Queen, it’s been a decidedly busy 24 months.

“I can’t believe it’s been two years already,” says the cook, 32, when we meet to discuss her latest project, a TV show and cookbook called Nadiya’s British Food Adventure.

She’s as lovely in person as she comes across on TV. Claiming “British food has become a melting pot of cuisines and cultures”, Nadiya wanted to find out what was being eaten in the hubs of our homes, before getting creative in her own kitchen and coming up with her take on Brit-style cooking.

“What I ate at home as a child was rice and curry, and then at school, I’d have pie and mash –to me, that’s British food. And I think everybody’s own experiences shape what British food is for them.

Cooking has always been a big part of Nadiya’s life. She started around age 8, “copying her dad”, who used to run restaurants, and asking her mum questions in the kitchen.

“My mum is an amazing cook. She was a stay-at-home mum who would cook for all of us [Nadiya has five siblings].”

Asked what it is that makes her so likeable and Nadiya is stuck for words. She shrugs her shoulders, and says: “I don’t know, I’m just me. Whether I’m talking to you, on telly or whatever it is I’m doing, I don’t ever try to be anything other than myself. Perhaps that’s what people see?”

Restaurant review: Chez Mal, Malmaison, Swinegate, Leeds