Chronicles of Nadiya: How Britain fell for the first Muslim woman to win a TV show

Nadiya Hussain has been in constant demand since winning Great British Bake Off. And it's not a bubble that's bursting any time soon as Catherine Scott discovers.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 28th April 2016, 9:03 am
Updated Thursday, 28th April 2016, 12:43 pm

Eight months ago Nadiya Hussain was living in Leeds, a housewife and mum of three who had lost all her self confidence after putting her career on the back burner to raise her family.

Fast forward to today and Nadiya is a household name, Loose Women regular with her first cookbook out next month, a three novel book deal and now her own TV show.

The show for the BBC will see Nadiya travel to Bangladesh to trace her culinary roots in the two episode programme with the working title “The Chronicles of Nadiya”.

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Last year’s Bake Off winner will cook her favourite dishes as well as learning new recipes along the way and trying them from scratch.

It is yet another thing that the self taught cook has to pinch herself about - following hot on the heels of baking the Queen’s birthday cake.

“Even after I won Bake Off I never really thought that much would change,” she says. “I didn’t enter it for the fame I entered it to get my self confidence back and to do something for me. I just feel so lucky to be doing something I love. I just want it to continue as long as possible but if it stops tomorrow then I will have had an amazing time.”

It doesn’t look like she has a great deal to worry about.

The nation took Nadiya, the first Muslim woman to win a television show, to their hearts when she appeared in the Bake Off tent and her win led to a media frenzy with demands for her appearance and cookery book deals coming thick and fast.

She and husband Abdul quickly sold the family home in Leeds and moved back to be close to Nadiya’s family in Luton.

“It is so much easier being closer to London and my family. It means that I can get home in time to see the kids whereas when I lived in Leeds I would have to stay over night. The kids have adapted really well to the move although the boys especially are incredibly proud of their Yorkshire roots.”

She is very excited about her forthcoming BBC programme and cookery book Nadiya’s Kitchen (due out June 16) which will be followed in September by a children’s cookery book, Bake Me a Story.

“I am super excited about the cookery book. I spent two months burrowing away in my kitchen, cooking and testing. 100 recipes. It was really hard work. Some nights I would end up sleeping in my apron because I was so exhausted, but I loved all the processes, not just the cooking , they styling and the photography all fascinated me.”

The book focus of different parts of Nadiya’s day and is full of family recipes, not just baking.

“It starts with cooking a Sunday morning breakfast to a date night dinner for me and my husband. It’s pretty much my life.

“I always wanted to write something for children. I have been trying to think of a concept for quite a long time as I already had most of the recipes. All my children love to read and my little girl loves fairy tales and so it gave me the idea for a book not for the bedroom but one for the kitchen.”

Nadiya has rewritten fairy tales and then added some of her favourite recipes in so that it encouraged children into the kitchen but also to read,.

“It is an interactive book,” she explains. “My daughter likes to cook and then have the story while my sons like to dip in and out.”

But it is the three book deal with Harlequin to write women’s contemporary fiction that might come as a surprise to many.

“I love writing, nearly as much as I love baking, I have always written short stories and poetry. After I won Bake Off I was approached by the publisher and asked if I’d write three novels over the next three years, I jumped at the chance. It is a dream come true for me as I have always loved to write. I never, ever thought I’d get this kind of work. I have started the first one, but I’ve really just done a rough outline and written the first chapter.”

Although Nadiya is tight-lipped about the plot of her first book and it might not be a 50 Shades of Grey, she says its content may surprise some, especially the Muslim community.

“I keep writing things and think ‘Can write that? Is that too much? But then I remind myself this isn’t a book for kids or a cookery book and so I put it back in again.”

Pushing boundaries and stereotypes seems to be a knack of Nadiya’s, although being in the spotlight does have its downside.

She was overjoyed to be asked to make a birthday cake for Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday last week. But not everyone liked the gold and purple tiered orange drizzle cake she created and were not afraid to say so.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was asked to make a cake for the Queen. I worried about what I was going to do and tried so many different things. It took ages for me to decide what I was doing. I was battling with myself. But I think regardless of what I did there were always going to be people who thought I’d got it wrong.

“It was an amazing day to meet her, she is so beautiful. She was worried about cutting the cake, but it cut fine. She then took the top tier of the cake home and I really hope she enjoyed it with a cup of tea. She tried to introduce me to Prince Philip who said: “‘I know who she is, but what type of cake is it?’ It was really surreal.

“But not everyone liked what I had done and there were some nasty comments on Twitter. Of course no one likes reading things like that and you do think ‘what gives you the right to say that about me?’.

“ But then when I gave the kids some of the cake they were so excited and proud that they might be eating the same cake their mum had made for the Queen it made all that disappear.

“When I read those comments I just think ‘so long as my kids don’t turn out like you then I don’t care what you say.’ If I really cared what people said then I would never go out and I would be the Nadiya from before the Bake Off, but that Nadiya is well and truly gone.”

The next series of the Bake Off is being filmed and Nadiya has mixed emotions about handing over her crown.

“I don’t think you hand over the crown,” she says. “I like to think that you keep yours and that the next winner has a new one. I am excited about the next series of Bake Off, I have watched them all, other than the one I was in as I can’t bear to see myself on television.

“I just hope for whoever wins it changes their lives as it has changed mine. I am just a bit jealous as I really wish I was entering the tent again.

“We are all too aware of the bubble bursting. If I am doing the same things this time next year then I will be so happy, I am doing so many different things and I am so lucky to be doing the job of my dreams. But when it is meant to be over it will be over.”

• Nadiya Hussain will be returning to her former stomping ground next month when she hosts a baking demonstration at the Merrion Centre in Leeds. Nadiya will be visiting the city where she lived for more than decade with her husband and children a few months after her first appearance in Leeds as the Great British Bake Off winner. Nadiya held her first demonstration at the shopping centre last December as part of the festive celebrations and will be returning to play a role in the city’s Indie Food Festival. The demonstration will take place at Merrion Shopping Centre on Thursday May 26 from 12pm. The event will be free to attend and Nadiya will be sharing some of her top tips and tricks and demonstrating a few of her favourite recipes.