Nadiya Hussain (BegumNadiya) on cake, confidence, and her delightful new cookbook
The ‘Great British Baking Show’ winner’s latest book, ‘Nadiya Bakes,’ sees her return to her first love.
,the cook and TV presenter weaves a delightful yarn of her long, meandering journey to becoming the much-beloved (and now world-famous) baker that she is today. First, she charts her life-long passions: from her teenage obsession with the Backstreet Boys to the Pokémon cake she baked for her GCSE in Food Studies; from the calm of the domestic life she shared with her husband and children before becoming a star of the food world to eventually, of course, the simple joy of making a batch of muffins. After rediscovering baking as an adult, she writes, it quickly “became a part of life, like cooking, like laundry, like vacuuming, like breathing.”
Yet since rocketing to fame in 2015 with her win onThe Great British Baking Show,there has been about as much time for Hussain to bake at home as there is to do the laundry or vacuum—which is to say, not a lot. She’s hosted ten original food shows for the BBC—two of those in collaboration with Netflix—including straight-to-camera cooking shows as well as a series of deep dives into the diverse food cultures found across immigrant communities in Britain, the U.S., and Southeast Asia. She’s also released ten books, including a novel about a group of Muslim sisters growing up in a rural British village, and a memoir,
Finding My Voice. Somewhere along the way, she even found time to cook a 90th birthday cake for none other than Queen Elizabeth herself.After ticking off so many of her career goals in head-spinningly rapid succession, it felt like the right moment for Hussain to return to her roots—and to release her first cookbook that solely features baking. “When I announced that I was doing a baking book, everybody was like, ‘But you've already done a baking book!’ There was just this natural assumption that I’d already done it,” says Hussain, smiling. “So there was a lot of pressure. When I started writing the book there was this fear where I was thinking, does it have to be this bible of baking? Then I realized, absolutely not. It just has to have recipes that feel true to me, and recipes that I enjoy. A lot of my recipes are a mix of British and Bangladeshi, all mixed together with recipes I picked up while traveling.” headtopics.com
If you were forced to define Hussain’s wide-ranging and eclectic tastes as a cook, it would be her ability to take a classic dish and lend it a playful, unexpected twist. During her time onThe Great British Booking Show, it was her knowledge and thoughtful integration of ingredients popular in South Asian cuisine that lent her dishes the edge over the competition; a riff on cinnamon buns featuring cardamom, say, or a pear tart flavored with Bengali rong tea. Still, for Hussain, assembling the book required her to find an equilibrium between these individual flourishes and the rigor and precision that baking requires.
Chris Terry“With cooking, you can be quite intuitive, but with baking, it’s not like that,” says Hussain. “You have to slow down, you have no choice, you have to be exact and precise.” While the book first came out in the U.K. during an extended lockdown, and is released in the U.S. this week, the wheels were in motion long before the pandemic. Still, it feels perfectly timely. “I was grateful for it because a lot of people use baking as their escape,” says Hussain. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Hussain has always been open about the therapeutic value she finds through the process of baking, and how it served as a lifeline during periods where she’s struggled with anxiety. When appearing onTheGreat BritishBaking Show,this sense of skittishness was on full display—but was, of course, part of the reason we fell in love with her. Now, watching the easy charm and confidence with which she conducts herself on her latest Netflix show,
Nadiya Bakes,the shift is impressive. What changed? “It’s a lot to do with self-belief,” says Hussain. “Often, I'll say to my family, ‘I’m so lucky that I get to do this.’ I have to remind myself I’m not lucky, I’m actually quite good at this. As humans, and especially as women, we’re not very good at saying, ‘Hey, you’re actually quite good at this.’ I’ve also learned to say it to others. It’s really important to tell people they’re good at what they do. That’s the kind of confidence you need to persevere.” headtopics.com
ContentAs Hussain describes it, this sense of purpose was hard-earned. “I still have so much self-doubt,” she continues. “There are times when I think, ‘Am I just a box-ticking exercise? Am I just a brown face on television? Or am I actually good at what I do?’ But I have to believe I’m good at what I do to continue to do this. Especially during these difficult times, it’s taken a lot to tell myself: ‘I’m good at this.’ Every time self-doubt creeps in, I claw it back.”Read more: Vogue Magazine »
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BegumNadiya I love Nadiya in the 🇬🇧 GBBO
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