She’s won Bake Off, put out a slew of cookbooks and is always on the telly – Nadiya Hussain tells Ella Walker that food is meant to be fun.
Nadiya Hussain is a total rule-breaker these days. “I’m a part of two very different worlds – I’m British and I’m Bangladeshi,” the 33-year-old explains, “and because I’m part of these two amazing worlds, I have no rules and no restrictions.”
Hence why, three years on from winning Great British Bake Off, the Luton-born home cook is back with a new cookbook and accompanying BBC series, Nadiya’s Family Favourites, in which she comprehensively “demolishes” the pork pie.
In fact, she’s entirely reimagined the classic picnic snack, and gone and stuffed a hot water crust pastry case with a samosa filling. “I’ve taken the pork out and put the samosa in,” she says, giddy on her own culinary power. “I have no rules, and because I have no respect whatsoever for tradition, I can do whatever I want, and that’s why I feel so lucky.”
This recipe collection also sees her flip a baked cheesecake upside down, make a single eclair into a colossal cakey-roll, invent a fish finger lasagne (really!), swap the prawn in prawn toast for chicken, and ‘spike’ a dish of macaroni cheese with piccalilli – the woman’s a maverick.
However, her approach to clashing and mixing flavours and food-based institutions has triggered some tutting and huffing. Notably, she attracted criticism from the “Cornish pasty police” after she made some packed with lamb, apple and peas. “I got a massive telling off,” she says, with an equally massive grin. “What’s wrong with changing things around and making them taste different? There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not saying it’s the original, I’m just saying it’s a different version of it, and I think people are just scared that it might be better than the original.”
Food, Hussain says, is meant to be fun and experimented with. “It’s an expression of love. Why not mess about with it? It’s fun and it’s exciting; food is meant to bring joy and happiness – and bring families together.”
She might be all about breaking rules in the kitchen, but she does have rules when it comes to sitting down to dinner. “There’s one rule in our house and it is: ‘This is not a restaurant, you will eat what you’re given’. That’s it, so if you don’t eat what you’re given, then you go to bed hungry, it’s as simple as that.”
BUTTERNUT PASTA SOUP WITH WATERCRESS
This will make for a lovely, hearty lunch.
“Soup is one of my favourite lunches. As a teenager, I used to quite enjoy the mug variety, and to be fair, there are some fairly tasty ones out there. But there is something special about making soup from scratch at home,” says former Bake Off winner, Nadiya Hussain.
“The only thing that doesn’t like soup is my stomach, especially if the soup is thin, watery and unsatisfying. This soup is the exact opposite of that: Warm and sweet, with smooth, creamy butternut squash, and hearty from the orzo pasta that is cooked in it. No unhappy stomachs here.”
- 1 butternut squash (1.5kg, prepared weight 900g)
- 5tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2.5cm of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1tsp salt
- 1tsp chipotle chilli flakes
- 1l vegetable stock
- 100g orzo pasta
- 50g watercress, finely chopped (plus extra, unchopped, for the top)
- 1 lime, zest only
- Balsamic vinegar, to drizzle
1. Prepare the squash by cutting off the top and base, so you have a stable surface at either end. Cut into four equal pieces and peel away the outer skin. Remove the seeds and chop the flesh into 2.5cm pieces.
2. Put the chopped butternut squash into a microwave-safe bowl and cover the top with cling film, making sure to secure the edges. Microwave the squash on high for 10 minutes. This could take a few minutes longer or a few minutes less, depending on the strength of your microwave. I would check on it at eight minutes and then keep going in one minute bursts. You will know the squash is ready if, when you press it, it gives way easily. Remove the cling film and set the squash aside. This step will save lots of time.
3. Put the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. When it’s hot, add the garlic and ginger and cook for just a few minutes, until the garlic is golden.
4. Add the cooked squash to the pan and stir to coat it with the garlic and ginger. Season with salt and add the chilli flakes. Pour in the vegetable stock and cook on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.
5. Take the pan off the heat and blend the mixture to a smooth soup, using a stick blender.
6. Now put the mixture back into the pan, add the orzo, and cook for about 10 minutes on a medium to low heat, until the pasta has cooked.
7. Take off the heat. Serve in bowls, with the watercress, lime zest and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
GRAPEFRUIT CHICKEN STEW WITH COUSCOUS
A zingy stew that’ll feed the masses.
“When I see fruit, I don’t just see dessert or sweets. I love using fruit in my savoury cooking too. That’s all thanks to my Bangladeshi home that I grew up in as a child,” explains Nadiya Hussain, former Great British Bake Off winner.
“Citrus works just as well with savoury dishes as it does with sweet. The old grapefruit doesn’t get much air time though. I love its combination of sweet and bitter, which works really nicely with the chicken. This stew is such a simple thing to make, but the grapefruit adds some razzle-dazzle.”
For the stew:
- 1kg skinless boneless chicken thighs, diced
- 1tsp ground turmeric
- 4tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1tsp salt
- 2tsp ground cumin
- 1tsp chilli flakes
- 1 large grapefruit, juice (about 150ml) and zest
- 500ml hot water
- 2tbsp cornflour mixed with 2tbsp water
- A large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
For the couscous:
- 400g couscous
- 1tsp salt
- 2tbsp unsalted butter (30g)
- 550ml boiling water
1. Put the chicken into a bowl, add half a teaspoon of turmeric and mix until all the chicken is covered. Place a large saucepan on the hob on a medium to high heat and add the oil. Fry the chicken in batches, until cooked and brown around the edges. Put back into the bowl and set aside.
2. Add a little extra oil, about a tablespoon, to the pan. Add the garlic, onion and salt and cook until the onion is soft – this can take 10-15 minutes.
3. Now add the cumin, chilli flakes and the remaining half a teaspoon of turmeric and cook for a few minutes.
4. Add the grapefruit juice and zest, along with the browned chicken. Mix through, then add the hot water.
5. Stir in the cornflour/water mixture, then cover the pan with a lid and cook for 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, put the couscous into a bowl and stir in the salt. Put the butter on top. Pour in the boiling water until it reaches about 1cm above the couscous. Cover, then set aside so that the couscous can soak up the water.
7. When the chicken stew is cooked, take it off the heat and add the parsley. Serve the stew with the couscous.
This takes the sweet treat to the next level.
“This recipe is for anyone who loves eclairs, but wishes they took less time to make. Of course, you could simply buy one from the shop and, believe me, when I need my fix I often do, and gobble it up before the kids can lay eyes on it,” says Nadiya Hussain.
“But for those who prefer their treats homemade, this is a safe place in-between, offering all the great elements of an eclair – pastry, cream and chocolate – but with a little less work and time involved.”
For the choux pastry:
- 200ml water
- 85g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 1tbsp caster sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 115g plain flour, sifted
- 3 medium eggs, beaten
For the filling:
- 300ml whipping cream
- 2tbsp icing sugar
- 1tsp vanilla bean paste
- 4tbsp salted caramel
For the ganache:
- 200g dark chocolate
- 100ml double cream
- 100g milk chocolate, shaved
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Lightly grease a baking tray and line it with baking paper.
2. To make the pastry, put the water, butter, sugar and salt into a pan on a medium to high heat. Just barely bring to the boil, so the sugar and butter dissolve. Once they have dissolved, turn the heat down and drop the flour in quickly in one go. Stir straight away and keep going, to avoid any lumps. The mixture should look smooth and be coming away from the sides of the pan as you mix it.
3. Take off the heat. Add the eggs a little at a time, mixing after each addition. The mixture will look like it is separating, but keep mixing and it will come together. Keep going until all the eggs are used and the dough is smooth.
4. Pour the mixture into the centre of the prepared tray. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the mixture to a rectangle shape, roughly 20 x 30cm. Wet your fingers and pat down any peaks that may have formed, then pop it into the oven for 30 minutes.
5. Have a clean tea towel ready for when you take out the pastry. Take the roll out of the oven and turn it out on to the tea towel. Roll up the pastry from the shorter end, using the tea towel to help – being sure to roll up the tea towel inside the pastry too. Leave for 20 minutes to cool.
6. To make the filling, whip the cream to soft peaks with the icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. For the ganache, chop the dark chocolate and put it into a bowl. Warm the cream in a small pan, being careful not to let it boil. As soon as it just begins to come up to the boil, take it off the heat and pour it onto the chocolate. Mix until the chocolate has melted completely.
7. Unroll the pastry and spread the cream all over. Drizzle over the salted caramel. Re-roll the pastry, starting from the shorter end as before (this time don’t wrap up the tea towel – tea towels are not tasty).
8. Put the roll on a serving plate and spread the ganache on top. Sprinkle over the shavings of milk chocolate and leave in the fridge when you are not eating it. If it makes it to the fridge at all, that is!
Nadiya’s Family Favourites by Nadiya Hussain, photography by Chris Terry, is published by Michael Joseph, priced £20. Available now.