Nadiya Hussain is a British TV chef, author, and television presenter. She rose to fame after winning the sixth series of BBC’s The Great British Bake Off in 2015 and has since gone on to write numerous books. Her upcoming TV show is set to air this month – called Nadiya’s Asian Odyssey.
We chatted to the bubbly food personality about her baking tips!
1. What is the one skill that every newbie baker should learn to master?
I think if you are a new baker, getting in the kitchen can be daunting, for fear of making mistakes. But when it does happen the main thing is to make those mistakes and learn from them so you can constantly improve and hone your baking skills. But for anyone new to the kitchen, I would say to start simple with flapjacks, tray bakes and brownies and move up to Victoria sandwiches. There’s a slightly different take on a Victoria sponge in Nadiya’s Family Favourites which you should try.
2. Do you have an early childhood memory about baking?
I never baked as a child. I watched my mum cook all the time though. She had a standalone cooker with a hooded grill and an oven but she used the oven for storing her frying pans and trays. I used to watch Delia Smith bake on the television and watch Keith Floyd and Rick Stein cook. Their lives and kitchens always appeared so glamorous. I first baked in high school, I must have been twelve or thirteen. That was the first time I realised the ‘cupboard’ my mum used to store things away was, in fact, an oven. We baked scones, it was amazing watching something be mixed and shaped and popped into an oven only to be transformed, baked, hot and ready to eat. It was like magic for me and even now sometimes I am transported back to that magic when I am baking in my own kitchen.
3. Can you share your top 3 kitchen tools?
Number 1: an oven thermometer. If ever I’m in any doubt about the temperature or if it’s a recipe that is very precise, I like to pop the thermometer in to make sure it is exact. It’s a really handy tool to have.
Number 2: a microplane. For years I used a box grater to zest my citrus fruit and when I discovered a microplane, I was hooked! You get the best out of the citrus without very little effort.
Number 3: a small offset spatula. It’s multi-purpose. You can lift things with it, you can scrape with it, you can use it to turn things around and use it to ice cakes and get an even finish. I always carry one in my bag. It’s true, I do!
4. Do you have a go-to birthday cake recipe? If so, what is it?
It has to be my liquid chocolate cake, made with hot boiling water and oil, it is the most moist chocolate cake ever. I add coffee to enhance the flavour of the cocoa. I like to make three and then sandwich them with chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream!
5. Have you ever had a big baking disaster? What happened?
When I first made this liquid chocolate cake, I made it in a springform pan. Even though my instinct told me that it might be a bad idea. I didn’t attach the base properly and poured the batter in, without noticing the trail of cocoa destruction I was leaving behind on the floor. I left it to bake and when the timer went off and I went to get the cake out of the oven, there was no cake in the tin, just a thin layer in and around the edges. The cake had baked on the base of the oven! But we waste nothing in our house, and my husband ate the whole thing!
6. Do you have a quick baking hack that not many people know about?
I get moments when I get the urge to bake but my butter is rock solid – and that can take forever to get to room temperature. A quick way to get it soft but not liquid and oily (which is what the microwave can do) is to get a glass of hot water and fill it with boiling water, then get rid of the water and place it on top of the butter encasing the butter completely. The heat of the glass will soon soften the butter. It may need a second go, but it’s the quickest way without a microwave and here in the UK, we don’t get much sun, so those are my only two options.
ALSO READ: 4 Genius hacks for softening butter
7. What do you love baking for your kids?
We love baking together but with my busy schedule and their full calendars, we don’t always get much time in the week. Having said that, they do help to prepare for dinner and help to clear up afterwards. Some of our favourite things to bake are cookies, but we always make them as large as our heads. We love making pasta and kneading big lumps of dough to make bread. We also love cooking curries and big pots of chilli and gumbo together. Recipes like my chicken and rice traybake or my Pad Thai recipe from my latest cookbook really are family favourites! Lots of chopping and chatting.
8. If you had to choose – chocolate or vanilla?
9. Who do you look up to in the world of baking (or cooking)?
I love Gordon Ramsey’s confidence, I love Rick Stein’s travels, I adore Nigella Lawson’s artistry, Nigel Slater’s gentle style of cooking and of course Delia Smith because that is who I grew up watching. I really love Tom Kerridge at the moment, he is inspirational in the way he conducts himself and a lovely man. And not forgetting Yotam Ottolenghi, mainly because he’s a genius and incredible at what he does. I couldn’t just pick one.
10. What recipe from your latest book is your favourite?
My carrot cake pakoras from Nadiya’s Family Favourites are definitely top of my list. They say everything about the way I cook. I love to invent and don’t allow myself to be led by traditions. Recipes are there to play with and experiment with. So, I deep-fried carrot cake batter and made a cream cheese dip and came up with what I would call one of my most favourite desserts.