EmpowHER – Nadiya Hussain

Nadiya Hussain

We all love a good baking session, me included! Whether it be bread, cakes, cookies or pies, the accomplishment when you pop something in the oven and it comes out looking and tasting like a masterpiece is such a good feeling. As many of us probably agree, good recipes aren’t hard to come by now, with hundreds of cook books on the shelves and online recipes in abundance… but there is something about Nadiya Hussain’s recipes that I never fail to fall back on. I watched Nadiya when she was in the bake off tent, and since then we have all watched her blossom into a more confident, incredibly talented and kind woman, who can also make a kick-ass cake! As a woman of colour, she is an inspiration to her Bangladeshi background and is an irreplaceable face on our screens. Nadiya describes herself on her website in the below quote, which I think sums her up perfectly:

“I am a mamma and a maker.

I am a wife and a weigher of flour.

I am a builder of Lego and baker of cake.

I am a family woman and a family cook.

I am Nadiya Hussain”  

Who is Nadiya Hussain?

Nadiya Hussain, 37, born on Christmas day (believe it or not!) 1984, is a TV chef, author and TV presenter who rose to fame after winning the sixth series of the much loved show, the Great British Bake off, in 2015. She was born and raised in Luton, Bedfordshire as one of six children of her parents as well as attending school there. Her father was a chef and owned an Indian restaurant, sparking her inspiration for cooking, the complete opposite to her mother who never baked and used the oven just for storage (The Times). She has often opened up about her struggles with her childhood anxiety and a panic disorder, for which she underwent CBT to help tackle it. Nadiya’s original plan was to become a social worker, so after not being able to attend University following her A levels, she persisted with her dream and decided to do an Open University degree whilst pregnant with her third child. She explained ‘Life progressed but my desire to get my degree never left me so when the kids went to bed I worked on my degree and when I felt stressed I baked. I was baking my way through my degree on my path to become a social worker’. 

Applying for the GBBO was a real step out of her comfort zone and, at the time, she was a full time mum to her three children whilst her husband worked in IT. It was only when she got hooked on bake off and her husband presented her with an application form for the sixth series that she made it to the tent (after a lot of resistance of course!). On her way to film the first episode of Bake Off, a lot of other ‘firsts’ were accomplished for Nadiya; First time in a taxi alone, first time on a train alone, first time on the underground alone! She perspired through the missed trains, and the quiet tears but she finally got there (Nadiyahussian.com). Her win of the GBBO in 2015 was phenomenal, and her popularity with audiences were deemed important steps toward shifting stereotypes about the Muslim community and acceptance about cultural diversity (The  Guardian). Her incredible baking led her to win the Bake Off as well as win the hearts of the British public by simply being the kind, down to earth woman she is. 

The TV, books and bakes

So, since 2015 what’s been going on for Nadiya? Well, where do I start?! Since her appearance on GBBO in 2015, Nadiya has been here, there and everywhere! In August 2016, Hussain was a presenter of a two-part food travelogue, The Chronicles of Nadiya, on BBC One, in which she travelled to Bangladesh to trace her culinary roots (The Daily Telegraph). She then went on to present Nadiya’s British Food Adventure in 2017, an eight-part series on BBC Two. Hussain travelled across the country, visiting food producers, and then returned to her kitchen to cook using ingredients found on her journeys (The Times).

In July 2018, Nadiyas second TV cookery series Nadiya’s Family Favourites aired on BBC Two, one of my personal favourites! Later, the six part series Time To Eat was first shown on BBC Two in July and August 2019 including time-saving kitchen hacks and recipes that are on a budget for families in a rush! Another series was then released in September 2020, Nadiya Bakes, showing us how to make everyday treats to indulgent desserts!

From this, and about time too, Nadiya started to write these recipes down and release her own cookbooks. She was signed by Penguin publisher Michael Joseph for her first cookbook, post the GBBO, Nadiyas Kitchen and hasn’t stopped since! She has since released another five books which have all been hugely successful! 

Beyond the kitchen

Beyond her daily tasks and baking, Nadiya has made a real impression on the rest of the UK it seems! Hussain was invited to bake a cake for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and in 2017 was named by Debrett as one of the 500 most influential people in the UK after her success on Bake Off and has even since been awarded an MBE. Nadiya, who has suffered with anxiety and a panic disorder for most of her young life, has talked openly about her mental health issues and in 2019 created a BBC documentary called Nadiya: Anxiety and Me (The Standard). 

Adding to her role as a mother and a chef, she started to write children’s story books in 2017, combining child friendly recipes with exciting stories and illustrations. “Bake me a story” was nominated for the Children’s Book of the Year prize at the British Book Awards, and as if that wasn’t enough, she then began to write novels! The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters, was released in January 2017 and was referred to as a British Muslim take on Little Women, then followed by The Hopes and Triumphs of the Amir Sisters, another great seller. Her autobiography, Finding My Voice, was published in 2019 by Headline Publishing Group, including some of her own recipes and poetry. Additionally, Nadiya is a Contributing Editor to UK’s biggest food media brand, BBC’s Good Food and also writes a monthly column for The Times Magazine, a part of the Saturday supplement of The Times (The Times). 

Nadiya has also released her own clothing range with Next, featuring brightly coloured clothes and shoes as well as her own Homeware range in collaboration with BlissHome. The collection features designs across a full tableware range, as well as spice racks, candles, aprons, oven gloves and tea towels (Your Home Magazine). 

What’s next for Nadiya?

Is there nothing this woman can’t do? I love her recipes, shows, image and her morals so much and I am not the only one. With 816,000 Instagram followers, research has found she is the most influential GBBO winner of all time so I don’t think the success stops here for her. I really think Nadiya filled a gap in the market when it came to representing cultural differences on our screens and not hiding that she is proud to be a British Bangladeshi woman. She created amazing recipes with methods and ingredients you wouldn’t even think of but make perfect sense together and brings with her shows a smile and such a down to earth vibe. I really do think the sky’s the limit, I just don’t know how she juggles her time!

I think it’s fair to say the last few years have been a busy blast for her and everytime I watch one of her TV shows I vow to make at least one of the recipes. From a little Luton girl to a UK phenomenon, I really do think she is something to admire. A mother, a talent and an all around wonderful human being, I have yet to come across anyone that doesnt like her (or her delicious food)! I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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