Nadiya Hussain: ‘I always make time to cook for my family’
-Sep 20, Caroline Blight, Living -
Nadiya Hussain rose to fame when she won British TV series The Great British Bake off. Here she tells Lumity how her life has changed since such a pivotal moment and how she strikes that elusive life/ work balance.
It’s three years since Nadiya Hussain picked up the coveted glass cake stand and was crowned The Great British Bake Off champion. Since then she has become arguably the most successful Bake Off winner to date. She written five books, both cookery and fiction, had five TV series of her own, in 2017 was was named by Debrett’s as one of the 500 most influential people in the UK and even baked a cake for the Queen! But part of what makes her so approachable is her down-to-earth and easy-going attitude.
Before Bake Off you were a stay at home mum, how has life changed?
It’s been a balancing act because I’m not as home as much my husband has to deal with dinners and bedtimes and things like that. He’s had to take on a more active role in looking after the children now but I think he enjoys it. He realises how lucky I was to have 10 years at home with them and he feels privileged that he’s now got that opportunity, even though he works a full-time job he gets the opportunity to do those things as well.
Do the children like it when he’s in charge?
He’s less strict with bedtime! He will give them biscuits 15mins before bed, then I come home and ask if they had cheese before bed…
Do your family help out a lot?
I moved from the North down South after Bake Off because my family are close by – they only live 25mins away from me now so I can literally just pick the kids up, go to my sisters or my mums and just leave them. They’re happy with that, it’s open house in our family, we all look after each other.
Do you think it’s harder to cook for the family, are they more critical than other people?
No absolutely not. I love the little things now, I really enjoy the little things. Yesterday the kids wanted a mango and fish curry so I was like ‘I can do that’ because now I ask them what they want. Before I would cook whatever I wanted or what I thought they should eat. Now I ask ‘what do you guys fancy?’ because I don’t spend as much time at home it’s nice to give them something that they want. Because their dad can’t cook! There’s only so long that they can live on oven chips. Now I just ask them what would you like. It might be lamb chops and mean I have to get out the house and go to the butchers and get the meat but I will do it because it’s nice to do the normal things.
Do you freeze meals for your husband to give them?
I do batch cooking and leave things in the freezer and he will defrost it but because he has to cook rice he won’t cook the rice. I will take something out for him to defrost and he will put it back in the freezer and take them to the chicken shop around the corner! It happens!
Do you get annoyed when people say they don’t have time to cook?
I can understand now, being as busy as I am, I can see where that can happen and the pitfalls in that, but even I find time to cook. I am genuinely so busy sometimes that I lose the will to live come 11 o’clock at night but I know the kids have to eat tomorrow. I think if you want to you can. Even if I walk in at 10pm I have to forward think and make sure there’s something there for them to eat. You can cook, it just needs to be planned a bit better.
Do you cook with kids?
They spend a lot of time in the kitchen anyway so if I’m doing something like a recipe test or working they will happily come and sort their dinner out. They will make a pasta sauce, they can make rice so they will have that with some leftover curry. They are quite competent in the kitchen so I feel like it’s not a case of I have to monitor them, we work alongside each other now.
Do you think that’s because you’ve trusted them from a young age in the kitchen?
The second you start to put the fear of god into them about the kitchen that’s it, it becomes scary. It’s the same for anyone let alone children. My husband still can’t cook – he’s afraid he will cut his hands too where as my children can go in and they know what they can and can’t do in the kitchen. They’ve learnt how to be safe so just by allowing them freedom to go in it’s given them confidence. I trust them and I think that’s really important as well.
Are you good at letting them get it a bit wrong and get messy?
No one really likes that much mess but that was the whole point at the beginning when I started to cook with them and introduce them to the kitchen, it was letting them make the mess. While they were young I was cleaning up the mess after them but now they know that if they make mess they have to clean it up. So they don’t make a mess! It’s amazing how that works!
When you are cooking at home – do you and the kids go to other ends of the kitchen?
I love how you say that like I’ve got a kitchen with two ends! We mill around and we don’t have our own areas, there are no sous chefs in my kitchen. Everyone gets on with their own thing. They get kicked out if somebody cuts themselves, don’t bleed on the food.