Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain talks tripe – her kids are fans, believe it or not
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. Three years on from winning Great British Bake Off, the Luton-born the 33-year-old 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 quintessentially English 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 a 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."
It's tough love, but Hussain doesn't feel guilty if her trio of kids – Musa, Dawud and Maryan – refuse to eat what's available. "I feel a bit bad that they didn't eat, but they've learnt through time that she is not messing around. [They know] 'If I don't eat this dinner now, she is not going to feel guilty and come and feed me in the middle of the night'."
Luckily, she and husband Abdal have managed to produce children that aren't fussy-eaters, so much so that the week before we chat, she had all three begging her to dole out fragrant bowlfuls of fish head curry. "They were all over it like, 'Mummy! Please can we have that right now?' I was like, 'No, that's tomorrow's dinner, I've just cooked it early, you've got to have this instead', and they're like, 'No, no, no, please, please, please can we have it?' They just love fish head curry – and tripe!"
Tripe is not fashionable. Tripe is white, blubbery, cow stomach. Tripe cannot compete with the likes of fish fingers and pizza when it comes to child-friendly food – right?
"They love tripe!" Hussain promises. "Cook it down slowly for six hours, get it really soft – I cook it with a bit of vanilla just to get rid of some of the smells – some vegetables, then I take it out, pat it dry, cover it in flour and egg, then I crisp it up and slice it." She serves it in a curry sauce with rice, and convincingly makes tripe sound delicious. Plus, it's "cheap as chips" and when it comes to costs, as well as health, Hussain is ever aware.
"Everything in moderation... I can cook all the food that I cook, but we have balance and that's really important," she says. "I shouldn't feel guilty for cooking the things that I love, or that my family love. We eat, we enjoy it, we have balance – why not?"
:: Nadiya's Family Favourites by Nadiya Hussain, photography by Chris Terry, is published by Michael Joseph, priced £20. Below are three recipes from the book for you to try.
BUTTERNUT PASTA SOUP WITH WATERCRESS
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 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
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.
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 about 10 minutes. 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.
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. 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.
Take the pan off the heat and blend the mixture to a smooth soup, using a stick blender. 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. Take off the heat. Serve in bowls, with the watercress, lime zest and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
GRAPEFRUIT CHICKEN STEW WITH COUSCOUS
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
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:
2tbsp unsalted butter (30g)
550ml boiling water
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.
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. Now add the cumin, chilli flakes and the remaining half a teaspoon of turmeric and cook for a few minutes.
Add the grapefruit juice and zest, along with the browned chicken. Mix through, then add the hot water. Stir in the cornflour/water mixture, then cover the pan with a lid and cook for 30 minutes.
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.
When the chicken stew is cooked, take it off the heat and add the parsley. Serve the stew with the couscous.
For the choux pastry:
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
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Lightly grease a baking tray and line it with baking paper. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.