Nadiya Hussain Talks Cooking In Quarantine & Her Show Hitting Netflix

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
You probably know Nadiya Hussain as the winner of The Great British Bake Off series 6, but since her 2015 win, Hussain has been all over British television. Now, Americans can finally enjoy her recipes, tips, and tricks as well because her BBC cooking show Nadiya's Time To Eat hits Netflix today.
Nadiya's Time To Eat focuses on stress-free recipes designed to save time, which at first glance, you might not think is something you necessarily need during this period of being stuck inside. However, Hussain's shortcuts and waste-saving tricks are all about turning the simple ingredients you've already got on-hand into a spectacular dish, which is actually the perfect approach for quarantine. Regarding the news that Nadiya's Time to Eat has now become available to even more viewers, Hussain tells Refinery29, "My only hope is that watching the show inspires people to learn something new, even if it's just a love of baking and cooking. Also, I hope they look at what I do and think Oh, that's a little bit mad but I love it and I'm going to give it a go."
Ahead, Nadiya Hussain shares how the idea for this show came about, her go-to pantry meal, and what it was really like being on GBBO.
Refinery29: As someone who obviously loves to cook and bake and is very good at it, how did you get to a place where you started embracing shortcuts? And how did that turn into an idea for a show?
Nadiya Hussain: I started baking when I was 20 and I started cooking when I was about nine, so I've been doing both for quite a long time now. But I grew up in a working-class immigrant family, we didn't have luxuries and we ate what we were given. My granddad was a farmer so we grew what we could and we never ever wasted. So cooking without waste and cooking using everything I've got and taking shortcuts are things that I've been doing for years. It's completely natural to me. So this seemed like such a natural show to do. In so many ways, it felt so close to everything that I do and how I cook. I just couldn't not do the show. It felt so true and very real to my experience and background.
Has coronavirus and social distancing impacted the way you cook or bake?
I'm all about batch cooking and when I make a recipe, I'll add some extra bits to it to double it up so I've got some in the freezer. The first couple of weeks, we were okay because we had meals in the freezer that I just needed to reheat. For me, my freezer's my godsend. It's the thing that keeps my kids alive in some sense because when I'm away, they know mommy's cooked them meals. They just pop it out, defrost it, cook it, and it's done. That's kind of my life, that's how it's always been so nothing has really changed there.

I am struggling in that I don't have access to eggs constantly. I'm lucky because we have four chickens, so we get four eggs every day. But that presents a choice. Sometimes I have to say, 'Right, okay, well I've got to give the kids eggs for breakfast today, and then I'll think about baking a cake in about two days when I've got enough eggs.' Sometimes when you get baking, you get eight eggs in and you think, where have all the eggs gone? That's something I take for granted. A few months ago, I would've just gone and happily used 10, 12, 15 eggs in a bake and not even thought about it. So for me, it's changed how I bake but not so much how I cook...When I am baking, it's for a specific purpose like for NHS staff — we've tried to bake cakes and give them to the hospital and all of that.
During this time, a lot of people are relying on meals that they can throw together using only items they already have stocked in their pantries. What is your go-to pantry meal?
There's a recipe that I do on the show, which is the baked bean falafel. Sometimes you look at a can of baked beans and think, Nah, I can't do anything with that. That's just baked beans. But to me, they are cooked, soft, delicious beans that somebody else has already packed with flavor and done all the cooking for me. To me, that's an ingredient, it's not a ready meal so I strain them, make falafel out of the beans, and take the delicious sweet tomato sauce and turn that into a dipping sauce. Then I've got falafel with sauce, and I knock up a quick salad with whatever I've got — easy.

That's such a quick meal and it's really not very expensive at all. It's all about taking something like a humble can of baked beans and stretching it out into something that's much bigger. In lockdown, cooking is all about joy and finding joy in eating a meal together even if it's just from a can of baked beans.
On that note, what is the go-to pick-me-up meal you make when you're feeling down?
Everyone's been going mad on the banana bread. Everybody is making banana bread with their overripe bananas, which is great, but one thing I love to do with really ripe bananas is make a banana tarte tatin. You just need a block of ready-made pastry, sugar to make some caramel, some very ripe bananas, and some hazelnuts. That's it. It's about just taking simple things and making them into something a little bit spectacular.
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Your show focuses a lot on saving time in the kitchen by embracing shortcuts, but what do you suggest people try cooking or baking if they do have time to spare? Do you have a favorite big cooking or baking project that you'd recommend taking on during this time of social distancing?
One of my favorite things to make, especially when I've got loads of time is croissant. I love making croissant or brioche, one of those two. Bread, for me, is a labor of love. You can speed it up and you can cheat, but sometimes you don't have to cheat.
Speaking of big baking challenges, as a Great British Bake Off winner, what is your take on American cooking competition shows versus British ones?
I actually love watching Master Chef, the U.S. version. I really enjoy that. Of course, in Bake Off, they've got the bunting and the cake stands — it's all-things very civilized and it feels very British. But there’s something about the contestants being in constant jeopardy in some American cooking shows that my kids absolutely love. My kids would rather watch American cooking shows than anything British.

I don't know how anyone finds Bake Off relaxing though. Before I went on Bake Off, I used to watch it and I used to find it really stressful. When they were up to the wire and they were taking the stakes out. I find that really stressful because essentially Bake Off is a group of amateur bakers who could be making these very same mistakes in their homes, but the difference is you've got millions of people viewing you make that mistake and that is so scary. At the time, you don't really think about who's going to watch it. It's only when it airs on television you realize, Oh my goodness, everyone's going to see me do that and that's quite scary to me. 
You mentioned that all the contestants are amateur bakers. How accomplished do you have to be to get picked to compete on GBBO?
There's quite a lot of process to get in. I can't remember anymore, but I think there are four or five stages before you get in so you do have to be a competent baker. You have to know how to bake bread. You certainly have to know how to follow instructions, I think that's really important.

They pick an array of people. The year I was on Bake Off, we had a prison governor, we had a bodybuilder, we had a firefighter. You name it, we had everyone, and that's what's lovely. I think they pick certain people to create a bunch that you wouldn't think would go together in a million years. And you come out friends, and that's a wonderful thing.
That's so nice. Do you still talk to or hang out with any of your fellow GBBO contestants?
I don't keep in touch with all of them, but I do kind of have constant contact with Tamal. I have constant contact with Mat, Paul, Ian, Sandy, Stu. So yeah, I do still speak to a lot of them.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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