Nadiya Hussain The Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain breaks down her baking journey, and plays a divisive game of Food Jazz. Then, she plays a game exploring the family trees of some culinary botanicals.

Nadiya Hussain

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JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, the food show. Did you save room for dessert? Can I tempt you with our sinful decadent chocolate torte with homemade vanilla bean ice cream? I'll just leave the menu here for you, and I'll be right back. Also, I'm Jonathan Coulton. Here's your host Ophira Eisenberg.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thanks, Jonathan. It's time to welcome our special guest. She won Season 6 of "The Great British Bake Off." Since then, she has hosted multiple cooking shows, including the BBC and Netflix series "Nadiya's Time To Eat" and "Nadiya Bakes." And she's also the author of four children's books and five cookbooks, including her latest called "Nadiya Bakes," which is available now.

Nadiya Hussain, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

NADIYA HUSSAIN: Well, thank you so much for having me.

EISENBERG: Thank you. I have to say thank you so much for coming to us from a different time zone. You are - where are you right now exactly? Are you in London?

HUSSAIN: Yes. I'm in...

EISENBERG: OK.

HUSSAIN: So, I mean, I'm just outside of London.

EISENBERG: And I know you grew up just outside of London, and you didn't grow up in a baking household. And your mother actually used your family oven for storage.

HUSSAIN: Absolutely, yes. We did a lot of stovetop cooking, very - you know, we had an oven that came with the cooker.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

HUSSAIN: But my mum used it for storage. So she would put all her frying pans and...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

HUSSAIN: You know, we very much - you know, we made samosas and things like that. So my mum would use - put all her kind of leftover oil in her pans inside the oven. And that's what I thought it was. I thought it was storage the whole time.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: I grew up thinking that that cupboard was storage up until the point I went to school when my home ec teacher opens up this cupboard, and there's...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: She opens up this cupboard, and there are flames in this cupboard.

COULTON: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: I was like, Mrs. Marshall (ph) has gone mad. She's lost it. The cupboard is on fire. And she was like, no, this is an oven. And that was a complete revelation for me.

EISENBERG: Well, clearly, a lot changed in the course of - from that moment to most recently. In 2015, you won Season 6 of the "Great British Bake Off." When I watch "Bake Off," it's so comforting. It is a soothing, wonderful competition show, and everyone seems so supportive of each other.

HUSSAIN: I mean, it is when you're a viewer.

EISENBERG: Yes. So what is it actually like?

COULTON: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: Very different. I mean, as a "Bake Off" fan, I watched it for years before I was a part of the show.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

HUSSAIN: I watched it for years. So it is - there is something very soothing about watching amateur bakers lose it a little bit in a tent and kind of make...

COULTON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: It is. I don't know what it is. It's really harsh telly. It is in some ways. But somehow, wrapped in bunting and a beautiful tent in the British countryside, it somehow appeals, and it works. But it is a whole other - I think, from a different perspective as somebody who's been a part of the show, it is - when you've got sort of 50 people in a tent with contestants and cameras in your face every time you make a move before you even put anything in the oven - they're like, you've got to let us know before you put something in the oven. You've got to let us know before you take something out so they can get their shots. You know, like...

EISENBERG: Yep.

HUSSAIN: As amateur bakers, we just want to bake. We just want to get the bake right. And often you stop, start. You're having these conversations midway. And for a lot of us, it was natural to - I have three kids, two cats. And, you know, I'm used to kind of stopping and starting and multitasking while I'm baking. So, for me, that wasn't that difficult.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

HUSSAIN: But for others, you know, they're used to kind of peacefully baking with no - any interruptions. Whereas with "Bake Off," I think there is all of the kind of jeopardy in those moments where things go wrong. But there's also - you know, I know as a contestant with 11 other contestant friends, you know, we did kind of will each other on.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

HUSSAIN: It was really hard to see somebody go. We were really supportive of each other. And, you know, there were moments where, like - you know, I remember sometimes somebody would look over and be like, I can't remember what temperature jam is supposed to go up to, and you're like, oh. And you're like - you know, you're kind of, like, mouthing the temperature to them. So, you know, it's one of those things, you know? It's a competition, but equally, it's not.

EISENBERG: Shortly after you were on the show, you were asked to bake a cake for the queen of England's 90th birthday party.

HUSSAIN: Yes.

EISENBERG: That sounds like a lot of pressure.

COULTON: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: Yes. I mean, it was really bizarre because I was kind of thrown into the thick of it, and it became that whole kind of whirlwind. I was in the center of this whirlwind. And then I get this email to say, will you bake a cake for the queen? And in my haste...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: In my haste, I did actually consider saying no. I did.

(LAUGHTER)

HUSSAIN: I did. I did. I said, I think I'm going to say no. And I was like, really? You're going to say no. I'm sure that's, like, treason or something. I'm sure I'd be...

EISENBERG: Yeah, exactly.

HUSSAIN: ...Strung and quartered. I don't know. I was like, what do I do? And so I did what most parents do, and I consulted my 4-year-old.

(LAUGHTER)

HUSSAIN: And I said, so, you know, I got this email, and they've asked me to bake this cake for the queen. And my little girl said, but, Mommy, you've baked a cake for the queen. And I said, no, no, no. I haven't. And I was like, this is confusing me. Like, we had this conversation back and forth. It was like...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

HUSSAIN: You've baked it. I said, no, I haven't baked it. Where are you getting this from? She said, yeah, Mary Berry is the queen of England. And I said, oh, oh.

COULTON: (Laughter) That's funny.

HUSSAIN: I was like, oh, love, no, no, no. She's not the queen of England. And she said, Mom, you can't say that. Mary Berry is the queen of England. I was like, no, no, no. She's not. She was like, I don't know who the other old lady is, but you can bake her a cake if you want to.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: In our house, Mary Berry's the queen.

EISENBERG: I love that. So when - so you say yes. And then are you provided with any guidance, like likes or dislikes or flavors or...

HUSSAIN: Literally nothing.

EISENBERG: What?

HUSSAIN: I had nothing. And then they said, the only thing that we're asking - I thought, yes, this is great. They're going to give me something. They said, can you just make sure it's not fruitcake 'cause she's quite old and you can't really cut fruitcake because it's quite tough?

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

HUSSAIN: So I was like, is that it? I was not going to make fruitcake anyway. It's not...

EISENBERG: For a 90th birthday party. Yeah.

HUSSAIN: Exactly. And it's not Christmas. It's not a wedding.

EISENBERG: Right.

COULTON: Right.

HUSSAIN: So it wasn't going to be fruitcake anyway. So - and, again, like I said, I consulted my 4-year-old at the time. And she said, well, you did make Mary Berry a lemon drizzle in the finals, so you could just make her an orange drizzle. And I was like, that's not bad show. So that's exactly what I did. I made an orange drizzle sponge with a - it was - so it was, like, a very kind of zesty orange drizzle. And then I made a orange buttercream, and then it was laced with marmalade. So it was zesty and fresh.

EISENBERG: Oh.

HUSSAIN: Perfect for that time of year.

EISENBERG: And did you receive any feedback afterwards?

HUSSAIN: Literally nothing again - again.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Right now, you also have a new cookbook that is accompanying your series on Netflix called "Nadiya Bakes."

HUSSAIN: Yes.

EISENBERG: And there is a whole section in the cookbook that I love dedicated to no-bake bakes.

HUSSAIN: Yes.

EISENBERG: And within the no-bake bakes, if I'm the most beginner, where should I start?

HUSSAIN: Oh, my goodness. Just give me a second.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: OK, great. Oh, my. I think I'm getting...

COULTON: She's actually leaving the...

EISENBERG: ...Literature brought into...

COULTON: I hope she brings back a cake.

EISENBERG: Yeah, right. Here it is.

HUSSAIN: So...

EISENBERG: Please send me that cake.

HUSSAIN: So this book...

EISENBERG: OK.

HUSSAIN: If you're the kind of baker who isn't confident but wants to create something beautiful...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

HUSSAIN: You know, for me, I think if I was going to pick a recipe, it would probably be the banana and blueberry cheesecake. It's frozen bananas - really simple. And it's a banana cheesecake ice cream. So you've got, like, a biscuit base, frozen bananas, maple syrup, cocoa, and then you've got a gorgeous warm blueberry compote on top. And you don't even have to turn the oven on.

EISENBERG: That sounds exactly my speed.

HUSSAIN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Nadiya, we have some great games for you.

HUSSAIN: OK.

EISENBERG: But first, I have a mini challenge for you since we were just talking about making things. So today, we're challenging all of our guests to improvise a dish...

HUSSAIN: OK.

EISENBERG: ...On the spot incorporating two ingredients that were suggested by our listeners.

HUSSAIN: OK.

EISENBERG: OK. First...

HUSSAIN: Are they going to be the most ridiculous ingredients?

EISENBERG: I mean...

HUSSAIN: Let's hear this.

EISENBERG: ...That's - OK.

COULTON: I mean, yeah. Sure.

HUSSAIN: Yeah. Of course they are.

EISENBERG: To a certain extent.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: So the - what I would call the divisive yeast spread Marmite...

HUSSAIN: Right.

EISENBERG: ...And super wide sweet potato starch noodles.

HUSSAIN: Oh. Oh, my goodness - easy.

EISENBERG: There's a decoration on top - an - emoji-shaped birthday candles.

HUSSAIN: This is a no-brainer. This is a dish that I do all the time, and it's literally boiled pasta or noodles. So you boil the noodles, and I would warm up a little bit of butter with, like, a tablespoon of that yeast extract and melt the yeast extract and then literally just pour that on top of my noodles. And normally, like, if I'm allowed, I would just grate a little bit of cheese on top. So you've got that salty, cheesy - it's one of our go-to dinners at home. So - and as for the candles, throw them in the bin.

(LAUGHTER)

HUSSAIN: Unless you have cake.

EISENBERG: No, that's great.

COULTON: Yeah.

HUSSAIN: Throw them in the bin.

EISENBERG: That - OK. That was incredible. That was incredible. Now, I read when you bake a cake at home or wherever you are that you usually have a bowl of tangy sweets nearby to eat at the same time. Is that...

HUSSAIN: Yes, that is the story of my life.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: I have jars of sweets dotted around the entire house. And I have sweets under my pillow.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Just in case...

EISENBERG: Like to wake up...

COULTON: ...You wake up in the middle of the night...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: ...And you want a little bit of candy.

EISENBERG: A little something.

COULTON: Sure.

HUSSAIN: It happens, Jonathan. It happens.

COULTON: I know, I know.

HUSSAIN: I wake up sometimes, and I've got, like, an idea for a recipe. So I'll sit there and I'll write these recipes with the light on my phone. And then I'll write them down. And I'm like, well, there's time for a fizzy snake.

(LAUGHTER)

HUSSAIN: And so I'll just pop a little fizzy snake my mouth. And then - I spend a lot of time brushing my teeth. I just - then I go and brush my teeth, and then I come back, so - yes. Yes, I love sweets.

EISENBERG: Also, the idea that you have snake-shaped sweets under your pillow I think is particularly hilarious.

HUSSAIN: Yeah (laughter).

EISENBERG: Just - someone else would be like, oh, my God. Oh, it's a candy.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: OK. Yeah (laughter). So we know that you love gardening...

HUSSAIN: Yes.

EISENBERG: ...So we wrote a culinary botanical game for you.

HUSSAIN: OK.

EISENBERG: OK, so here's the idea.

HUSSAIN: OK.

EISENBERG: Many plants look very different, but are actually very closely related in the sense that they are members of the same botanical family.

HUSSAIN: Yes.

EISENBERG: So we're going to give you two plants, and you just tell us are they related or are they not related.

HUSSAIN: Oh, OK.

EISENBERG: OK. So let's give it a shot.

HUSSAIN: OK.

EISENBERG: So here's your first one. Almonds and cherries - are they related?

HUSSAIN: I want to say yes, but I'm going to say - I'm going to say yes. Part of me...

EISENBERG: You are right.

HUSSAIN: ...Wants to say yes.

EISENBERG: No, you should say yes.

HUSSAIN: OK.

EISENBERG: Yes, say yes.

HUSSAIN: I think they are related.

EISENBERG: They are related, yes. They're like Prince William and Prince Harry of the stone fruits.

HUSSAIN: OK.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: They (laughter) - they - yeah. So they're both stone fruits...

HUSSAIN: But very different.

EISENBERG: ...Aka, drupes, like peaches. But the almonds we eat are the drupe seeds from the almond tree.

HUSSAIN: OK.

EISENBERG: And they - yeah, they're related.

HUSSAIN: Interesting.

EISENBERG: I know. Who knew?

HUSSAIN: I will break the ice in a new conversation of new people when - with that fact.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: Yeah. This is what this show is for, is to arm you at parties with conversational...

HUSSAIN: Thank you.

COULTON: ...Gambits. Yeah.

HUSSAIN: Thank you.

COULTON: All right here's another one for you.

HUSSAIN: OK.

COULTON: Catnip and peppermint - are they related?

HUSSAIN: What is catnip made of? Oh.

EISENBERG: Excellent question.

COULTON: Well, it is a plant.

HUSSAIN: It is because it's like this grassy stuff. I know because I have cats, and my son puts catnip in the weirdest places. He just - yeah.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: What?

HUSSAIN: Yeah, he just kind of like - he...

COULTON: Just around the house?

HUSSAIN: Yeah. Well, the cats go insane sometimes.

COULTON: They do.

HUSSAIN: I'm like, what have you done? He goes, oh, I've just put catnip in the laundry basket. I'm like, but why?

(LAUGHTER)

HUSSAIN: So - but do they like peppermint? I'm just trying to think if they like - I'm going to say no.

COULTON: They are actually related. They're both in the mint family.

HUSSAIN: Really?

COULTON: Yeah. Yeah. And cats love catnip because it contains a chemical similar to cat pheromones, which makes them go crazy. That's why they go so crazy.

HUSSAIN: Which makes them go crazy.

EISENBERG: You know what? Why not give them a mojito? That's where I would start.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Give a cat a mojito.

EISENBERG: I bet they'll enjoy it.

HUSSAIN: That might slow them down.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) But they'd be so happy.

COULTON: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: They'd be happy.

EISENBERG: Listeners, do not do this. This is just a joke, just so you know.

HUSSAIN: Happy, drunk cats.

COULTON: Yeah. Yeah (laughter).

EISENBERG: Happy, drunk cats. I'd buy that book, by the way.

HUSSAIN: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: All right. Nadiya, how about bananas and strawberries? Are they related?

HUSSAIN: I'm going to say no.

EISENBERG: All right. You are correct. The answer is no. The way we have it broken down here is that bananas are technically berries.

HUSSAIN: Oh.

EISENBERG: And strawberries are not. That's because the botanical definition of a berry is a fruit that comes from a single flower with one ovary. Strawberries come from a single flower with more than one ovary. Strawberries are actually more closely related to roses.

HUSSAIN: Oh, wow. See what I mean? Just go buy a strawberry, kids.

EISENBERG: Just go buy a strawberry.

COULTON: It's too much trouble.

HUSSAIN: Kids, just go...

COULTON: Even talking about a strawberry is a hassle.

HUSSAIN: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: I know. This is the part where you become the annoying person at the cocktail party with your facts. You're like, well, actually, it's not a - you don't want to do that.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That's right. That's why I never bring my pedantic botanist friend with me.

HUSSAIN: Yeah (laughter).

EISENBERG: I know. They seem so great at dinner, and then you bring them to a party.

COULTON: You're like, no, thank you.

HUSSAIN: Your invite got lost in the post.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: Yeah, sorry. All right. Here's another one. This is a weird one - peanuts and clover.

HUSSAIN: I'm going to say no, they're not related. But you're going to tell me different, aren't you?

COULTON: I'm going to tell you different. They are actually related. They're both in the pea family of plants. So peanuts aren't really nuts. They're technically legumes...

HUSSAIN: Yeah.

COULTON: ...Which have these edible seeds that come in a pod. And the same is true of clover.

HUSSAIN: Really?

COULTON: Yeah. They're both part of the pea family of plants. Again, this is like - this is when you're like, why did I bring the botanist here? Why is he ruining every conversation?

HUSSAIN: Why did you bring the botanist?

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Although I love - by the way, I just want to say I love saying the word legume.

HUSSAIN: Yeah. It's just a good word.

EISENBERG: It's a great word.

COULTON: It is a good word - rolls off the tongue.

HUSSAIN: Yeah (laughter).

EISENBERG: Legume. All right, Nadiya. How about licorice and anise?

HUSSAIN: I mean, flavor-wise, they're quite similar, aren't they? So it's interesting. So I'm going to say yes. But are you going to tell me different?

EISENBERG: I am going to tell you different.

HUSSAIN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: They are not. They taste very similar, but get this. Licorice comes from the legume family.

HUSSAIN: No.

EISENBERG: Yes.

HUSSAIN: This is getting ridiculous now.

COULTON: More botanist trickery.

HUSSAIN: I know.

EISENBERG: And anise comes from the parsley family.

HUSSAIN: Really?

EISENBERG: And I just found out that star anise isn't related to anise. Star anise comes from the magnolia family.

HUSSAIN: Oh, we don't care anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

HUSSAIN: Jonathan, we don't care, do we?

COULTON: You know what? Keep all of your plants. Keep all of your plants.

HUSSAIN: We don't even care.

COULTON: Don't talk to me about them. Yeah.

EISENBERG: We have to redo everything. We have to redo all of our naming conventions...

HUSSAIN: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: ...Because they were just based on willy-nilly ideas...

COULTON: That's right.

EISENBERG: ...Of nothingness.

COULTON: All right. Here is the very last one.

HUSSAIN: OK.

COULTON: Artichokes and sunflowers.

HUSSAIN: I don't know. Ah, I care so much, but equally, I don't.

COULTON: (Laughter).

HUSSAIN: Ah, I'm not sure.

COULTON: Yeah.

HUSSAIN: I'm going to say they're related.

COULTON: They are absolutely related. They both come from the daisy family.

EISENBERG: Nice.

COULTON: So artichokes - actually, if you let artichokes grow...

HUSSAIN: Yes.

COULTON: ...Instead of picking them and eating them, they bloom. And when they bloom, they have these beautiful purple flowers. And so the thing that's similar about these plants - their flowers are grouped very close together, makes them look to us like one big flower. So, you know, when you see, like, a petal on a sunflower, each one of those is its own individual flower.

HUSSAIN: Yes. Amazing. That's - see; that's quite interesting, that.

EISENBERG: You did fantastic. You did great.

HUSSAIN: Eh (ph).

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: I'm going to say yes, you did. Yes, you did.

HUSSAIN: I mean, I love your enthusiasm. But I didn't.

(LAUGHTER)

HUSSAIN: And will I remember any of it? Nope.

COULTON: No. It hardly matters.

EISENBERG: It doesn't matter...

COULTON: No.

EISENBERG: ...Because you'll just eat it and enjoy it.

HUSSAIN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: And that's the most important thing.

HUSSAIN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Nadiya Hussain's latest cookbook is called "Nadiya Bakes" and is available now. Thank you so much for joining us.

HUSSAIN: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It's been so much fun.

EISENBERG: Excellent.

That's our show. ASK ME ANOTHER's house musician is Jonathan Coulton.

COULTON: Hey. My name anagrams to thou jolt a cannon.

EISENBERG: Our games were written by our staff, along with Julia Melfi and Kate Villa with additional material by Cara Weinberger. ASK ME ANOTHER is produced by Nancy Saechao, James Farber and Rommel Wood, with Gianna Capadona and our intern Zach St. Clair. Our senior producer is Travis Larchuck. Our senior supervising producer is Rachel Neel, and our bosses' bosses are Steve Nelson and Anya Grundmann. Thanks to our production partner WNYC. I'm her ripe begonias.

COULTON: Ophira Eisenberg.

EISENBERG: And this was ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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