Tried and Tested Cookbook: Nadiya's Bake Me a Story
It was nearly elevenses time, and a little old lady was at home with nothing to dunk in her cup of tea. She rooted through her cupboards. There were no chocolate cookies, no figgie rolls- not even any plain old crackers. But she could see lots of flour, brown sugar, honey and jars upon jars of spices.
Nadiya Hussein was the baker who made Mary Berry cry for all the right reasons. Probably the most popular ever winner of The Great British Bake-Off, Nadiya's daring use of spices won over the judges, while her self-effacing humour and charming smile melted viewers' hearts.
A role as judge on the BBC's Junior Bake-Off followed, where Nadiya conquered a younger audience with similar ease. Next, came a documentary about her family's roots in Bangladesh, magazine columns, and regular TV slots. Nadiya has proven herself a natural TV personality. She is pretty and likeable, she is funny, she can tell a good story, and she comes across as just a nice, average mum.
There is nothing average, however, about Nadiya Hussein. Debrett's listed this unassuming and diminutive woman as one of the 500 most influential people in Britain in 2016.
It beggars belief that, on top of everything else, Nadiya has written not one, but three books in little over a year.
Nadiya's Kitchen is a collection of her favourite family recipes and includes, of course, the cake she made for Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday bash.
Nadiya's first novel, The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters, described as an Asian Little Women, is on the cusp of publication.
Nadiya's Bake Me a Story is a genius little offering, appealing as it does to both junior and (apologies, my friends) senior Bake-Off fans. The concept is smart; the delivery is impeccable. With its delightful illustrations by Clair Rossiter, this would be an attractive book even without Nadiya's celebrity status.
There are 15 chapters, each containing a recipe and a ten-minute story for 3 to 7-year-olds. The stories are witty re-tellings of classic fairytales with a culinary twist. There's the "Not-Just-Ginger Gingerbread Guy" (the old lady discovers star anise) and the "Princess and the Pea Risotto".
Ruby-Red, a girl with better manners than Goldilocks, steals the Three Bears porridge but repays them with a dozen "Very-Berry Muffins". These are excellent, guilt-free muffins, made with lots of fruit and very little sugar. There were no complaints from any little bears in this house.
"Fee-Fie-Fo-Fum!," the giant roared in delight once his tummy was full.
One does have to wonder why no one ever before thought of picking the beans from the magic beanstalk and making some nutritious bean patties. For me, a cookbook is most valuable if it contributes something new to our family's regular rotation of cost-effective, easy meals. Nadiya's "Bean Patties" have made the list. My protein-hungry teenagers, in particular, thought this was a super lunch.
"I shall make the bread all by myself," said the Little Red Hen and she did.
The Little Red Hen made sweet and easy soda bread. Scented with orange zest and loaded with juicy blueberries, this was the prettiest bread imaginable.What little was left over made the most fantastic toast with melting butter.
Everyone stared as Cinderella walked into the party in her sparkly heels and shimmering dress. But Cinders was starving so she ignored the staring and went straight for the buffet.
Ah, a girl after my own heart. I'll leave you to guess whether Cinderella got her man but she did snatch the last "Pumpkin Flapjack". This one spoon recipe (indicating the easiest level) is simple enough for the youngest children to tackle and packs a punch of spicy flavour. My only alteration would be to double the quantities. This is a super-star recipe if ever there was one.
The troll's warty face fell and he started to cry. "I-I...I just wanted to try your cooking...the Billy Goats Gruff's food is famous throughout the land.'
What do you think is the house special at the Trip Trap Restaurant? 'Why, goat's cheese and onion tart, of course!'
Troll-like in my passion for a good onion tart, I was thrilled to discover my children can now make it for me. Oh, happy day.
Nadiya employs spoonerism to take her revenge on the most critical of Bake-Off judges when world-renowned baker Haul Pollywood pays a visit to Sleeping Beauty. Sadly, his cookies are a tad under-baked. Beauty opts instead for a mug of "Cardamom and Malt Hot Chocolate". Who could blame her? It's utterly luscious.
The Hamelin Baking Club paid The Pied Piper in cake, specifically a dark and white chocolate, stripy, "Zebra Cake".
The Zebra Cake is categorised as a three spoon recipe, indicating the most difficult level. Even older children would probably need guidance with this one.
"Snow White's French Apple Tart" pushed our Head Chef (that would be me) to the limit of her baking skills. Pastry, a filling, a topping and a glaze might be a trifle over-ambitious for a children's recipe book. That said, the result was apple scrumptious.
It is a hint that an individual is destined for stardom when they become known by their first name alone. Think of Madonna, Beyonce or Adele. Could an amateur baker reach that level of mononymous fame? Even Jamie and Nigella still put their surnames on the covers of their books but Nadiya didn't.
It is that very audacity, that store of inner courage, that makes Nadiya such an appealing role model. I admire her very much and I loved her book.