Food in the hands of Nadiya Hussain

Nadiya Hussain and her pastries

With Jamaican-Indian-American Kerala Harris as the just announced US vice presidential bet, it is a good time to focus on women of mixed races making it big on the world stage. British-Bangladeshi Nadiya Hussain is one such rising chef and a most appealing one she is as borne by the seven-part Netflix series Nadiya’s Time to Eat.

Her hair wrapped in colorful turbans, she makes her way in her kitchen with ease and has become known for her “cheats,” shortcuts that achieve the same taste, if not make improvements, on the original recipes.

Her adopted London and England are ablaze with colors, too, not the gloomy, rainy places we know from Geography lessons. Hussain takes her viewers outside her home and into the houses of busy housewives or put-upon husbands and fathers who work from home and must feed young kids.

She brings a tote bag the way a medical doctor doing a house call does, carrying her ingredients, including spices, to give hands-on lessons on quick meals (sometimes as short as 10 minutes to prepare) to grateful parents.

The author of Nadiya’s British Food Adventure and Nadiya’s Bake me a Festive Story apart from host of the TV show The Big Family Cooking Showdown, Hussain bristles with nervous energy that, she wrote in her blog, nadiyahussain.com, she traced to a panic disorder that she suffers from. She wrote: “I haven’t conquered my panic, but I never will. What I have done is fight it every day. With a left hook here and a jab there I have accomplished so much more than I ever imagined.”

The bubbly energy is evident in the field trips and interviews she embarks on beyond her kitchen. She enlarges viewers’ appreciation of the sources of food like milk, yogurt, salmon or Golden Syrup. Entertaining are her child’s curiosity and her earnest desire to always learn a successful food-maker’s secret recipe. She is always told firmly that the secret is only limited to less than 10 trusted persons.

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the food business severely. Many entrepreneurs have had to reinvent themselves, relying on take-out or delivery to keep everything going. The few dine-in restaurants that are still open and observing social distancing and other such health protocols are hardly breaking even.

And yet, food is basic to human existence. As local government units have discovered, if they don’t act swiftly, hunger stares their constituents in the face. People have also taken to vegetable gardening in the few urban spaces they can find with the increase in costs of fresh ingredients because of the difficulty of transporting them during the quarantine.

That is why Nadiya’s Time to Eat is such a refreshing program—it harks back to the recent and simple times and days when it was “easy-peasy” (the host’s favorite phrase) to source food from the public market or the grocery without quarantine passes.

With her primary taste testers, her children

The most enjoyable episode in the series is the last, “Summer Feasts,” wherein Hussain cooks for her discriminating family and friends in an outdoor picnic. Featured fare are a kiwi-feta salad, roast lamb and éclair pops, that last reflecting the colors of flowers at the height of their bloom. Those who partook of her food had nothing but joy and satiation on their faces.

It was saddening to reach the end of the series. One’s hope is that Hussain will return for another season of food, travel and everyday kindness.

Following is one of her recipes for Egg Rolls sourced from the BBC, her show producer:

Ingredients

6 free-range eggs

1 tbsp dried parsley

1 tsp garlic granules

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

oil, for frying

6 small tortilla wraps

85g/3oz sliced black olives (drained weight from 185g/6½oz jar)

100g/3½oz fresh, frozen or tinned button mushrooms, sliced (optional), defrosted if frozen

6 tsp sun-dried tomato paste

Method

  1. Crack the eggs into a bowl, then add the parsley, garlic granules, salt and pepper, and give everything a good mix.
  2. Put a small frying pan over a medium heat, and drizzle in two teaspoons of oil. Take the time at this stage to peel the tortillas away from each other.
  3. Put the olives into a bowl, and the sliced mushrooms, if using, in another bowl, and have both nearby. Pour 3 tablespoons of the egg mixture into the pan – the eggs should sizzle, but if they don’t, turn the heat up a little.
  4. Scatter a few olive slices and mushrooms onto the wet egg mix.
  5. Take a tortilla wrap and spread it with a teaspoon of sun-dried tomato paste. Quickly put the tortilla on top of the egg, paste-side down. While the wrap and egg are cooking, get the next wrap ready and spread with the paste.
  6. Using the back of a slotted spatula, press the top of the tortilla to help distribute the egg under the wrap. Cook for no more than 30 seconds, then, as soon as the egg has glued itself to the tortilla, flip over and cook on the other side just to warm it through for another 30 seconds.
  7. Take the pan off the heat and put the tortilla/egg on a plate. Roll the whole thing when it is cool enough to touch. Do the same with the rest of the wraps until the egg is used up. Serve.

Recipe Tips

This dish freezes well. Wrap any leftovers in cling film and pop them into the freezer. When you are ready to eat the leftovers, leave to thaw in the fridge.

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