I’m probably one of the very few who purchased this cookbook without having ever actually SEEN the Great British Bake-Off or Nadiya on the small screen…chalk that up to several overseas moves and the last couple of years without a TV or cable. However, I was intrigued by the snippets of information out about her debut cookbook, and decided to preorder from the UK. Despite the lack of TV, I regularly follow the careers of former GBBO contestants and own cookbooks by several, including the excellent “Crumb” by Ruby Tanoh (one of my blog’s top cookbooks of 2014) and Edd Kimber (“The Boy Who Bakes”).
I love a good curry (Meera Sodha’s books are some of my favorites), but due to a hectic work/life balance, I really fall for doable, delicious recipes with easy results, and “Nadiya’s Kitchen” delivers on both counts. Nadiya grew up in a British Bangladeshi family in Luton, where she taught herself to cook from cookbooks and YouTube videos. In 2015, she was chosen to appear on Great British Bake-Off and won. An audience favorite, Nadiya now has a spinoff BBC documentary “The Chronicles of Nadiya” as well as several book deals (“Nadiya’s Kitchen,” the children’s book / cookbook “Bake Me A Story,” as well as her first novel).
In her first cookbook, Nadiya collects familiar (British) favorites like the Full English (here presented as a frittata), meat pies, and cherry Bakewell with a hefty dose of the international (chilli cheese burritos, gnocchi with cheese, pine nuts and rocket, grilled halloumi with pomegranate salsa, kofta kebab, Asian-inspired seafood) as well as Indian and Bengali fare (meat samosas, korma, curry, kedgeree). True to her word, many recipes do come together quickly and are fairly simple. Thanks to the detailed step-by-step photographs for more involved recipes, even novice cooks can turn out a delicious dinner.
The chapters are arranged by theme rather than meal (teatime, dessert for dinner, dinner date, cosy evenings and midnight feasts, etc.), so it may take a bit of flipping to locate the recipe or type of dish you’re looking for.
For this review, I made several recipes from “Nadiya’s Kitchen” including the showstopping oven-roasted sweet tomato and Parmesan tart, mustard and kale mac and cheese, quick boiled egg curry, and sour cherry and almond Bundt cake. The tomato Parmesan tart has you essentially candy cherry tomatoes with a touch of sugar, balsamic and olive oil. If pressed for time, an all-butter refrigerated pie crust can be substituted for the homemade one. You first blind bake the crust before layering with half the tomatoes and adding a rich cheese-enhanced custard (I also added some sprigs of fresh thyme to add a little extra flavor). This was absolutely lovely served with a simple green salad (and I actually prefer eating it cold rather than warm).
Next up was the quick boiled egg curry. I usually have a surplus of hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator (I steam them in batches in my rice cooker), and am always looking for new ways to use them, so I loved the idea of adding them to a curry. You start by cooking down tomatoes, onion, and spices into a dry paste, then frying up the eggs separately. Two observations here: first, the amount of paste hardly seems generous enough for six eggs / several servings if you like your curry a bit heartier / saucier (I ended up with maybe 1.5 cups of sauce after cooking down, which would yield 1/4 cup per person if serving six as Nadiya recommends). Second, I had less success with frying up the eggs. You’re supposed to score them then crisp in oil, but mine browned unevenly and didn’t result in the crisp “shell” shown. I ended up using peeled hardboiled eggs and mixing them into the curry, and loved the final result.
The mustard and kale mac and cheese was a great update on a beloved classic; I added some panko breadcrumbs to the top as I love crunchy mac and cheese! If you can’t find Coleman’s mustard powder in your neck of the woods, French mustard or Japanese mustard powder is a respectable substitute. Kale being a tougher green, it froze and reheated beautifully and didn’t turn slimy or mushy on reheating.
And as Nadiya is primarily known as a baker, how do the selection of baked goods hold up? The first recipe I tried was the sour cherry and almond Bundt, and it was every bit as gorgeous as the photo. My coworkers loved the balance of cherries and subtle hint of almond (the recipe uses both almond flour, although not entirely gluten-free, as well as almond extract). The crumb was moist and the cake held up well through several days of snacking.
There are also recipes for mocha macarons, homemade candy (peanut, black sesame and ginger brittle, chocolate-dipped honeycomb, candied orange peel, guava Turkish delight, salted pretzel fudge, speculoos hazelnut truffles), cookies galore (candied lemon, coconut and strawberry Anzacs, chocolate and date, matcha and milk chocolate), chocolate and hazelnut profiteroles, chocolate and star anise fondants, pavlovas and cream pies, nutmeg and orange baked cheesecake, raspberry jam puddle brownies, and a recipe for Her Majesty’s Cake.
From comfort food (hello, mushroom, cheese and mustard croissants!) to more elegant fare (fresh sea bass fennel ceviche, crusted rack of lamb with aubergine bortha, crispy filo with seared tuna), “Nadiya’s Kitchen” offers something for everyone, from beginning cooks to the more experienced.