Nadiya Hussain, 30, won The Great British Bake Off in 2015. She lives in Milton Keynes with her husband Abdal and their three children. A columnist for The Times and Essentials, and a regular reporter for The One Show on BBC One, she loves to bake and to write. She is inspiring a new generation of bakers with her children’s recipe and storybook, Nadiya’s Bake Me A Story.

With the more savoury flavours being a big feature of mealtimes in Bangladeshi culture, did it affect the way you first approached baking, and the flavours you preferred? When I was young, I spent a lot of time cooking but my curiosity about baking began when I went to high school and began food studies classes. I have always enjoyed classic baking and learning the different skill sets of each type of bake, for example, different methods of making cake, meringues, buttercreams, pastry and so on. Only recently did I start experimenting and taking influences from all other parts of the world and incorporating it into my baking and cooking.

Bake Off has clearly set you off on a big adventure – how did it feel to make the Queen’s 90th birthday cake? What an honour to bake the Queen’s 90th birthday cake; something that will stay with me forever. I did a lemon drizzle cake for Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in the final of Bake Off and I wanted to do something classic but with a twist and so went for a twist and used orange instead. I added the orange marmalade because marmalade is not just for toast! It added a great zing to the overall cake. I was so anxious about the whole experience though – how can you make the Queen’s cake? When I got the email from my agent I thought someone was pranking me. It all happened so quickly and I was just kind of left scratching my head thinking I just made a cake for the Queen! The Queen and Prince Philip loved that it was orange drizzle not a fruit cake which I was so pleased about.

Going back to your school days, how did your home economics teacher inspire you? We did classics like rough puff pastry, scones and syrup sponges. I never used an oven at home and so when I was at school it was a novelty, and it often felt like magic, watching ingredients getting mixed up, tucked away and then out they came as a warm cake! My teacher encouraged us to be the best we can be and I always left her class with a spring in my step, smelling like butter and sugar – which is never a bad thing. Not much has changed!

You’ve said that your food heroes are Rick Stein, Nigel Slater and Rachel Khoo. What did you learn from meeting Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood on GBBO? It was my first experience meeting celebrity bakers. These guys are legends in their field and great at what they do. It was daunting meeting them but their support near the end was invaluable. What I learnt about them was they are not as scary as they seem.

Your chief tasters are your children, you say. How would you improve school meals to cater for children’s tastes and to instill a love of healthy eating? I think school meals lack flavour. I only recently had something to eat at a school and, as well thought out as the meal was, it didn’t taste of very much. School meals can be improved by adding a little more seasoning, added spices and herbs. All of these things should help to enhance all the goodness that is already there.

What have you seen in pubs and restaurants that stands out for you in terms of making children feel excited about eating? How do you think they could cater better for children? I love that most restaurants cater for children, but often I find the menus are so different to the adult menu, in terms of choice and flavour. I feel that restaurants should offer the same menu to children but just a smaller portion size.

What did you enjoy most about writing your new book, Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story? Having the idea for Bake Me A Story was the best thing. It was an epiphany moment! My kids are massive readers; they’ve always got a book in their hands and they love being read to. They pester me in the kitchen while I’m cooking and that’s when the idea came to me – what if I wrote a book that stays in the kitchen with stories that are matched with recipes. I’m so glad to have been able to involve my kids in the process. They’re in the book with me.

Having lived in Luton and Leeds, and being a Muslim ‘celebrity’ chef, have you found that you’ve inspired people across different cultures and backgrounds? It’s really nice to see that my background, paired with the win, can inspire so many different people. What has really stunned me, I have to say, is how much it has inspired the younger generation to get in the kitchen. I have met many parents who have said that I have inspired their younger children to get in the kitchen. Now to me that feels like the biggest achievement.

What are your top secrets for brilliant bakes? Always pre-heat the oven and always make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature – I always leave everything out the night before. Absolutely always follow the recipe.

And now for three questions that we ask all of our Leading Lights…

1. What are your three kitchen secrets?

i) My first is that I always make two of every recipe and freeze the second batch – it saves time for the days when I’m in a rush.

ii) Secondly, I label everything. Literally everything. This makes baking and cooking so much easier when I can see exactly what I have in the house. Otherwise I end up spending so much money on ingredients I already have.

iii) My third secret is my oven thermometer.

2. What is your favourite ingredient and why? One of my favourite ingredients would have to be pink peppercorns. They are sweet, spicy and aromatic. They work so well with stir fries and even chocolate.

3. Please could you share your favourite recipe, along with your reasons for choosing it? My favourite recipe from the book would have to be the blueberry and orange soda bread. It takes all the laborious stages out of bread baking and makes for a quick and easy bread recipe that works so well warm, with lashings of butter. Click here to try the recipe for yourself!

Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story | 8th September | Hardback | £14.99 | Hodder Children’s Books – See Country Club (page 26) for your chance to win one of two signed copies.

Click here to read the rest of the September 2016 issue of Stir it up