We all know how the food you eat affects your body physically but have you ever considered the fact that it can affect your emotions too? I’m talking Happy Food here. Not that emergency bag of chocolate buttons or the cream cake that you scoff at four o’clock when you’re having a particularly bad day, but choosing the right kinds of food to increase the production of a mood-boosting messenger called Serotonin. Strictly speaking, Serotonin isn’t found in foods, but it is synthesised from an amino acid that is found in certain foods, namely those high in protein, iron, riboflavin and vitamin B6.
Recently the lovely people from ProperCorn sent me the ingredients and recipe for their Happy Lunch. I’m already a great lover of popcorn, and can highly recommend their flavoured popcorn, and I also enjoy sweetcorn occasionally, but have never considered it as a main ingredient for a meal. However the star of the show in the Happy Lunch is roasted corn on the cob and I can assure you it is absolutely amazing.
The recipe was created in conjunction with Karma Cans and is made up of the perfect balance of ingredients to increase the produtction of mood-enhancing serotonin. According to research into the effect of Serotonin, eating carbohydrates like sweet potato and popcorn can help to alleviate emotional stress and control cravings, which is good news for all of us busy people.
To further increase the nutritional value of the meal I added a can of chickpeas to the salad, which I roasted in the oven for 10 minutes. This isn’t because we’re particularly greedy but because we decided to have the Happy Lunch as our main meal of the day.
Try not to be daunted by the number of ingredients or the process involved – I have to admit the first time I made the lunch it seemed awfully complex, but having made it since I have got to grips with it. It is more than worth the effort involved for such an amazingly flavoursome meal and I found all the chopping, dicing and grating to be quite therapeutic. Plus, if you make a double batch you’ve got some for tomorrow too. If you really don’t fancy making your own and you’re in central London, you can order direct from Karma Cans and they’ll deliver straight to your desk. It’s just a shame they don’t deliver to Cardiff or I’d be ordering from them on a regular basis. As it is, I’ll just have to make my own!
MOOD BOOSTING HAPPY LUNCH RECIPE (serves 2 as a lunch or 1 as a main meal)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp water
salt & pepper
1 small clove garlic, grated
2 each of basil, coriander & parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 red pepper, sliced thickly
8 cherry tomatoes
1 corn on the cob
1 small sweet potato, spiralized (approx 300g)
1/2 ripe avocado
1/2 spring onion, finely sliced
6 handfuls curly kale
zest & juice of a lemon
30g Parmesan, grated
2 pinches chilli flakes
1/2 tsp grated garlic
10 coriander stems, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt & pepper
Dressing: Combine all the ingredients and whisk well. Set aside.
- Peheat the oven to 170C fan.
- Toss the sweet potato in olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Prick the tomatoes and place on a lined baking tray with the peppers and sweet potato and bake for 15 minutes until the potato starts to change colour and soften.
- Remove the sweet potato from the tray and set aside. Toss the tomatoes and peppers in a further tbsp of oil and the red wine vinegar and bake for a further 30 minutes until soft and golden.
- Boil the sweetcorn in a medium sized pot of water for 7-10 minutes until soft and bright yellow. Remove from the pan, minute, then drain and brush lightly with olive oil, season and pop on a heated griddle OR place on a tray in the oven, roasting it lightly until it starts to brown
- Add the kale to the sweet corn water and boil for 1 minute, then drain and set aside.
- Slice the kernels off the corn cob, keeping some in whole chunks.
- Remove the tomatoes & peppers from the oven and place in a large bowl along with the kale and sweet corn (retain a few of the larger chunks), and 1/2 the lemon zest, seasoning to taste, and half the Parmesan.
- Turn the oven up to 200C fan.
- If using, roast the chickpeas for 10 minutes on the tray used for the tomatoes.
- Dress the sweet potato in the rest of the Parmesan, olive oil, chilli flakes and seasoning and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until slightly crisp. Remove and add the last of the lemon zest.
- Add the sweet potato to the rest of the ingredients and combine loosely.
- Plate up the salad, adding sliced avocado and the remaining chunks of sweetcorn, and top with chopped spring onion, coriander stalks and the dressing.
An optional topping is a Spiced Buckwheat Dukkah which I was sent, but which can easily be made and which would be a super addition on top of any salad.
DUKKAH (Makes 8 servings- store leftovers in a jar for up to a month)
1.5 tbsp black rice
½ tbsp buckwheat
½ tbsp hemp seeds
½ tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp walnuts
1 ½ tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper
1. Heat a flat, heavy bottomed pan over a low heat, add the black rice, cover for 15 minutes, shaking every few minutes until the rice starts to pop. Remove the rice, turn the heat up slightly and add the buckwheat.
2. Stir the buckwheat continuously over the heat for around 10 minutes, until the kernels crackle, pop and go brown.
3. Place the seeds in an oven tray and bake for 7 minutes at 180C Fan
4. With a pestle and mortar, grind the cooked rice to a fine powder. Add buckwheat, seeds and all the other ingredients, and grind so they are broken up but not powdered.