I often talk about something called “happy food” with my boys in the kitchen because I strongly believe that by presenting a beautiful, colourful, fresh and delicious plate of food to our guests at the restaurants, we will directly affect their happiness on so many levels. Most of my team just smile and think that I’m slightly mad and while that may well be true…there are plenty of scientific studies that have proved that by making the right food choices we can significantly improve our moods and mental state of mind throughout the day.
In fact, many different types of foods have been shown to improve our happiness levels and so-called “happy foods” affect us physiologically because they contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals that impact the production and release of serotonin, the neurotransmitter scientists believe is largely responsible for fostering feelings of happiness. Comfort foods from our childhood also have a psychological benefit. For example, if Mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies or pancakes cheered you up as a kid, replicating her recipe will likely be a mood-booster on a down day, thanks to the happy memories associated with the treat.
But its not just comfort foods and fruits and vegetables that boost your mood, resent studies have also established a link between low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and depression. Omega-3 is found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and nuts. It is an essential fatty acid also known to boost brain function. Avocados are also high in omega 3 and omega 6. In fact, you can get all the omega 3 you need from daily avocado consumption.
For me, Happy food is about eating well in general and enjoying all types of foods. By that I mean eating a good range of fruits, vegetables, meat or non-meat protein sources, seeds, nuts, oils and herbs and steering clear of processed foods. Basically a good, well balanced diet where you actually cook and eat fresh food everyday.
From a professional kitchen viewpoint, it’s also about colours, flavours and textures. At home you should try to achieve the same in a similar but simpler way…so get cooking and get yourself happy!
Chicken & Avocado wrap with Harrisa Mayonnaise
Ingredients serves 4
4 seeded wraps
2 chicken breasts, sliced at an angle
The juice of ½ lime
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 red chili, finely sliced
4 yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 avocado, halved and stoned
2 sun dried tomatoes, sliced
1 red radish, finely sliced
A few sprigs of rocket leaves
Mix the chicken with the lime juice and garlic.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan then fry the chicken for a couple of minutes until just cooked.
Meanwhile, lightly warm the wraps and make little salads with the rest of the ingredients on top. Add the cooked chicken, roll up and cut in half. Serve with harrisa mayonnaise.
For the Harrisa mayonnaise
2 free-range egg yolks
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
300ml vegetable oil
For the mayonnaise, place the egg yolks, vinegar and mustard into the bowl of a food processor and blend until pale and creamy. With the motor running, pour in enough vegetable oil, in a steady stream, to form a thick mayonnaise. Add 1-2 spoonfuls of the harissa to the mayonnaise. Stir until well combined and season with a little sea salt.