Salmon with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

SERVES 2

We all know that what we eat affects how we feel, and vice versa. But how can we eat for our emotional wellbeing on a daily basis? Food Editor Emma Winterschladen explores how good-mood foods can help us navigate the ebb and flow of our emotions.

Although we all have different foods that make us feel better when we’re sad, there are certain foods that can help improve our mood on a chemical level. For example, the essential amino acid tryptophan – found in eggs, nuts, seeds, cheese, fish, oats, beans and lentils – is vital in helping keep the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin at healthy, happy levels. Likewise, if we’re feeling angry or stressed, a little bit of good-quality dark chocolate can help by releasing endorphins and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. Low levels of selenium and omega-3 have also been linked with significantly greater rates of depression and other negative mood states, such as anxiety, confusion and hostility. So, by enjoying oily fish and snacking on Brazil nuts (which offer a third of a woman’s RDA of selenium per nut), we can help regulate moods from the inside out.

Another piece of mood-boosting advice is to eat greens. Studies have shown that increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, particularly those dense in folic acid, such as dark leafy greens, broccoli and asparagus, can lead to improvements in our psychological wellbeing. A study in 2016 of more than 12,000 people found that over a period of 24 months, eating more fruit and vegetables (up to eight portions a day) increased life satisfaction and happiness by 0.24 points (the equivalent of moving from unemployment to employment).

Ingredients

For the pesto

  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 leaves basil
  • 1⁄2 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan

For the dish

  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 2 large salmon fillets, skin dried
  • 1 sweet potato, cut into medium-sized cubes
  • 100g Swiss chard

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/ gas mark 5. To make the pesto, add all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until a rough paste has formed. Season well to taste, then scoop out the pesto and add to a bowl.

2. Parboil the sweet potatoes in salted water for approx. 5-7 minutes. Drain well and spread out the chunks evenly on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pop in the oven for approx. 30 minutes, adding in the Swiss chard and a little more olive oil and seasoning for the final ten minutes – until the sweet potatoes are golden and the Swiss chard is crispy.

3. While the sweet potato and Swiss chard is finishing cooking, heat up some butter or olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add in the salmon fillets skin-side down and cook for three minutes until the skin is crispy. Finish off for another minute or so on the other side.

4. Serve the salmon with the roasted sweet potatoes and Swiss chard, and a dollop of the pumpkin seed pesto.