Food to make you happy, Part 2: Miso Mackerel with a Warm Spicy Aubergine Salad

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My last post was the first of a three-part mini series looking at the physiological phenomena that is stress’, and what wonderous and vile things it does to the body. In my last entry I hoped to explained the cause and effect of negative emotion, what physically happens to the human body when we react badly to an adverse situation, and what foods can be eaten to help restore and create a balance. The message is simple and honest; health and well-being can be achieved by eliminating certain foods from our diet and replacing them with better ones; by eating natural, unrefined, unprocessed whole foods, we can actually support every system in the body, helping it to function optimally and relieve symptoms of stress and ill-health.

So it’s all about choosing foods that keep us calm and happy and avoiding the ones that and deplete us. My gorgeous Baked French Toast from the previous post is a great example of stress fighting food. It’s made with a multi grain loaf containing millet, linseed and rye which help to slow down the release of sugar into the blood stream, keeping our stress levels in check.

Another fantastic alternative to artificial sweetener and one of my new favourite ingredients in the whole wide world is agave syrup. It has a low Gi, preventing the usual psychosis induced by refined sugars AND it can help to keep our waist a healthy width.

I used it generously in my previous post to sweeten my Warm Raspberry Compote and Seed and Nut Brittle, I actually ended up adding it to last nights mashed potatoes and afterwards smothering the free range chicken with it before throwing it into the oven! It’s just so damn versatile….

In this post I want to introduce some more new and exciting ingredients that will help stave off stress while adding new dimension to your culinary repertoire. The main ingredient in this recipe is one of our most significant superfoods, caught and sold in Ireland, and available to buy in most fishmongers for about a euro; Fresh Irish mackerel. I picked mine up this morning in The Market, in Beshoffs of Howth. This is a great little eatery, they have really fresh produce and are always extremely helpful!

The nutritional benefits of eating mackerel are enormous; it prevents cardiovascular disease, strengthens the immune system, improves organ function and regulates metabolism. It’s our number one source of Omega-3 fatty acids, also found in flax and sunflower seeds. This Essential Fatty Acid improves the functioning of the nervous system, regulates hormonal imbalances such as PMT, relieves attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, even depression!

This wonderous fish also contains large quantities of Magnesium; 85mg, in every 100g of mackerel, this mineral is an EFA helper which means that it improves the absorption of omega-3 fatty acid into the system. Magnesium is also essential for energy production and hormonal regulation and is widely prescribed as a supplement to individuals with depression and insomnia.

I’m serving my mackerel with a Warm Spicy Aubergine Salad, a side dish that goes beautifully with oily fish. Aubergine is now in season and available to buy in farmers markets all over the country. They are a great source of B-complex vitamins and contain lots of dietary fiber which is essential for healthy digestion. They also contain many minerals such as manganese, copper, iron and potassium as well as phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid which protect us against free radicals.

I’m using two variety of aubergine in my dish; ‘black beauty’ have a smooth, dark, glossy skin and are widely available in supermarkets all over the country. The second variety is not so common but can be found in farmers markets nationwide; they are sometimes refered to as the ‘graffiti’ aubergine and are smaller than their contemporaries with a wider base and pinky purple skin streaked with white, really pretty and really tasty.

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray
Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray
Prep/cooking time: 90 minutes
Serves: 4

♥ Warm Spiced Aubergine Salad


  • 3 large aubergines
  • 50ml rapeseed oil
  • 1 chilli, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 tsp of fennel seeds
  • 4 cloves of garlic peels and finely chopped
  • 3cm cube of ginger, grated
  • 100ml rice wine vinegar
  • 100ml mirin
  • 3 tbsp soya sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • handful of coriander, chopped
  • 4 spring onions chopped


  1. Cut the aubergine into 2cm cubes and sprinkle generously with salt.
  2. Double over some kitchen towel and lay the salted aubergine on top, leave for 20 minutes.
  3. Pre heat the oven to 200C
  4. Remove all the moisture from the aubergine, place in a large baking dish, then toss in 25ml of rapeseed oil.
  5. Roast in a pre heated oven for 40 minutes. Give them a good mix every 10/15 minutes to ensure they dont burn.
  6. Heat the remaining rapeseed oil on a low heat in a large frying pan and add the ginger, chilli, garlic and fennel. fry for 5 minutes ensuring they don’t burn.
  7. Add the roasted aubergine to the pan and mix well.
  8. Combine the mirin, vinegar, soya and seseame into  a little bowl, mix and add to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  9. Serve with some chopped coriander and spring onion.
♥ Grilled Miso Mackerel
  • 4 whole mackerel, gutted, do not cut off the head and tail
  • 3 tbsp of miso paste
  • 100ml of mirin
  • 2 tbsp of agave syrup


  1. Using a sharp knife, score the mackerel and both sides, .5cm deep should do it.
  2. Heat the mirin in a small frying pan, when it starts to boil, turn down the heat and add the agave syrup, mix well.
  3. Gently whisk in the miso paste and allow the marinade to cool down to room temperature.
  4. Next, rub the fish inside and out with the marinade, and leave to sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Once the fish is infused with the flavours from the marinade, pre heat the grill to the maximum temperature. This dish requires the grill to be piping hot!
  6. Place the fish under the grill for 3 minutes, turn and do the other side for another 3 minutes until the skin is charred.
  7. Remove from the grill and serve with the Warm Spiced Aubergine Salad.

TIP: Things to look out for when buying fresh mackerel; the eyes should appear bright and clear and the gills should be clean. Fresh mackerel will also have moist, translucent flesh. If in doubt, ask your fishmonger, failing that; use your nose! When you get home, remove the fish from the bag, wash under cold water and place on a plate. Cover with foil and refrigerate in the coldest part until your ready to cook it!

TIP 2: I used Clearspring Organic Japanese Brown Rice Miso, Clearspring Japanese Rice Mirin and Clearspring Japanese Toasted Sesame Oil. Probably because I spend far too much time in health food shops but mainly because it’s as close to nature as your going to get. They use the highest quality ingredients that have gone through minimal processing to ensure great tasting products. I highly recommend them BUT there are plenty of very suitable alternatives that can be picked up in any supermarket so feel free to substitute any of the above with whatever is handy!

As always, enjoy enjoy enjoy x


Food to make you happy, part 1: Baked French Toast and Warm Raspberry Compote with a Seed and Nut Brittle

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Physical anomalies like lethargy, back pain and brain fatigue are an habitual experience for a large percentage of the Irish population and are routinely disregarded as common place. It’s only when other symptoms present such as shortness of breath, weight fluctuation, insomnia, headaches and even more alarming, reduced libido that we begin piecing things together…..STRESS has become Ireland’s neoteric epidemic and if left unchecked can contribute to far more serious and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes!

I can’t remember where I read this, but I repeat it often to remind myself of our personal responsibility to how we feel; “All situations are neutral, its how we respond to them that counts”. If we react negatively to a situation our body will respond accordingly; signals stimulate the adrenal glands to produce adrenalin; our fight or flight antagonist. Immediately, stores of glucose are released into the blood resulting in increased heart rate and rapid breathing putting huge demands on our heart and lungs, even our pancreas and liver are distracted from their regular maintenance to produce insulin and glucagon to help control the blood sugar racing around our system. This can actually happen ten or twenty times a day, depending on your ability to deal with stressful situations……no wonder everyone is soooooo exhausted!!

So if your one of the many now suffering from either adrenal exhaustion or chronic bouts of brain fatigue, please read on: some of the solution is in the food we eat; nourish the mind and heal the body people. ♥

My first recipe in this series of stress busting antidotes is Baked French Toast and Warm Raspberry Compote with a Seed and Nut Brittle: Yummy!

This recipe is a brunch must, not only because it taste gorgeous, but because it’s so good for you! The compote is made from fresh raspberries which I believe are mother natures sugar; they are flagrantly sweet with a subtly tart overtone which pairs beautifully with baked french toast. The bread is jam-packed full of linseed, millet, poppy-seeds and rye; this combination of seeds and grains will ensure the slow release of sugar into the blood, which means you will feel fuller for longer, therefore less hungry! My brittle recipe is an elite blend of brown linseed, blanched almonds, chopped walnuts and hazel nuts; adding these ingredients to any meal will not only support digestion and prevent weight gain but also provide you with the all important EFS’s; essential fatty acids. These little gems are reported to improve intelligence, reduce aggression and enhance mood…ahhhh serenity at last!

The sweetener chosen for this recipe is Agave. Agave syrup is a real sugar, unrefined and untreated. It is produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico,  and is a storeroom favourite among foodies trying to reduce their glycemic load.

Gi is a modern concept and was developed by Dr. David J. Jenkins in the early 80’s while researching the relationship between food and diabetes. The glycemic index is a clever way of measuring the relative impact of foods on blood sugar levels. ‘High’ Gi foods release quickly into the blood stream, triggering the release of the hormone insulin. ‘Low’ Gi foods, such as agave are slow releasing which provide sweetness without the unpleasant “sugar rush”.

It’s all genius if you ask me, I follow a Gi diet more by default as I simply prefer whole foods to refined ones. Where it has helped me, is understanding the simply chemistry behind the food we eat and its impact on our health and wellbeing; making better food choices can change how we look, how we function and how we feel…so go on, get happy, make yourself some french toast this weekend x

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray
Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray
Prep/cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4

Baked French Toast


  • 5 freerange eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 thick slices of multi grain bread
  • Zest of 1 orange


  1. Beat together the eggs, milk, and cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Whisk in the orange zest and pour the mixture into a shallow bowl.
  3. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, allowing each slice to soak up some of the mixture. (5 minutes per slice).
  4. Pre heat the fan oven at 180C.
  5. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lightly spray with sunflower oil.
  6. Lay the soaked bread on the parchment paper and place into the oven for 20minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and serve with warm raspberry compote and seed and nut brittle (see recipes below).
Warm Raspberry Compote


  • 200g (7oz) of fresh raspberries, rinsed
  • 3 tbsp agave
  • 100ml of water
  • Juice of ½ lemon


  1. Combine the agarve and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring continuously until the syrup has completely dissolved.
  2. Add the lemon juice and raspberries to the saucepan and cook for a further 2 minutes on a low heat until the compote has a syrup consistency.
Seed and Nut Brittle


  • 4 tbsp agave
  • ½ cup of brown linseed
  • 1 cup of  blanched almonds and coarsely chopped hazel nuts and walnuts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Zest of 1 orange


  1. Combine ½ the agave and the linseed into a bowl, mix until well coated.
  2. Add remaining nuts, cinnamon, salt, and orange zest.
  3. Add the remainder of the agarve and mix well.
  4. Spread mixture on the parchment paper (1/2 inch deep) and bake in the middle of the oven at 180C for 15 minutes.
  5. Check after 7/8min that it’s not burning, rotate parchment paper if it is browning too much on one side.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool. Don’t worry if the brittle doesn’t seem set, it will become crunchy goodness 10 minutes out of the oven.
  7. When set, peel off and break over the baked french toast and raspberry compote.

TIP: Store the remaining brittle in an air tight jar, but be warned, it will not last long. Combine with yogurt (Glenilen Farm if you can…totally addictive) and muslie in the morning, or if in a rush, just grab a handful and eat on the run!

I hope you enjoy this recipe, I know I loved making it and as always, the eating of it!

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