Did you know “happy food” is a thing? Honestly, it is. I first became aware of how happy food could make me when I was a kid. No matter how busy my parents were we always had a proper home-cooked meal, made from scratch. My memory might be hazy but I’m sure Tuesday nights were my favourite. I can remember being at after-school club, looking forward to my mum picking me up, coming home and getting into my pyjamas to watch Changing Rooms on the telly and eat my dad’s home-cooked Arabian Chicken.
Now I’m a mum myself I feel like I’m winning if I manage to pull one of our own family favourites out of the bag during the week. In between ballet lessons, after-school clubs and homework the mid-week meal can sometimes become an afterthought, but with a bit of planning and the trusty slow-cooker this needn’t be so. At seven and two, my girls are already firm believers in the soothing effects of “happy food” and have their own favourites, so to surprise them with one of these on a Wednesday night instantly wins me some mum points.
As a family we tend to either grow a lot of our own veg at home or to buy organic, mainly because I like the fact you know what you’re getting for your money – i.e. no added chemicals or scary things you can’t pronounce. Organic food is always free range, uses fewer pesticides, no artificial colours and preservatives, no routine use of antibiotics and contains no GM ingredients. I remember being about fifteen when my mum bought our first pack of organic carrots and something she said must have stuck with me because I’ve been choosing organic where possible ever since. For me, an organic home-cooked meal is the ultimate happy food.
This month the Organic Trade Board is asking what your “happy food” is, and looking for people to share their own happiest meals using the hashtag #FeedYourHappy. My all-time radio crush Sara Cox has also got involved, sharing her own organic happiest meal here (warning – it will make your mouth water):
Anyway, one of our favourite meals – a former weekend “treat tea” that’s since been promoted to mid-week meal – is slow-cooked beef brisket. It takes about ten minutes to prepare, eight hours to cook and approximately five minutes to eat. But those five minutes are five minutes of total joy.
We used a cut of beef brisket from The Well Hung Meat Company for this meal, who source all their meat from certified organic farmers in Devon, using traditional and sustainable farming methods. All the animals have been grass fed and the meat is butchered using artisan methods by a team of skilled butchers, before it’s delivered to your door. You can totally tell.
Slow-Cooker Beef Brisket
What you need (all ingredients are organic, where possible):
- Beef brisket joint
- Manuka honey – 2 tbsp
- Dijon mustard – 2 tbsp
- Balsamic vinegar – 2 tbsp
- Brown sugar – 1 tbsp
- Olive oil – 3 tbsp
- 1 clove of crushed garlic
First of all sear the beef joint in a hot pan with a splash of olive oil. Each side shouldn’t cook for more than around a minute – the idea is to seal the beef rather than actually cook it. Once seared, transfer to the slow cooker. Next up it’s the marinade. Mix together all the other ingredients in a bowl and drizzle over the meat in the slow cooker. I like to move the meat around and rub the mixture into it so it really gets stuck in. Finally, season with salt (I like pink Himalayan sea salt) and black pepper. Cook on the low setting for eight hours and it’s job done.
The meat will come out soft, tender and breaking apart – a bit like a joint of pulled pork before you actually “pull” it. Slice into pieces and serve with your choice of sides. We veer between homemade coleslaw or steamed veggies and roast potatoes with plenty of thyme and salt and pepper – the ultimate treat.
Because this meal is so quick to prepare you can literally throw the ingredients together in between the usual chaotic school morning routine, leave it to cook all day then serve it up in the evening, pretending you’ve spent hours slaving over a hot stove. It’s a brilliant way to pep up the mid-week spirits on hump day and will always guarantee cleared plates in our house.
Of course, when it’s all gone and there’s no seconds you have to be prepared for a protest (in our case this always involves a toddler attempting to climb on the table – does this happen in your house too?!)…
Now, tell me, what’s your happiest meal? Any other treat mid-week meal ideas I can add to my repertoire? I’m looking for new ideas to get out of the rut now we’re back into the routine of school and work!
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