It’s our last day in Puglia, and the flight home isn’t till the evening. We have a day to kill, and there’s only one way to kill it – lunch.
The flight is from Bari and as we are not familiar with this big sprawling town we decide that it would be madness to spend any time there. So we plan to enjoy our last few hours in the nearby small town of Polignano a Mare, which is built rather spectacularly on limestone cliffs. This is a good decision, as it turns out. Our next good decision is to eat at Osteria dei Mulini.
For starters I had mussel soup. It was good, but I expected that. Better still was the mixed seafood grill which in Puglia I’d say is always a safe bet. For starters, Mr Cross had a squid ink pasta, or troccoli con nero di seppia. We rarely have pasta at home so he was getting as much down his neck as he could during this holiday.
This is not the most visually appealing of dishes – it looks like pasta made from tar – but it has a lovely, subtle sea flavour that lends itself well to pasta and risotto. I confirmed this, for the purposes of research, by mopping up the leftovers with a bit of bread.
So what is this weird black stuff? Cephalopod ink, to be technical, is a black liquid released by the squid, or cuttlefish (both are cephalopods) to scare off predators. The colour is due to the main constituent, melanin.
What’s really interesting about squid ink is that it has been shown, in studies, to have potent anti-cancer properties. This had already been established before 2000, but research that year found the component tyrosinase to exhibit anti-tumour activity. Later, in 2010, it was reported that a compound called sulphated polysaccharide had been isolated from squid ink and which also demonstrated an ability to inhibit tumour cell growth. The scientists involved in the research described this polysaccharide as a potential candidate compound for the prevention of tumour metastasis, the spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another. This clearly is an exciting area for further research, and let’s hope more is forthcoming.
In the meantime, I’ve remembered that we’ve got some squid ink in the cupboard at home, purchased during a previous visit to Italy. I resolve to find a way of using this ingredient – perhaps a seafood stir-fry.
As I mopped up Mr Cross’s leftovers (creating my Pollock, no?) I congratulated myself on getting through ten days in Italy without eating any bread (apart from that bit) or pasta. No pizza or risotto either. You can do an awful lot of carb-based damage in ten days and I was determined not to gain any weight. At the same time, I was determined to eat as much as I wanted, and lord knows I put back quite a bit of volume. Once home, I discovered that I was exactly the same weight as before I started my Pugliese eat-off. I put this down to avoiding refined carbohydrates, and eating most of my main meals at lunch-time, with just a light salad or some cold meat or cheese in the evening. In a previous post I discussed the evidence that timing of meals can be as important as what you eat, if you want to avoid weight gain. I am happy to confirm that it’s all true, and that if you fancy a holiday where sun, sea, beautiful towns and excellent food come as standard, Puglia’s the place for you.
Naraoka, T. et al (2000)Tyrosinase activity in antitumor compounds of squid ink. Food Science and Technology Research, 6(3):171-175
Chen, S. et al (2010) Sulfation of a squidink polysaccharide and its inhibitory effect on tumor cell metastasis. Carbohydrate Polymers, 81(3):560-566