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Courier Life Food

Cooking with colour: turmeric and squid ink

Pigments – which work by absorbing certain wavelength of light and, unlike dyes, don’t dissolve in water – traditionally come from biological sources. Here, two London chefs use bright turmeric and slick squid ink to create two pigment-packed dishes.

11 Apr 2017

Scallop bhel puri with yellow and white turmeric

by Rohit Ghai, Jamavar

Turmeric powder, packed with the lurid orange pigment ‘curcumin’, is often considered to be more about the colour than the taste.

That’s because, according to Rohit Ghai of Jamavar, a high-end Indian joint on Mayfair’s Mount Street, we’ve often been using the wrong kind. For this dish, alongside powdered yellow turmeric, Ghai uses fresh white turmeric, which has a mango-like flavour and looks more like ginger. It’s called ‘amber haldi’ in most Indian stores.

The fresh turmeric root has a delicate flavour that isn’t overpowered by the mildly sweet scallops. Puffed rice and chickpea noodles add texture, while a sticky tamarind sauce brings a final punch to the bhel puri.

Turmeric also has its uses outside of the kitchen. It’s touted as having super medicinal qualities, and can be used for anything from heartburn to joint pain. In ancient times, turmeric was used by Buddhists to dye their gowns gold.

Squid ink bolognese

by Ben Marks, Perilla

Cephalopods (the collective name for tentacled sea creatures) produce an ink that’s highly pigmented with melanin.

Each creature’s ink is a different shade: sea hares send out plumes of fluorescent magenta liquid, while ink from the cuttlefish is a brown shade. Octopus ink is black. Here, Perilla’s head chef Ben Marks uses squid ink to impart a rich blue-black colour on the dish.

The ink can be harvested from a fresh squid, but it’s also possible to find jars and single-serve sachets, imported to the UK from Spain.

The use of squid ink in cooking isn’t just for dramatic effect: it’s high in iron and glutamic acid, meaning it has a strong umami flavour and pairs well with other rich foods, like truffles. Here, Marks has used minced cuttlefish, pancetta and agretti (a spaghetti-like vegetable) to make a twist on bolognese.

A zingy squeeze of lemon punches through the umami and smoky pancetta flavours.

This story is taken from Courier Apr/May 2017.