I’m hunched over my laptop while the rest of Edinburgh – and many thousands of visitors – are queueing for some of the 2542 different shows on offer during the three weeks of the Edinburgh Fringe. Like the original, more high-brow Edinburgh International Festival, ‘the Fringe’ is part of 11 official festivals that pop up annually in Edinburgh – six during the peak tourism months of August and September. One of my favourites is the Mela, a smaller southeast Asian festival with an international flair. You can watch flamenco, bhangra, African drumming and capoeira while munching on mainly Pakistani and Indian delicacies and waiting for a sari fashion show to start. Multi-culturalism at its most accessible.
But the Fringe – officially the largest arts festival in the world – is arguably the best known and best-loved of all the festivals. Comedy is definitely king in this city but serious and not so-serious theatre, music of all descriptions, poetry readings, children’s shows, cabaret, dance and physical theatre are all here as well. And you can see something almost 24/7 – great if you are jet-lagged and have no idea what time, or even day, it is.
Performers from all over the world come to Edinburgh to make their name
during these three intense, and at times overwhelming, weeks. Perhaps they have been inspired by the likes of Hugh Laurie (House), Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean), Steven Fry (polymath) and Emma Thompson (Oscar-winning actress etc), among many others who were talent spotted in this very city. Even if you never make it to a show (and locals complain bitterly in the local paper about the ‘London prices’) it is a must to at least wander around the Old and New Towns celeb spotting (John Malkovich two days ago) and watching the brilliant (free!) street performers and their eclectic audiences. It’s a real spectator’s paradise too, watching all the Lady Gaga-wannabes, perambulation-challenged fashionistas (which is amusing, as it almost always rains) and the period-costumed performers catching buses and hailing taxis. Maybe when I finish writing this up I will grab my umbrella and go do some celeb-spotting myself. But first, the salmon.
As usual this recipe has not a jot to do with my rambling preamble but I felt it my civic duty to boast of my adopted city’s most famous event. Perhaps I should have found a play about fishermen to highlight. And it would have been very apt if Salman Rushdie was speaking at the Book Festival, but alas he is not.
This is the companion recipe to the Tamarind Prawn Summer Rolls one I featured three posts ago. Mr A and I were in savoury heaven with the combination of these two dishes, even fighting over the remnants of the almond sauce, as I recall. This recipe is less ‘hands-on’ than the former, although both are very easy. Just a little chopping and marinating. I cooked it on a hob-top ridged griddle pan, but I double-checked barbeque directions for those of you who like the outdoor cooking thing – reckon on 3-and-a-half minutes per side, but check here for specific cooking instructions.
Nutrition Notes: Time constraints have put the brakes on exploration of the nutrient goodies that lie within some of my recent recipes’ key ingredients. But today I have some interesting information for you to chew on and consider. I give you the phytochemical powerhouse that is curcumin. The essential fatty acid Omega-3 found in salmon is also a potent compound, but I will save exploration of it for another time. If you can’t wait, here is a good overview from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s excellent ‘About Herbs’ database.
There is so much burgeoning data on curcumin that I will have to limit myself to the highlights. Much of what we know about this exotic compound comes from animal studies and human cell culture studies, so enthusiastic extrapolation is unwise. But caveats aside this looks to be a very promising preventive and therapeutic plant chemical.
Curcumin, one of the main active compounds in the brilliant yellow spice, turmeric, has been used medicinally as far back as 3000 BC. A staple spice in India, turmeric has only in the past 30 years been used more widely in the West, perhaps most notably in multi-cultural Britain where Indian and Pakistani food is popular with all ethnicities. Current scientific interest in curcumin as a cancer-fighting food comes from awareness of its use in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diseases and conditions associated with digestion, the skin, the liver, joints and infections. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties are perhaps the most studied of all its potential benefits. The Chinese use turmeric for similar ailments. As with many plant-based medicinal compounds, the East leads and the West follows.
The anti-cancer action of curcumin is well-established in animal studies and in human cancer cell cultures. Lab findings point to curcumin’s ability to prevent tumours induced by carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) as well tumours that occur spontaneously. It may be that in the not-so-distant future curcumin may be used to help prevent and treat cancers of the stomach, intestine, colon, skin and liver: curcumin’s effects are seen in both the initiation and promotion stages of cancer.
In studies of human cancer cells in the lab, results are just as exciting – curcumin blocked the growth of cells from colon, breast and ovary cancer cells, as well as leukemia cells. This seems to be due to two actions: apoptosis – inducing cancer cell death, and preventing angiogenesis – the formation of new blood vessels. Cancer cells can’t get energy to grow if they don’t have blood vessels. Currently there are four large clinical trials through the US National Institutes of Health looking at curcumin’s effect on pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, colorectal cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Watch this space.
There are a few people who shouldn’t consume turmeric: breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy – animal studies show it can block some drugs; those with liver disease; those undergoing surgery (it thins the blood); and those with bile duct obstruction. A full list of contraindications are listed here, where there is also an excellent overview of this compound.
One last point, and an important one: our absorption of curcumin is greatly enhanced by having it with black pepper. So the next time you make a curry – or even buy one – add some pepper for extra punch, and benefit. There are other interesting ‘culinary synergies’ worth exploring. See my article for further potent food partnerings. If you are really interested in the key foods that may help prevent and treat cancer, I recommend reading Professor Richard Beliveau and Dr Denis Gingras’s book “Foods To Fight Cancer“(DK, 2007). Turmeric is their top spice and oily fish is their top protein.