By Shami Radia, Neil Whippey and Sebastian Holmes
Frances Lincoln, £20
Eat Grub cookbook - sells freeze-dried insects. They send me a bag of crickets to get me started and, despite not being squeamish, I am struck by how buggy they are. Their wings get stuck in my teeth.
Thankfully, Eat Grub doesn't shy away from the slightly grotesque nature of its principle ingredient - there are plenty of macro shots of grasshoppers and mealworms. And it's great. If Eat Grub seeks to normalise the eating of insects to help minimise our reliance on farming (the UN Food and Agriculture Organization started advocating entomophagy in 2009), then forcing me to look into their tiny arthropodic eyes is the way to do it. And if you are scared, don't worry - chef Sebastian Holmes, formerly of London restaurants the Begging Bowl and the Smoking Goat, is a safe pair of hands.
The book features plenty of semi-recognisable meals, such as 'sticky' crickets, similar to hoisin duck. After making a caramel-like mixture, I add toasted crickets and serve them with cucumber sticks. The taste? What isn't obscured by the sugary hoisin is full of umami: like prawny Parmesan. There's a notable aftertaste that my fellow diner called 'almost metallic'.
There are numerous recipes where the bug is used as a garnish, like in the tomato soup topped with chili-roasted buffalo worms. Although this doesn't exactly increase a meal's sustainability factor (the recipes featuring both red meat and insects feel odd from an environmental perspective), it does remind me that an insect can be chosen for its complementary flavour rather than because it is ethical protein.
Equally, learning that insects can be ground and used as a flour is a revelation. Whether those who are interested in the gluten-free properties of cricket flour will be put off by the creepy crawly content of their cinnamon cookie is another question, but I'm happy Eat Grub is trying to answer it.
By Suzie McCracken
If you like this, you may enjoy these
- The Insect Cookbook: Food For a Sustainable Planet Arnold Van Huis, Henk Van Gurp and Marcel Dicke
- Eat Like You Give a Damn: Recipes for the New Ethical Vegan Michelle Schwegmann
- The Ethical Meat Handbook: Complete Home Butchery, Charcuterie and Cooking for the Conscious Omnivore Meredith Leigh
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