Props supplied by Tracey Rutherford
A couple of weeks ago I would have freaked out about the thought of eating insects. Sense then I’ve eaten three dishes full of them. Here’s my verdict.
When Harry Potter and his friends visited Hogsmeade for the first time in Prisioner of Azkaban, they stumbled upon one of the most fantastic sweet shops in the wizarding world. While I would have greedily grabbed at the opportunity to sample a Fizzing Whizbee, or the Every Flavour Bean, there was one sweet which absolutely repulsed my twelve-year-old self: it featured fat juicy creepy crawlies enrobed in milk chocolate – the Cockroach Cluster.
Until a week ago, eating insects was something that I would have happily left to reality survival game shows like Survivor. I couldn’t bear to imagine picking up a wriggling worm, then swallowing it all in one mouthful. As far as I was concerned, insects were pests, and any should be plucked off my food well before it reaches my plate.
That was until I visited El Topo Mexican restaurant in Bondi Junction, Sydney, with a group of friends. We were all eager to test our stomachs with their acclaimed starter Chapulines Crickets – roasted with garlic chill and lime. The creepy crawlies arrived at our table in a round silver dish. With grimaces on our faces we tried our first bite, and… they were delicious! Crisp and crunchy, like popcorn, with bursts of garlic and chilli to mask any ‘bugginess’.
When it came time to review the insects from Edible Bug Shop, I didn’t have any butterflies in my stomach. Instead I took to the critters like a chef to a fine cut of venison; wanting to let them shine.
The roasted crickets and mealworms were first. A tight cocoon shape, the crickets were crunchy with a starchy quality, similar to green puy lentils. The mealworms, the larvae of the darkling beetle, were tan in colour like elongated grains of rice. Mostly exoskeleton, they had a faint taste similar to chickpeas. Teamed with baby cos lettuce, avocados and cucumbers they gave the humble garden salad a nice surprise.
The Choc-Coated Critters made eating insects much more appealing because they were almost “invisible”. The chocolate hid the taste, with a great resonating crunch when you bit into the pieces. To all the pastry chefs out there, these insects could make a great alternative to puffed rice. Perhaps they would make great practical jokes for Halloween or April Fools – provided you’re sure no-one has a shellfish allergy as insects are actually quite similar to prawns and crayfish.
I loved the cheekiness of the Edible Bug Shop’s Bug-O-Nut variation of the classic Coconut Rough, with a popping surprise from fly pupae. This would have been the final frontier, but I had eaten all the other insects so I didn’t have anything else to lose. The chocolate was cast into a cute bee-like shape, and biting into it, my palate was filled with the aroma of ripe coconuts and chocolate. I had to double check the wrapper to make sure there were actually bugs within. It really was a delight to eat. Paired with a sweetened cream cheese these fancy bug chocolates do make a surprisingly delicious dessert.
I’m not squeamish about eating insects anymore. It may take a while for society to become accustomed to including them in daily cooking. Of course, the environmental justifications for eating insects completely outweigh any fears I have of trying them. My praise goes to people like Skye Blackburn from the Edible Bug Shop involved in making insect-eating appropriate for twenty-first century taste buds. Insects will no doubt become a valued food source in the future, so my question to you dear reader is this: why not?
Have you ever eaten insects? Are you brave enough to give it a go? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below by clicking the speech bubble in the bottom left hand corner 🙂
Happy Cooking and Keep Smiling,