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The Stylist team take on their very own bush tucker trial

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It might be time to embrace entomophagy (insect eating). High in protein and sustainable, bugs are eaten by 80% of the world's nations. Even legendary chef René Redzepi has included ants on the menu at Noma in Copenhagen and with the authors of new book Eat Grub: The Ultimate Insect Cookbook predicting insects could be as mainstream as sushi in just five to 10 years, four Stylist staffers put their phobias aside to test Eat Grub’s offering…


Roasted tomato and pancetta pizza with cricket flour dough

Roasted tomato and pancetta pizza with cricket flour dough

Serves 2–3

• 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

• 125g cricket flour

• 1 tsp salt

• 1 tbsp caster sugar

• 1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves

• 7g fast action dried (active dry) yeast

• 2 tbsps olive oil

• 225ml warm water, about 45°C

For the topping:

• 400g canned chopped tomatoes

• 2 garlic cloves, chopped

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• 3 tbsps tomato purée

• 6 rashers of pancetta, chopped

• 200g mozzarella cheese, torn up

• 8 vine cherry tomatoes, on the vine

• Handful of rocket 

Method

Step 1: To make the cricket flour, start by dry-roasting the crickets in a pan over a medium heat for about 4–6 minutes, moving them with a spoon regularly. When they turn a golden brown colour, turn off the heat. You then need to make the roasted insects into a powder. You can use a mortar and pestle to grind them, or use a spice grinder to achieve a fine powder. One gram of insects makes one gram of flour, though if you’re measuring them out for a recipe add a few more insects, as you might lose some flour in the grinder. 

Step 2: Next, make the dough. Combine the flours, salt, sugar, rosemary and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in the oil and warm water, then knead together with your hands until everything is combined and the dough is not sticky but soft to the touch. Place the dough in a bowl and wrap in clingfilm, then leave in a warm place for 20–30 minutes.

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Place the rested dough on a lightly floured surface (use cricket flour) and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large circular shape, about 5mm thick, then spread it out on a large pizza pan or tray.

Step 4: Now let’s make the topping. Using a food processor, combine the tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper and tomato puree until smooth. Spread this mixture evenly over the pizza dough then arrange the pancetta, mozzarella and tomatoes on top.

Step 5: Bake in the hot oven for 20–25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve garnished with rocket. This pizza is best eaten straight away. Don’t make it too far in advance as the pizza dough will continue to rise if not used at once.

Stylist's verdict

Art director Natasha Tomalin says: “The pre-roasting of the crickets put me off mainly because of the smell, which was like over-ripe brie. The recipe was easy enough, but the colour of the raw dough was grey – not so appetising. The finished article was more flavoursome and bread-like than normal pizza dough. I don’t think an unknowing dinner guest would be able to tell the difference, but I’m not sold.”


Buffalo worm beef burgers with tomato and lime chutney

Buffalo worm beef burgers with tomato and lime chutney

Serves 2

• 700g chuck steak, minced

• A pinch each of smoked paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper (or replace with Cajun seasoning)

• 3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

• 2 tsps chopped coriander 

• 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

• 1 egg yolk

• 1 tbsp olive oil

• Salt and black pepper, to taste

• 100g buffalo worms

For the tomato and lime chutney:

• 200g tomatoes

• 1 red onion, finely chopped

• 1 red bird’s eye (Thai) chilli, sliced

• 30g sultanas

• 200g dark brown sugar

• Zest and juice of 3 limes

• 100ml malt vinegar

• 150ml red wine

• 1 tsp mixed spice

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 2 tsps minced ginger

• 1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

Method

Step 1: First, get the chutney ready. Chop the tomatoes into rough pieces, then place all the ingredients in a large pan. Lower the heat and cook gently and slowly for about 2 hours, or until the mixture breaks down and becomes syrupy. Allow to cool and then refrigerate.

Step 2: Meanwhile, make the burgers. Place all the burger ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with your hands. It’s best to get stuck in at this point, just to make sure that all the ingredients are fully mixed together. Shape the mixture in metal rings. If you don’t have any then you can shape them into burger shapes with your hands.

Step 3: Cook the burgers in a large frying pan for about 5 minutes on each side then finish under the grill or in the oven until cooked and piping hot throughout. Serve the burgers in a toasted bun with beef tomatoes, lettuce and gherkins and a small ramekin of the tomato and lime chutney, mixed leaves and chips on the side.

Stylist's verdict

Acting beauty editor Natalie Lukaitis says: “I’m Australian and have dabbled in my fair share of bush tucker. That said, I have a phobia of small things in clusters, so landing the worm burger (above) wasn’t ideal. It tasted similar to a regular burger, but with a crunchy texture. Would I recommend it? Only to those seeking a high hit of protein. For everyone else? Stick to Five Guys.”


Curried beer tempura grasshoppers

Curried beer tempura grasshoppers

Serves 2–3 as a starter

• 20 grasshoppers, legs and wings removed

• A few splashes of light soy sauce

For the tempura batter:

• 100g white rice flour

• 2 tsps mild curry powder

• Salt, a pinch

• 150ml icy cold beer (freeze for 30 minutes before using)

• 1 egg, beaten

• 1 litre vegetable oil, for deep-frying

To garnish:

• Long thin red chillies, chopped

• A few deep-fried Thai basil leaves

Method

Step 1: First, dry-roast the grasshoppers. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Coat the grasshoppers in the soy sauce then put them in a baking dish, cover with foil and roast in the hot oven for 25–30 minutes. Uncover for the last 5 minutes to make the grasshoppers dry and crispy. Allow to cool.

Step 2: Next, make the tempura batter. Sift the rice flour and curry powder together then add the salt. In another bowl, beat the cold beer and egg together until smooth and pale (the idea is to beat the bubbles out of the beer). Once smooth, add this wet mixture to the dry mixture and whisk together. Take care when whisking, as you don’t want to overwork the gluten in the flour. When mixed to a smooth batter it’s ready. (A few small lumps are fine.)

Step 3: Meanwhile, heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep saucepan to about 170°C, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Coat the roasted grasshoppers, one by one, in the rice flour mixture then, using chopsticks or tongs, dip them into the batter. Carefully drop them into the hot oil and deep-fry for about 20 seconds on each side until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. The key to a good tempura is the cold beer batter plunging into the hot oil. The temperature change causes air bubbles in the batter to create more of a crunch when eaten.

Step 4: Serve immediately, garnished with a few chopped chillies and deep-fried basil leaves, with sweet chilli sauce on the side if you like.

Stylist's verdict

Stylist contributor Francesca Brown says: “I was doing OK – I had my grasshoppers in a bowl covered in soy sauce ready to dry roast in the oven when I realised the wings and legs had to be removed. I steeled myself and 30 minutes later we were enjoying salty hot tempura. If you’re a meat eater then you can’t get squeamish – especially as they have such a good crunch.”


Buffalo worm, peanut and vanilla praline

Buffalo worm, peanut and vanilla praline

Serves 2–3

• 200g caster sugar

• 100ml water

• ½ vanilla pod or 1 tbsp vanilla extract

• 10g buffalo worms

• 40g peanuts, crushed or roughly chopped

Method

Step 1: First, line an oven tray with parchment paper. Melt the sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring regularly until the sugar has dissolved.

Step 2: Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape the seeds out with the back of your knife and add these to the pan. Continue to heat until the sugar begins to caramelise, about 4–5 minutes. It’s ready when it turns toffee-brown and thickens. Keep your eyes on the bubbling mixture as it will turn black and be inedible if it’s overcooked. 

Step 3: Take off the heat and quickly stir in the buffalo worms and peanuts. Pour this straight on to the tray and spread out as thinly as possible using the back of a wooden spoon. Allow to cool in the fridge. The praline should set after 30 minutes.

Step 4: Bash it with a rolling pin to break into bite-sized pieces.

Stylist's verdict

Production editor Gareth Watkins says: “I had the line from The Lost Boys: ‘Maggots, Michael. You’re eating maggots. How do they taste?’ swirling round my head the entire time I was preparing this recipe. The answer is, ‘They’re actually quite nice.’ The worms have a slightly nutty, bitter taste which combined nicely with the praline. I’d make this again as it’s easy and the worms can be removed if you prefer.”

Eat Grub: The Ultimate Insect Cookbook by Shami Radia, Neil Whippey and Sebastian Holmes (£20, Frances Lincoln), out now. With thanks to Waitrose. Insects are available to buy from eatgrub.co.uk, prices start at £4.29

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