Insect Cooking basics
Cooking with insects is relatively simple, just follow a few simple rules:
- Insects should be cooked before eating and refrigerated after cooking if not eaten straight away.
- Insects (e.g. mealworms, buffalo worms or crickets) can be used to substitute a proportion of meat in more traditional meals.
- Insects often come dried, so you may have to add slightly more liquid to your recipe than usual.
- Many insects have a subtle nutty or herby flavour; try adding a bit of stock or chili to add some kick.
- Insects are quite delicate, so you have to be careful not to burn them when roasting.
- Always ask your guests if they have any food allergies; people who are allergic to shellfish may not be able to eat insects!
- As insects are dried, they don’t weigh very much. A 50g portion of dried mealworms for instance has roughly the same volume as 500g pork or beef.
One simple way to cook insects is to season them and then roast in the oven for a few minutes. Insects tend to have a subtle flavour, so we like to season ours with soy sauce, Cajun or jerk spices. Cooking bugs the simple way lets people try them in their more natural state: whole and visible.
Take 25g of freeze dried mealworms and lay them out on some foil on a baking tray.
Drizzle a dessert spoon of soy sauce over the bugs and use the spoon to distribute it evenly. Cover the bugs and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes at 160C/ gas mark 3. Give the pan a shake after about 4 minutes and check that they aren’t burning!
Serve alone or mixed with nuts or seeds. They also work well to top Pad Thai!
Dried insects burn easily; it’s worth practicing with a few bugs at first, as ovens and times may vary!
Makes 35 small meatballs
50g mealworms or buffalo worms (whole, or blended into a flour using your food processor or mortar & pestle)
500g beef mince
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1.5 or 2 beef stock cubes
pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)
3/4 drops of Worcester sauce (optional)
1 large pinch of herbs, such as marjoram or sage
1 beaten egg
1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and sweat on a low heat for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for 2 minutes, until the onions are soft but not coloured. Put the onions and garlic aside to cool. Optional: blitz the onion mix in a blender to give the meatballs a smoother texture.
2. Using a fork, mix the beef, bugs, herbs, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Take 1.5 beef stock cubes and add 2 tablespoons of boiling water until dissolved. Mix the stock, Worcester sauce (if using), beaten egg and cooled onion mix into the meat.
3. Using the same frying pan, fry an small amount of the meat mix and see how it tastes. Add more beef stock if necessary.
4. Using clean hands, form the meat into small balls.
5. Add a little more oil to the pan and fry the meatballs in small batches, for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until browned. Repeat with each batch.
6. Cut a meatball in half and check that it is cooked through; if it is, they are ready to eat!
These work well with a tomato sauce and spaghetti.
50/50 Mealworm sausage rolls
Makes 20 rolls
25g freeze dried mealworms
200g sausagemeat (I use Sainsbury’s)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1tsp dried herbs (sage or parsley work well)
200g ready-rolled puff pastry
salt and pepper, as desired
1 beaten egg to glaze
1. Pre-heat oven to 220C or gas mark 7.
2. Whizz your onion, mealworms and garlic in a food processor until finely blended.
3. Add the sausagemeat, dried herbs and salt and pepper to the food processor and blend until combined.
4. Unroll the pastry onto a baking tray and cut in half lengthways. Put half of the sausage mixture along the long edge of one of the bits of pastry and even it out. Next, roll the pastry to make a long sausage roll. Repeat with the remaining pastry and sausage mix.
5. Lightly brush each side of the pastry on your long sausage rolls, then cut each into smaller rolls using a sharp knife.
6. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
If you don’t have a food processor, or you want the mealworms to be more visible, simply mix them in using a fork or clean hands.
Makes about 20 fritters.
140g plain flour
50g freeze dried crickets
3 spring onions, washed and finely chopped
2tbsp red Thai curry paste
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
oil for frying
sweet chili sauce, to serve
1. Sieve flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl.
2. Add the eggs and milk to the mixture, then whisk to get rid of any lumps.
3. Stir in the curry paste until well combined.
4. Add the sweetcorn, spring onions, crickets and coriander, stir well.
5. Heat some oil in a frying pan, then add a spoonful of the batter. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until thoroughly cooked. Check the middle is cooked through. Add more seasoning if necessary.
6. Cook the rest of the batter in small batches, adding more oil if necessary
7. Serve with sweet chili sauce.
Banana Crunch Muffins
200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
150g brown sugar (caster sugar is fine too)
50g crickets or mealworms
75g melted butter
1. Preheat oven to 180 C / gas mark 4. Prepare a tin (use muffin cases unless you have silicone trays).
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, combine mashed bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Fold in the flour mixture and then mix until smooth.
4. Add the crickets or mealworms and mix well.
5. Spoon the mixture into muffin trays and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden.
These muffins should be nice and moist and the crickets or mealworms add a nice crunch!
I used bug shaped silicone molds to make birthday cakes for a friend.