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An Appetite for Insects

EatGrub200If you thought eating insects was only for contestants on Survivor, things have changed, my friend.   I remember decades ago when chocolate covered ants and crickets were a big deal but now foodies around the country are ordering bug-based dishes in local restaurants and popular pop-ups.  And so it would follow that there are cookbooks for the adventurous home cook who wants to take a walk on the wild side, including a new one called Eat Grub

Full disclosure--I have never had even the slightest desire to give entomophagy (eating insects) a try, but this cookbook got my wheels turning...  In case you're as intrigued as I, here is a recipe courtesy of author Shami Radia--and if you're wondering where to buy grasshoppers, turns out you can buy them on Amazon.  I found a bag of whole human grade edible Grasshoppers (dehydrated) that look like they would work for this recipe - or there are flavored options and mixed bug assortments. Go figure.

Insects are ingredients, and delicious ones at that. They are tasty, packed with protein, full of nutrients and kind on the environment. And it's easy to incorporate them into everyday recipes, from a cricket flour pizza base to grasshopper-filled spring rolls. These deep-fried insects are a fantastic introduction to cooking and eating insects. Pair with prawns and a chilled beer – the perfect partners to grasshoppers. -- Shami Radia

Curried Beer Tempura Grasshoppers

People call grasshoppers the prawns of the sky! This is a play on that idea, and it's become one of the most popular dishes at Grub's pop-up restaurants. As well as being slightly shrimpy, grasshoppers have a gorgeous nutty flavour and this lightly curried tempura batter draws it out beautifully. Garnish with thinly sliced long red chillies and dip in sweet chilli sauce as a starter.

Serves 2–3, as a starter

  • 20 grasshoppers, legs and wings removed
  • a few splashes of light soy sauce

For the tempura batter

  • 100g/3½oz/scant 2⁄3 cup white rice flour
  • 2 tsp mild curry powder
  • salt, a pinch
  • 150ml/5fl oz/2⁄3 cup icy cold beer (freeze for 30 minutes before using)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 litre/1¾ pints/4 cups vegetable oil, for deep-frying

To garnish

  • long thin red chillies, chopped
  • a few deep-fried Thai basil leaves

1. First, dry-roast the grasshoppers. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/ 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.

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.)

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep saucepan to about 170C/338F, 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.

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

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