The American cookbook, Grasshopper Pie, plays with the nuances of green thanks to the use of crème de menthe liqueur. But for Dutch chefs behind the Guinness Record winning dessert, there’s more a bit more to the name of the dessert than just a sweet liqueur: it was prepared by blending together real grasshoppers. And before you flinch, keep in mind that they’re the most sought-after ingredients in today’s most talk-about cooking trends – cooking with insects like beetles, worms, and, of course, grasshoppers.
Despite the long Asian tradition of cooking with insects, the West is only catching on now to this food group: high in protein, insects are considered – apart from local customs and considerations of taste – one of the keys to solving world food shortages. Insects are a cheap, and widely available, source of food, and America has just recently officially included them in the category of edible animals, encouraging their consumption.
And now as the energetic value and culinary goodness of grasshoppers and worms are being discovered, this new Dutch experiment is not going to pass unnoticed: in late April, aspiring chefs in Denmark, guided by their professors – cooking and entomology experts – published Hek insectenkookboek, the first illustrated book dedicated to cooking with insects in a gourmet manner, ever published in the West. Among the authors of “the insect cookbook” is Marcel Dicke, one of the most respected figures in entomology, and considered to be one of the world’s leading experts.
The book (which for now, is only in Dutch), explains the production of edible insects: who the producers are in Europe and how it’s down, how insects arrive in restaurants, where they can be bought (or caught), and is also a guide to where they can be eaten and enjoyed. In Amsterdam, for example, “the bug restaurant” Specktakel offers the “bug mac” along with many other dishes based on insects – like an insect crumble, which is so delicate to the eye and the palate, that it would be easy to mistake the main ingredients for something more traditional. On special evenings, when the chefs present and explain their recipes, the restaurant regularly sells out.
This and other recipes (which total about thirty), along with numerous photographs, are the main feature of the Insect Cookbook. Learn to make fried grasshoppers, a mixed salad with fresh garden ingredients – worms included, savoury tartes covered with grasshopper foam and topped with tiny salted insects instead of the usual shrimp, mushroom risotto with a sprinkling of beetle powder instead of Parmigiano cheese. For those with a sweet tooth, there are special chocolate muffins covered with chopped insects and tiny worms mixed with slices of fresh apple. All that’s left to do is have a taste, and let go of any personal squeamishness. As the executive chef of Specktakel, Michiel den Hartogh, says as he prepares his “crispy cricket” made from curried mayonnaise, crocodile pie and fried crickets: “Just eat it! Not so crazy”.