If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve got into entomophagy – the practice of eating insects – recently.
The trio – myself, Annie and Charlotte – have had a growing amount of media attention and are now hosting workshops at festivals (and hopefully elsewhere soon!) talking to people about entomophagy and conducting culinary workshops. This is all absolutely fantastic, and I am so excited to continue down this route of research and taste exploration.
However, there is one thing to note: we are not attempting to market insects. Each of us have reasons for being interested; psychology, culture, environment, policy… For me, it is not about forcing people to eat insects nor framing them as a universal solution to diet or environmental-related crises affecting our food system.
Instead, insects are a lens through which I can explore fundamental issues such as a) consumer disconnect with the way our food is produced, b) the increasing jeopardisation of traditional, artisan and diverse foods at the expense of Western highly processed diets, and c) what might happen to entomophagy and its diversity if incorporated within global, capitalist food systems that rely on food being a commodity.
What is interesting is that I have been exploring these issues for a while now, with this blog aiming to tell the stories behind our food and provide alternatives to a ‘business as usual’ intensive and disconnected mode of agricultural and food production. However, I have found that entomophagy has been the most successful in terms of captivating audiences and challenging peoples’ culinary comfort zones.
Why? Perhaps it is because of the ‘ick factor’, or because – compared to other novel foods – it truly is ‘unusual’ to us in the West. What is clear, however, is that this curiosity is something to capitalise on rather than dispel. We need to create platforms that engage people with entomophagy and other food cultures from around the world so that, even if eating insects does become ‘normalised’ and mainstreamed within global food systems, the diversity of insects and the associated cultures, nutrition, environments and gastronomical heritage is preserved.
My own culinary explorations: Soda bread with cricket flour
I recently went on a weekend away in Wales, aiming to relax and go hiking in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. The relaxation element was there, however a persistent cold meant I was physically unable to gallivant up hills, so instead I chose to bake. A lot. I started at 6am on the first day and had made two loaves of bread by 9am. Boy I know how to have fun.
|Wales – a salmon stream flowing by our cottage.|
To make this even more exciting, Charlotte provided me with some cricket flour. Cricket flour is increasingly popular, with restaurants and start-ups (i.e. ‘entopreneurs’) using it within muffins, cakes and bars. While these are great treats, I wanted to go down a very simple route and make soda bread – a staple, nutritious product using four basic ingredients; flour, bicarbonate of soda, water and salt.
I adapted Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s seedy rye soda bread from his Light and Easy: Healthy Recipes for Every Day. When I say ‘adapt’, it wasn’t solely because we had cricket flour to use, but because Welsh stores are limited when it comes to artisan bread ingredients. In fact, they seem to be limited to everything but random herbs, liquor and tattoo pens; all of which came in very handy over the weekend.
|Tattoo fun! Thanks to Charlotte|
Moving swiftly on, here are the ingredients for seeded cricket flour soda bread:
- 40g sunflower seeds
(Hugh also uses sesame seeds, poppy seeds, linseeds but Welsh food markets didn’t allow for this, so I doubled the amount of sunflower seeds).
- 200g strong white bread flour
- 50g cricket flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
- 100ml apple juice
- 40g honey
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 100ml of tepid water
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Combine most of the seeds (leave aside around 1tbsp for sprinking on top) with the white bread flour and cricket flour. Add salt and bicarbonate of soda.
- In a jug, combine the apple juice, 100ml of water, honey and oil. Stir until the honey is dissolved.
- Pour onto dry ingredients and mix quickly until it forms a sticky (very sticky) dough with no lumps. Be careful not to over mix.
- Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and form into a round loaf shape (coat your hands with flour first, it’s very sticky). Transfer onto a baking tray and sprinkle with the remaining seeds.
- Cut a pretty, relatively deep cross shape in the dough (Hugh suggests going at least half way down, I did around 1/3).
- Bake for 30 minutes until it is a rich brown all over – this is an indication for the rye bread, but it works with the cricket flour bread too.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and then keep in an air tight container for 3 days.
- Fresh out of oven with butter
- With smoked fish of any kind – e.g. salmon, trout. In this sense, it is very much like rye, working well with Nordic foods.
- Cream cheese and chives, black pepper and lemon juice.