Roasted desert locusts with earthy ants and wild garlic

Even the most committed entomophobe (someone who really doesn't like insects) must surely admit that these destructive desert locusts are very beautiful. The pale yellow bodies of schistocerca gregaria are marked with bold black patterns, and their powerful, serrated hind legs look almost translucent.

A swarm of hundreds of thousands wouldn’t be so beautiful, perhaps. But such events do provide an opportunity to gather the invaders up (like in this case in Israel) and cook them.

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Photo: Nordic Food Lab, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Copenhagen chefs and experimenters Nordic Food Lab put together this recipe with Josh Pollen for the ‘Pestival’ festival. If you manage to get the results looking as stunning as they did, let us know!

It also includes wood ants, which can be found wild in the forests of northern and mid–Europe and Siberia. Ants have particularly unique flavours due to their formic acid. If you’re intrigued, learn more in our Bug of the Week feature on formica rufa.

The wild garlic used in this recipe is found in broadleaved woodlands from February till June. If you’ve never tasted wild garlic it’s definitely worth trying – it’s very sharp and woody, especially if you pick it before the flowers appear.

Roasting the locusts – the easy part!

Exactly as it sounds – remove the legs and wings of a dozen desert locusts, place on a tray with butter and sprinkle salt over.

Roast at 170˚C for 12 minutes, or until gently browned and crisp.

Wild garlic and ant emulsion – the trickier part…

  • 130g neutral oil (grapeseed, sunflower etc.)
  • 20g egg yolk
  • 5g wood ants (formica rufa)
  • 52g wild garlic (ramson) leaves
  • 10g water
  • 0.75g salt

Blanch the wild garlic leaves in water seasoned with salt for 10 seconds, then place them straight into iced water and drain.

Squeeze out as much excess liquid from the leaves as possible.

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Photo: Nordic Food Lab, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The recipe now calls for a Pacojet – this is a Swiss invention that quickly creates very finely blended, frozen concentrate. If you have a Pacojet, get whizzing.

But given that the thing costs more than a used car, you may not. What you’re trying to get here is a creamy paste of wild garlic, so try blending and sieving until you get a consistency you’re happy with.

Stick this in the fridge for a few hours.

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Photo: Nordic Food Lab, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Next, cook an egg for 45 minutes at 65C˚. This step results in a more stable emulsion and the pasteurisation means it can be eaten by anyone who is unable to eat raw eggs.

Cool the egg in iced water, and remove the yolk.

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Photo: Nordic Food Lab, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Now to blend this egg yolk with water and salt: the chefs recommend using a tall beaker and an immersion blender.

Blend until smooth, adding your green garlic paste and fresh (but dead) ants. Lastly add the oil, a bit at a time.

Sieve one last time – this anty, greenish emulsion needs to go through a very fine sieve or silk screen, removing the minuscule ant parts.

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Photo: Nordic Food Lab, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Finally, serve little dollops of the paste with the roasted desert locusts.

The original recipe was posted on nordicfoodlab.org.

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