One of the ingenious tools that chimpanzees use is a brush-ended stick which they dangle into a termite mound, pulling it out covered in tasty snacks - dubbed a ‘chimp stick’. The chefs at Nordic Food Lab came up with an ant equivalent, using liquorice root and honey and other delicately flavoured foods to complement the local wood ants and smelling carpenter ants.
Photo: Nordic Food Lab, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
You can give it a try too! Depending on where you are, local wood ants might be available - just remember to wear trousers with bicycle clips when harvesting! It’s important to freeze the ants within an hour of harvesting.
Forage with care
You should make sure you know both what species your dealing with, and where it comes from, as there might be contamination from heavy metals or other pollutants. This isn’t insect-specific, just sound advice for any food item that you plan to ingest.
Liquorice roots look like woody twigs, but chewing them brings out the sweet liquorice extract that we use in confection. For this recipe, whittle the ends of the the root so you’ve got a ‘handle’ and a smoother end.
- Liquorice roots, whittled
- A clear, light honey infused with toasted juniper wood
- Local ants, both F. rufa and L. fuliginosus, frozen within an hour of harvesting
- Buckwheat, soaked overnight, toasted and cracked
- Golden linseeds
- Freeze-dried raspberry pieces
- Small leaves of purple shiso and coriander cress
- Small cherry blossoms
Some overnight prep is involved – the honey needs to be infused with toasted juniper wood. Use a clear, light honey and leave the juniper wood in overnight. Strain and filter in the morning. Incidentally, juniper wood has long been used as a flavouring as well as various medicinal uses. It’s use in gin production is famous, but less well-known is that inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands also used it to flavour whisky in medieval times.
You also need to soak the buckwheat overnight, then toast and crack it. Buckwheat, despite its name, is not wheat but a kind of seed, and so suitable for gluten-free diets.
With all these ingredients ready, you can assemble the chimp stick. Give the whittled parts of the liquorice roots a light coating of honey with a brush. Either find a patient helper to hold the sticks for you, or put them handle-down in a bowl of rice to allow you to stick all the ingredients on.
Start by sticking on the buckwheat and linseeds, then add the ants, then the frozen raspberry pieces. Lastly add the little purple shiso leaves and pieces of coriander cress - two aromatic herbs. You should then have a brightly-coloured, appetising anty chimp stick, with flavours ranging from toasted and bitter to delicately sweet and sour. The chefs suggest serving it propped on a charred piece of juniper wood.
Original recipe by Nordic Food Lab.