Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Let’s Eat Insects: The Pestaurant visits Cardiff

This week (Wedn 3 June), the pop-up ‘Pestaurant’ arrived in Cardiff for the first time. Many insects were eaten by the curious shoppers on Queen Street, who learnt a bit about the benefits of entomophagy.

In a previous post (link below), I summarised some information on the widespread consumption of insects around the world, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation data that shows over 2 billion people worldwide supplementing their diet with insects. It is only a novelty to eat insects in countries like the UK.

There are many benefits to consuming insects as a source of cheap protein (e.g. high protein content, low calorie food), particularly in terms of environmental impacts. For example, cattle require twelve times more feed to produce the same amount of protein as crickets, and they need way more water: 150g of beef needs 3,250 litre compared to about a pint for that amount of insect protein.

The pop-up Pestuarant is an initiative of Rentokil (“The Experts in Pest Control”). Their first Pestuarant sprang up in August 2013 in London, serving pigeon burgers as well as edible insects, such as curried crickets. They have popped-up in many places since. Cardiff’s Pestuarant was part of Rentokil’s ‘Global Pestaurant Day 2015', with around a dozen Pestuarants popping-up across the world.

Special guest at the Cardiff Pestaurant was Andrew Holcroft, founder and head chef of Grub Kitchen (“Eat insects – feed the world”). He is on a mission to promote insects as a sustainable foodstuff and to put insects on the menu in the UK. The Grub Kitchen will be opening later this year, just outside St David’s in Pembrokeshire, where it will be offering a full menu of insect dishes.

On Queen Street, Andrew served up ‘Cumin toasted crickets with wild garlic hummus’ canapes, which once you got past the initial hesitation were very good. I went back for more (photo below).

His other speciality on the day was ‘Cricket, Nutella and peanut butter cookies’. This protein-enriched cookie (5-10g protein) is made by replacing a proportion of the flour in the mix with ground cricket powder. The photo above is of Andrew serving up his cookies.

In the Grub Kitchen, Andrew is experimenting, and coming up with new edible insect dishes. So far, his signature dishes include Bug Burgers, Sago Worm Pad Thai Curry, and Cricket Kofta Kebabs. He says he is even thinking of doing a bit of insect molecular gastronomy. You never know, it could become a top foodie destination!

Andrew has to source human food grade insects from abroad, but he says he will be looking to get the proper certification to rear his own insects for the Grub Kitchen. His kitchen operates on ‘Dr Beynon's Bug Farm’, a science education and insect research centre.

Rentokil supplied a range of home-made snacks and novelty edible insect products sourced from the USA. ‘Salt & vinegar crickets’ were one of the better offerings, as the flavour enhanced a slight ‘prawny’ aftertaste (reminding you that this is not that far removed from eating crustaceans). The locusts and crickets worked reasonably well with Mexican spice and curry flavours, though I didn't rate the mealworms in any combination. Some of this would make great novelty party snack food. The plain roasted locusts and crickets were a bit bland.

Chocolate-dipped bugs, and scorpion lollipops and brittle, were at the far end of the insect as novelty food market, and were given away with Rentokil “I survived the Pestaurant challenge” badges. A little at odds with the Grub Kitchen’s promotion of edible insects as a serious food option, but it meant there was something here for everybody. Nearly everyone I saw had no problem tucking into the edible insects. I think that is a big change from the reaction such a stall would have received even a decade ago.

Introduction to eating insects:

Rentokil Pestaurant page:

Dr Benyon’s Bug Farm:

Grub Kitchen – coming soon!


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