Last month, I published a caterpillar recipe here.
For that recipe, my neighbour Argita and I cooked the caterpillars together , and I weighed and timed everything. I did the same with other women, and each recipe seemed to be a subtle variation on the same theme. Every dish was fairly similar, but I think I liked Argita’s the best.
(I’ve saved them all, in the vague hope that Felicity Cloake might one day wish to write her column on ‘how to cook the perfect caterpillars’)
City cuisine, though, is different.
When I spent some time in Ouagadougou, Catherine, the wife of one of my collaborators, showed me a new and different way of cooking dried caterpillars. Again, I weighed and timed everything.
This recipe uses more oil - which is probably one reason that I’ve not seen caterpillars cooked this way in the village, where oil is a luxury and used sparingly - but admittedly, it is delicious. So, for those of you lucky enough to have access to dried caterpillars and lots of oil, here’s recipe #2 for you:
- Chitoumou* 200g
- Tomato 150g
- Onion 100g
- Palm oil** 150ml
- Salt 1tsp
*Cirina butyrospermi caterpillars - although the closely related Cirina forda caterpillar, or even the Gonimbrasia belina caterpillar known as the mopane worm, would probably also work well in this recipe.
**Any oil should work well, apparently - it’s a matter of preference. Catherine likes palm oil, as it’s locally available at an affordable price, and her family enjoys the taste. But European consumers might want to go for something more sustainable…
- Cover the chitoumou in boiling water and boil over a high heat for at least 15 minutes. When you think they are done, take one out and try to bite it. If it’s still a bit tough, throw it back in and keep going - the time it takes to soften them will depend a bit on where you are, and the water you’re using.
- Meanwhile, chop the tomato and onion finely.
- Once the chitoumou are soft enough to bite into easily, take them off the heat and drain them.
- This part is a bit arduous if you have a lot of caterpillars: Take each caterpillar, and chop off its head. Then, cut the body in two.
- Heat the palm oil in a large frying pan until it’s hot.
- Mix the tomatoes, onions, salt and caterpillars, and add these to the pan. If the frying pan isn’t large enough to fit all of the caterpillars in one go, do them in a couple of batches. Fry for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain excess oil, and serve with bread.
In Catherine’s house, we all sat around a communal plate of caterpillars, took chunks of bread, and heaped caterpillars onto our bread as we ate. We also just ate the caterpillars on their own occasionally, as you might help yourself to a few peanuts at a time. Her children were especially enthusiastic about the caterpillars, which are a rare treat.