We try to replicate the most controversial (attention seeking) dish from Heston’s new series. It’s Worm Pizza for dinner!
Worm Pizza!?! You have to admire Heston’s / Channel 4’s PR for knowing how to push our buttons. Exhibit A: getting articles like this into the papers to promote his new Channel 4 series, Heston’s Michelin Mission Impossible.
The worm pizza recipe by Heston Blumenthal is a prefect example of his original approach to food. In this case, using insects, (eww gross), as a cheap, high-protein improvement to a fairly unhealthy dish. Geeky reference material here. Take that, anchovies!
I still struggle with chicken’s feet at Dim Sum, but I have managed to make my way through a couple of bags of Edible’s BBQ Worm Crisps in the past (once even without a crowd of drunken friends cheering). I figured I’ve got a strong enough stomach to have a go at recreating Heston’s Worm Pizza recipe. Fun for sick kids, and us big kids too.
I know you don’t need telling, but this is my personal take on the dish, not Heston Blumenthal’s actual worm pizza recipe.
There isn’t one online, so I’m using a simplified version of Heston’s Pizza recipe from the In Search of Perfection book.
The worms are injected with ketchup. Without existing habits for molecular gastronomy or heroin, we got some food syringes from creamsupplies.co.uk (a mistake in this case).
So, worms. we took the easy route and bought Worm Crisps online. Edible Unique carries all sorts of creepy crawlies. You could even have a selection of insect toppings (purists beware: they’re usually coated in flavoured powder). Or you can cook your own live worms. Wiggly Wigglers will ship them direct to your door. Minimum 120g, hope you’re hungry.
Abigail’s Edibles is a great blog with detailed instructions on how to cook mealworms. In short, they’re fed, washed, frozen and fried. They need purging a day in advance, unless you’ve acquired a taste for worm-poop.
It’s a work night and I’m lazy, so we’re dispensing with the pre-ferment for the pizza base dough. Other than that Heston’s perfection pizza recipe just calls for a reasonably simple mixture of 00 flour, cold water, salt, yeast and a tiny amount of malt syrup.
Heston’s pizza sauce recipe is a complicated affair involving salting, pressure cookers and individually skinning ripe cherry tomatoes. For the sake of this experiment I’m going to totally cheat here and just reduce blitzed Jamie-style tomatoes to jam in a saucepan.
I’m guessing cheese is mozzarella, but even after re-watching the show closely I hadn’t a clue what the greens were. We’ve gone with lightly sautéed cabbage and leek since they look roughly similar.
To keep the pure worm flavour we tried to wipe off the flavouring powder. Ketchup injection was an utter fiasco. Our Molecular Gastronomy syringes didn’t have needles, so we were reliant on luck and gravity to get the sauce into the worms.About 1 in 5 succeeded and what we spilled could fill bacon sarnies for a month.
Heston’s Perfect pizza recipe cooks in less than 2 minutes, using a precarious arrangement of grill shelves, cast iron pans and floured shovels. We’ve replaced this with a more conventional ten minutes in a hot oven. Our pizzas were cooked in Victoria sponge pans to give them the same tall crust and authentically institutional feel. Worms and greens went in near the end to avoid overcooking.
The worms taste fine -slightly nutty with a dry texture. In the few places we succeeded the ketchup was a great touch, crunch through the worm-shell to a burst of liquid and flavour. If you do try it, make sure your syringes have needles. Our pizza was thicker and chewier than it’s meant to be, and lacked the intense bread flavour from the pre-ferment, but Heston’s Perfect Pizza recipe gives you a base thats light and delicious, with an airy texture. Recommended.
Unfortunately, and mainly since worms are quite awkward and expensive to obtain and to prepare, this isn’t a recipe that’s worth much repeating.
It is lots of fun, however, so if you’ve got some open minded friends and you could even do your own “I Bet You can’t Eat That” menu (perhaps with an edible soil dessert inspired by the skilled & creative The Curious Blogquat). And worms still make a much better topping than anchovies.
If this recipe has given you a taste for insects then check out Manataka, an intelligently written website containing insect recipes including chocolate crickets, grasshopper tacos and mealworm fried rice.
If you did have a go, or were just *really* grossed out by this recipe, then put your thoughts in the comments below…