If you’re not already eating insects, you’re doing 2016 wrong.
In a year that’s all about sustainable living, insects are the way forward. Long a favourite of the clever South and Central Americans, insects are super high in protein (the little guys can be up to 70% protein, a cow is more like 40%), minerals and vitamins. They’re also much better for the environment than other forms of protein. It takes 2,400 gallons of water and 13 pounds of grain to create one pound of beef but to get a pound of protein from crickets you’re looking at just one gallon of water.
But, like, isn’t eating insects like, kind of gross? Nah. By the time crickets get to you in flour form, that’s all they look like, flour. It’s pretty easy to forget that they were related to the wise cracking, high jumping, tux wearing little chaps who starred opposite Pinocchio in the 1940 Disney film of the same name.
So, what do you do with cricket flour? Well, anything really. I decided to make pancakes. Mainly because my boyfriend is really into pancakes atm; from banana to cauliflower batter, we’ve been around the grocery story and back on pancake adventures.
According to him, the cricket flour makes batter that’s thicker and coarser than what he’s used to working with so to counter this, it’s important to make the pancakes thin. Also, remember, because they’re packed with protein, they’re MUCH more filling that other pancakes you might be used to.
The flour we used was by Gathr who, really rather adorably, refer to the homes their crickets are raised in as ‘cricket condos’. At £7 a bag it might seem spenny but by our estimations, one 50g bag will make 10-15 pancakes and if you’re eating more than two then you’ll fall down from being too full.
Here’s two to make. One for the savoury ladies and one for the sweet tooths.
Cricket Flour Pancake
Ingredients for savoury
2 heaped tablespoons cricket flour
2 tablespoons soya milk.
Ingredients for sweet
1 + 1/2 bananas
2 tablespoons cricket flour
2 tablespoons soya milk
1. Whack all the ingredients in a blender. Give it a whiz until everything is liquid. This should be about 30 seconds.
2. Put some coconut oil in a frying pan of your choosing although any oil will do depending on how poncy you’re feeling, put on a medium heat.
3. Pour the ingredients into the pan, making sure the mixture spreads evenly to all sides.
4. Turn down the heat to a low as possible.
5. Find a pan lid that will cover the frying pan and place on top whilst cooking. This will help it cook from both sides to get a more solid pancake.
6. Once all the liquid has turned to solid and you can see the edges are starting to crisp, take the lid off and FLIP IT.
7. Let the underside cook for another minute or so with the lid off
8. Plate it up and cover with toppings (see below).
Cricket Flour Pancake Toppings
You can top your pancakes with whatever you want but if you need inspiration, this is just what we did. And it worked magnficently.
Toast some flaked almonds in the oven with olive oil and cracked pepper.
Make a salad dressing 2/3 balsamic to 1/3 fresh orange, pinch of salt, pepper.
Dice half a red onion and 1 beetroot.
Toss the spinach in the salad dressing with onion & beetroot and crumbled feta cheese.
Squeeze half a lemon over the pancake, add fresh fruit and honey.
BONUS TIP IF YOU’RE FEELING FANCY….
As it’s cooking in the pan and the top is still liquid…
Savoury: go crazy and try adding some black pepper to the top.
Sweet: sprinkle some flaked almonds/cinnamon to the top.
Launched in 2015, Crobar is surfing on the trendy insect wave. Mixing healthy products and cricket flour to her energy bars, Christine Spliid is opening 2016 nutrition window. Whether you’re disgusted or not, these energy bars will not let you indifferent….
First can you tell me more about yourself?
I have always been into healthy eating and cooking, and am doing a lot of running, so have been buying health bars for a while. I am always up for a challenge, and what bigger challenge than introducing insects in food to people in the West?!Where does the idea come from?
Where does the idea come from?
When I was first travelling around South East Asia about two years ago, I was amazed at how many people were eating insects all the time, later I realised that a third of the world population actually does that. I have known for a while that food scarcity is an ever increasing problem, which we have to take very seriously. As with sushi about 30 years ago, people’s perceptions of food can change, and I thought by hiding the insects because we are using cricket flour, and making food products that are tasty and healthy, people will be more likely to give it a go. So far, this has proven correct.
Why have you decided to produce energy bars with a cricket flour base?
A natural energy bar seemed like a great first product, as it is healthy and most people like fruits and nuts. The cricket flour also tastes quite nutty, so goes well with the other flavours.How do you find your recipes and products?
How do you find your recipes and products?
We only have Crobar so far, but I experiment a lot in my kitchen whenever I cook lunch and dinner. I add a bit of cricket flour to many of my recipes, and whatever turns out well I share on my website and social media. There are hardly limits to what you can add cricket flour to; bread, cakes, stews, falafel etc.What are your future plans?
What are your future plans?
I would like to produce at least two more flavours, and then look into other products like crisps, crackers etc. Perhaps bread and pasta after that, and also using other insect flours like mealworm flour!
Interview by Charlotte Robert
The success of Crobar is a story of one big gamble that seems to be paying off. You might not have heard of the product yet, but in a few years the energy bars will be filling supermarket shelves and gym bags – so says Christine Spliid, founder of the brand.
And Spliid does appear to have a knack for accurate guesses. A student of psychology and management at Warwick University, she took a risk in creating Crobar – not only are there many varieties of energy bars already out there, but her bars contain crickets. Roasted, dried, powdered crickets. That’s what gives the bars such high nutritional content – but also makes them a ‘hard sell’ for the majority of people who still consider edible insects somewhat beyond the pale.
Gluten- and dairy-free, the Crobar comes in either peanut or cacoa flavour, both filled with nuts and seeds and around 6 per cent cricket flour. They’re described on the website as an alternative to whey protein (which can cause problems for lactose-intolerant people, as it’s a dairy product).
Originally from Denmark, Spliid was always into energy bars, but was first drawn to the idea of crickets after noticing the large quantities of insects eaten in Cambodia. When she came back to the UK it just made sense to her to make a marriage of the two and produce a super-protein bar.
A Kickstarter launched last spring (2015) was successful, and now, after a flurry of media coverage and public interest, things are looking good for Crobar. But it wasn’t easy.
BUGSfeed discussed with Spliid what made her take the plunge in the beginning. “I’m not really scared of taking risks,” she said. That’s fortunate, as she has faced not only a difficult sell and wary manufacturers, but the question of whether the bars would even be legal. The lack of rules around selling edible insects in the EU at the time meant that the best you could say was that they were not specifically illegal.
“It was a grey area,” Spliid says. “I knew that at some point things would change – different food agencies in EU countries interpret the laws
Still, things aren’t exactly clear right now, and setbacks – like having all your products removed from a major retailer after just a few weeks due to legal worries – are just something she accepts. Producing and selling insect products is not for the faint-hearted. “You have to deal with rejection a lot,”, Spliid tells us. “Finding a manufacturer willing to work with cricket flour was a massive challenge. It’s risky for them – other clients might be put off if they’re using cricket flour. But at least with our raw bars, it’s straightforward: no cooking or baking required.”
Crobar in its original design. All photos: Croprotein Ltd
The field of insects for human consumption just isn’t comprehensively researched yet. Various EU and UN reports inevitably conclude “further research required”, seemingly wary of rubber-stamping the burgeoning industry. Spliid is frank about this. “Theoretically, you could have some kind of disease that you couldn’t predict that could ruin a whole cricket crop. But that’s all very speculative.” Of course, you could say the same about poultry (and many do).
Spliid told us she approached over 50 manufacturers before finding one that would take on her Crobar project. But she seems nonplussed by the effort involved. “This industry is three steps forward, one back – all the time”, she shrugs. What really interests her is the psychology behind it all. The people at the health food conferences she’s been attending, she admitted, could be an easy market.
But at least among this demographic, awareness and enthusiasm around edible insects is noticeable. The only objections have come from vegans, but vegetarians, depending on their motivation for being so, are often happy to eat insects. Sugar content was also raised by some. Though the bars have no added sugar, their sultanas and dates make them quite sweet.
People need to hear it many times, from different angles, to start believing in it.” – Christine Spliid
But what explains the shifting attitudes? The obvious ploy for edible insect products is disguising the creepy crawly bits, and certainly grinding them into flour does just that. But even whole insects are beginning to grow in popularity, Spliid noted.
“PR and advertising comes into it too. People need to hear it many times, from different angles, to start believing in it. At the moment most people have heard of entomophagy from a few sources.”
“When people eat the bar and think it tastes nice, half the battle’s won. Then they hear about the health benefits, so buying more is easy. And I’ve learned that if you talk with enthusiasm, people really listen!”
Her company – just her and one part-time employee – are certainly not alone in extolling the virtues of entomophagy. The most surprising message for many seems to be the fact that billions of people already do eat insects – and have done for a long time. But a powerful argument seems also to be the environmental benefits, as compared to livestock breeding. This is heavily emphasised in Crobar’s marketing materials, with infographics neatly illustrating the cricket-to-cow water ratio.
It’s not sustainable to ship an ingredient across the world” – but it’s organic
But there’s a catch there. The cricket flour in Crobars is manufactured in Canada. The optimistically-named Next Millennium Farms (NMF), home to 30 million crickets, has been the feature of many ‘you’ll never guess’-style news features in recent years. Spliid says she has little choice but to import the Canadian flour – for now. “It’s not sustainable to ship an ingredient across the world,” she admits. “But they’re one of the only farms that makes organic cricket flour and we feel this is a new meat source, so it should be the best quality possible. Also, they share the details of how they process the insects every step of the way, which is important.”
Surely, though, with entomophagy taking off in permissive European states like the Netherlands or Belgium, someone closer to home is farming these bugs?
Yes, Spliid says, but she’ll buy from them when the price is right. It’s about economies of scale: NMF are big – very big – meaning that “the costs are much lower than I could get from Europe at the moment.” But she adds that “things are changing quickly.”
“I get approached by one or two cricket-farm startups every month or so. So I hope I can source the flour from the UK or within the EU soon. And ten years down the line I’d love to have an in-house cricket farm.”
This is only part of her plans – at some point Spliid wants to introduce other, perhaps whole, insects into shops and restaurants. That’s why you won’t find her products at ‘crobar.com’ but at gathrfoods.com, which will be the brand name under which she ultimately aims to be “the biggest European food manufacturer of insect-based products.”
It’s entirely believable that she’ll succeed.