Edible insects. Is this our future? I've been trying cricket flour in a health bar.

I have never been squeamish about trying unusual foods.  I was eating snails in garlic butter (l'escargots) in France at the age of 4, strange child!  But when I came across a brand new protein, health bar, that was not only wheat-free, dairy-free, but made from cricket flour, I got really excited about it.

Crobar health bars made with cricket flour.

Crobar health bars made with cricket flour.

What could be better for the environment than getting into foods made from insects? After all, we're pretty adventurous when it comes to trying fried ants, crickets & other creepy crawlies in those night markets in countries like Thailand.  I even tried a bit of a fried tarantula in Cambodia! It tasted just like chicken.

Trying fried tarantula in Cambodia! 

Trying fried tarantula in Cambodia! 

The founder of Gathrfoods & Crobar, Christine Spliid, had her light bulb moment when she was also travelling around South East Asia and noticed how many people eat insects as part of their daily diet, not just in night markets. (By the way, we have a digestive enzyme in our guts which is specifically for breaking down insects, so we've obviously been eating them for thousands of years!)

Christine Spliid, the brains behind Crobar, a health bar made with cricket flour.

Christine Spliid, the brains behind Crobar, a health bar made with cricket flour.

Christine, a Danish thirty two year old runner with a passion for health, realised that a third of the worlds population eat insects and that we should all be thinking about eating them for environmental reasons. Farming insects is sustainable, ethical and takes up hardly any land or feed. In fact, for every pound of meat produced a cow needs over a thousand pounds of feed, compared to insects that require only around a hundred pounds of feed.  Huge difference.

She got to work introducing the health bar to the UK, adding healthful foods such as dates, cashews, goji berries, chia seeds and, of course, cricket flour, and the Crobar was born.  

What surprised Christine, and myself, is how many people in the UK, including vegetarians, are happy to add insects to their diet as an alternative source of protein.  I found the bars delicious so went out and about in Brighton to see how they went down with the locals.

CROBAR FACTS

ISN'T IT CRUEL?

The crickets are raised in a ‘free range’ indoor environment in Canada. They are given ample space to move through the ‘cricket condo’ set up and have access to feed and fresh water.

Once ready to harvest toward the end of their lifecycle (about 6 weeks), the crickets are cooled and then frozen which essentially mimics the natural process of hibernation (diapause) in nature.

WHAT DO THEY TASTE LIKE?

The feed of the crickets is really important to ensure a great flavour. Crobar use organic roasted cricket flour from crickets that have been fed a diet of organic nuts, seeds and fruits, so the flavour is reminiscent of hazelnuts and buckwheat.

ALLERGIES?

Crickets are arthopods, just like shrimps, and some people who are allergic to shrimps have also shown allergic reactions to insects. Until more studies are done, it is safest to not consume insects if you know you are allergic to shellfish/ crustaceans.

WHY CRICKETS?

Crickets in particular contain large levels of protein as well as vital micronutrients. It could be argued that they are also easier to introduce to people compared to insects with less attractive sounding names or associations. But crickets are just the starting point, there are more than 2000 edible insects available, so many other insects will be introduced once people have gotten used to the idea of eating insects.

WHY NOT USE WHEY PROTEIN?

Crickets are completely natural, whereas whey is the by- product of cheese making and industrially processed. Crickets also contain all essential amino acids, have an almost perfect omega 3 & 6 ratio, contain high levels of vitamin B12 as well as iron.

WHERE ARE THEY FARMED?

Crobar source the cricket flour from Entomofarms, a large and reputable cricket farmer in Canada. They are completely transparent regarding the farming and processing methods of their cricket flour, which they believe is extremely important when introducing people to a new protein source like insects. There is no question that quality and safety has to come first. The crickets are being fed an organic diet of vegetables and seeds, and are farmed and killed humanely.

So I hope that's put your mind at rest and you'll give them a try as a great alternative to the usual protein bars on sale. They are perfect as a healthy, wheat-free & dairy-free snack and as a high protein energy boost after working out.  Many experts & environmentalists think the planet will run out of meat one day, so let's get into eating insects! It could be the most sustainable superfood on the planet.

PS.......

I tried the Crobar flour in cooking for the first time recently.....great success, especially for someone who doesn't want to eat wheat. See below for the recipe and how I used it.

I am sharing another healthy and nutritious Jamie Oliver recipe, with my own vegetarian twist for non-meat eaters. It's easy, yummy and can be prepared well ahead of time. Another unique twist is using Gathr Foods Crobar Cricket Flour instead of wheat flour. The first time I tried the recipe I realised that I didn't have any flour in the house, because I try not to eat wheat. Panic. Then I remembered the cricket flour I had in the cupboard and gave it a whirl. The taste was much nicer than wheat flour and no one was any the wiser! For vegetarians not adverse to eating insects, this is an excellent high protein option.

INGREDIENTS
500 g soya mince
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary - finely diced
1 x 400 g drained tin of cannelloni beans or any other pulses
2 onions - finely diced
2 carrots - finely diced
2 sticks of celery - finely diced
250 g  mushrooms - finely diced
1 tablespoon of wheat-free, high protein Crobar flour
800 ml veg stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mint sauce
350 g frozen peas

For the topping, mashed potato & swede is called for but I found a really delicious, ready-made one from Ocado that saves time and also includes carrot! Whose got the time to do it any other way!

HOW TO

Pop the soya mince into a hob-to-oven casserole, or a large saucepan, on high heat adding black pepper and cook for 5-10 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Then add the chopped rosemary and the drained beans,  Cook and stir for another 5 minutes or so.  Add all the veg and sweat for a further 10 mins on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the flour and then the stock.  Bring to the boil, then simmer on a low heat with the lid on, for 20 minutes, or till the veg are soft.

Meanwhile, either: boil the swede, chopped into chunks, for 10 minutes.  Then add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Drain, mash and add milk, cheese or butter & seasoning. Or do the topping my lazy way by buying a ready made swede & potato mash and put your feet up for 20 minutes!  

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4 if you're eating soon.

After 20 minutes or so, add the Worcester and mint sauce (still lovely added to soya mince) and season.  Then all you have to do is pop it all into an oven casserole dish, if it's not in one already, sprinkle a layer of peas over the mince, then top it all with the mash, and it's good to go. Either keep it for later (I have even kept it overnight in the fridge, once it's cooled off) or pop it straight into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until it's looking golden and cooked and the liquid has thickened. 

Serve with steamed spinach or any greens you like and there you have it - a filling, healthy meal for 4 or at least a couple of meals for 2.  Enjoy!