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Information about Teff grain and Teff flour plus Teff recipes collection



Ingredient of the Month 

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October 2009


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Teff is fast becoming an "in" food due to its many qualities, both agriculturally and cooking wise.  This article explores its origins, history as well as its culinary uses.


Whilst not quite considered a "super food", its many qualities both nutritionally and as a commercially grown agricultural crop place it in the top canopy of the desirable foods tree.



What is Teff?


Teff is a type of grain, much like wheat, except it is very tiny. Indeed, the word "Teff" is believed to have been derived from the Amharic word teffa which translates to "lost", and was so named probably due to the the fact that the size of the grain are so small as to be easily  lost if spilled.


It is the smallest grain in the world, measuring only about 1/32nd  of an inch in diameter and  150 grains of Teff  weigh as much as just one grain of wheat.


One important factor culinary wise, is that Teff is gluten free and therefore suitable for people with coeliac disease or other gluten intolerances.


Teff comes in three varieties: white, brown and red. The white types are milder in flavour and  are generally the preferred variety for cooking.



Origins of Teff


Teff is an ancient grain and is believed to have originated in Ethiopia possibly as much as  4000 years ago.   An earlier identification of Teff seeds from an ancient Egyptian pyramid is now considered unreliable, however it's not impossible that the Ancient Egyptians too ate a form of Teff.



Cultivation and processing of Teff

Teff has been widely cultivated and used in  Ethiopia and Eritrea for centuries and has also grown in South Africa,  India and  and Australia. It is a fine stemmed annual grass characterised by a large crown, many shoots, and a shallow root system. The plants germinate quickly and are adapted to environments ranging from drought stress to water logged soil conditions.


Its adaptability  to growing in extreme environments ranging from drought to waterlogged soil conditions  makes it the ideal staple crop for places where extremes occur during the growing season. In Ethiopia Teff accounts for about a quarter of total cereal production. The plants germinate quickly and are a reliable low risk crop provided they receive sufficient daylight as they are day length sensitive, requiring 12 hours of daylight for optimum performance.


Because of the seeds' minute size, just a handful  can be sown over a very large area, making it ideal for poorer rural farmers especially as 1lb of Teff seed can produce up to 1 ton of grain in as little as 12 weeks.



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Nutritional Values of Teff


Because the seed is so small, it is not practicable to separate the germ from the husk, so when making Teff flour, the entire seed is milled and consumed. This results in richer nutritional values.


It has high levels of calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, barium, Potassium and thiamine, contains all 8 essential amino acids for humans and has lysine levels higher than that of wheat or barley.  Teff is also high in protein, carbohydrates and fibre and contains no gluten.


Furthermore, its complex carbohydrates i.e. slowly digestible starches, give it a low glycaemic index which makes it suitable for diabetics  and those wishing to lose weight as well as endurance athletes.  Many believe the superior performances of Ethiopians in long distance running  can be attributed to the Teff consumed as  part of their normal diet, particularly in the form of injera - a type of flatbread widely eaten in Ethiopia.


Buying and storing Teff

Although it is still sometimes difficult to find Teff grains or flour in high street supermarkets many natural whole-foods stores will stock it. It can also be bought online from various stockists. 


Store it in a cool, dry area in a sealed container or packet.


Teff in cooking

Teff Grain

The grain is gluten free and has a mild, nutty and slightly sweet flavour. The darker the grain, the more earthy the flavour.  The uncooked grain can be added or substituted for part of the seeds or  nuts in recipes and can be used as a thickener for soups, stews and casseroles.


The cooked grains  can be mixed with other ingredients such as beans or tofu to make burgers or can be used to make salads similar to Bulgur Wheat. Allow 450ml/15fl.oz of liquid (water or stock) to cook 100g/4oz Teff grains which will take about 20 minutes.


Once cooked they have a slightly sticky consistency which enables them to be moulded or formed into solid masses once it has cooled, which can be used like polenta.


They can also be cooked like porridge and make a healthy and nutritious breakfast, especially when served with sliced fruit.



Teff Flour

Teff flour is gluten free however, like many other gluten free flours, it is necessary to add additional ingredients to create a stable structure when making leavened yeast based bread.


In other recipes such as biscuits, cakes, pie crust pastry  and pancakes, it can be substituted for ordinary wheat flour with good results.



Teff Recipes


Teff Gluten Free Pastry Crust    Veg  HT  CD  CBF  15mins   

Ethiopian Injera Flatbread    Veg  CD  ACC  20mins plus standing

Herby Pepper Teff Polenta    Veg  HT  ACC  30mins



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