Glossary

Teff

Teff

This tiny grass seed is a staple food in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The seeds produce a harvest proportionally hundreds of times greater than wheat or other staple grains. This, combined with its ability to withstand high temperatures in which to grow, has meant teff thus staved off famine many times.

Teff has much to offer nutritionally without being a superhero. It has a particularly high calcium content plus plenty of iron and protein; it is gluten-free and colours vary from white through to very dark brown. White teff is generally preferred.

The flavour is mild, somewhat bland but nutty, and being so benign has very many culinary uses, ground into flour or as a whole grain.

In Ethiopia its major use is in injera, a lightly fermented (sourdough) but flat bread; this is made big enough to form a thin, pancake-like platter on which food is served and it is also torn off to use as an eating aid.

Availability

Not commonly available in the UK other than through specialist food stores or, more likely, over the internet. Once there was a ban on exporting the seed from Ethiopia but this was recently lifted. Teff is now grown commercially in the USA, which will slowly increase international availability.

Choose the best

Commercially produced and packaged, teff products should always be free of contamination of any sort, but long storage in bright light is likely to deteriorate the delicate flavour.

Store it

Like all grains and flours, store teff in a cool, dark place. Airtight containers are always better.

Cook it

Teff grains can be boiled or steamed to use as a side dish or included in salads as an interesting texture and contrast. Some suggest using it as sort of porridge but add that this can be somewhat glutinous or gritty.

The flours can be used to bake gluten-free goods; baking powder will give a rise but the result is usually quite dense. They can also be mixed with other grain flours, especially millet.

If added to wheat flours of any variety it will give a background nuttiness but, like rye, will reduce any expected rise in yeasted baking: it makes a much more interesting addition to pastry.