Teff: A unique gluten-free whole-grain
Teff is the smallest of all grains in the world – about 100-150 teff grains equal the size of one wheat kernel. A major cereal crop of Ethiopia, teff is also grown in India, Australia and the northwestern US states. The teff grain ranges in color from ivory to red, brown and almost black. The US produces ivory and brown teff, grown mostly in Idaho.
It is more nutritious than the major cereal grains (e.g., wheat, barley and corn) because:
1) the small seed size means the germ and bran account for a higher proportion of the seed compared to other grains and 2) the entire whole-grain teff seed is used. Teff is high in calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and thiamin. It also is a good source of protein, fibre and other B vitamins.
Teff has a unique taste – a nutty and mild molasses-like flavor. The whole grain seed or flour can be used in a variety of ways. Here are some suggestions from my book Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.
Whole Grain Teff Seed
Add ½-1 tbsp. to a serving of gluten-free hot cereal (e.g. cream of brown or white rice).
In a heavy bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, bring 2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil and add ½ cup teff grain. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until water is absorbed, stirring occasionally, Use as a side dish instead of potato or rice. For a breakfast cereal, add honey or brown sugar, dried fruits and nuts and/or cinnamon for flavor.
Cook teff with other gluten-free grains such as brown rice or millet. Use 3 parts water or gluten-free broth to 1 part grains. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
Mix cooked teff with beans, seeds or tofu and garlic, herbs and onions to make a vegetarian burger.
Use as a thickener for soups, stews and gravies. For stews or soups, add uncooked teff grain to the pot 30 minutes before serving or add cooked teff to the pot 10 minutes before serving.
Combine with other gluten-free flours in baked products, especially dark breads and cakes such as brownies, chocolate cake and gingerbread, as well as in muffin and cookie recipes. Can use 25-50% teff flour in the total flour blend. For pancakes, use 100% teff flour or a combination of teff and other gluten-free flours.
The flour can be used to make “Injera”, a sour-dough flat bread that is moist and chewy. Authentic Ethiopian Injera is usually made from pure teff flour, however, some North American restaurants use a combination of teff flour AND wheat or barley flour which is not gluten-free.
Injera (Ethiopian Flat Bread)
Makes 1 loaf / 24 slices
- 2 Tablespoons yeast
- 6-1/2 cups warm water
- 1-1/2 lbs. teff flour (about 4-1/2 cups)
Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup water.
Combine the tell flour, yeast and 6-1/4 cups water in a large bowl. Mix well. Ensure that no clumps are left at the bottom or side of the bowl.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it ferment for 2 to 3 days at room temperature. (Those with sensitive stomachs, may consider making the Injera the same day rather than waiting for 2-3 days. It will have a slightly “sweet” taste but that is considered normal.)
Drain off the water that has risen to the top of the dough.
Gradually add fresh warm water to the dough, just enough to make a thin smooth batter (like pancake batter); mix well. Cover the batter and let it stand until it rises, approximately 10 to 25 minutes.
Heat a 10” skillet or frying pan until a drop of water bounces on the pan’s surface.
Scoop about 1/3 cup of the batter and pour it into the pan quickly. Swirl the pan so that the entire bottom is evenly coated. Cover the pan quickly and let the Injera cook for 1-2 minutes. (Injera does not easily stick or burn.) Remove the cover and wait for a few seconds It is cooked through when bubbles or “eyes” appear all over the top. If your first try is undercooked, cook the next one a little longer or use a smaller amount (1/4 cup) of batter. Do not turn the Injera over in the pan. Use a spatula to remove the cooked Injera and place it on a clean towel.
Let the Injera cool and then stack them on a serving tray. Do not stack hot as they will stick together.
Continue making the Injera until the batter is finished.
Injera should be3 soft and pliable so that it can be rolled or folded like a crepe or tortilla. Properly cooked, Injera will be thinner than a pancake but thicker than a crepe.
(Recipe used with permission from: Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide- Revised and Expanded Edition, 2008 by Shelley Case, RD. www.glutenfreediet.ca)
Article by Shelley Case, RD
Shelley Case, RD is a consulting dietitian, speaker and author of the national best seller Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. See www.glutenfreediet.ca