Looking at Food Trends – Teff

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Guest blog by Sam Hadadi

Teff: the Next Big Super Grain

From cold-pressed juices and cashew “mylk” to freekeh, fats and pseudo-grains, 2015 has already brought us plenty of food trends.

But with brinner (breakfast for dinner) and lard also said to be on the menu this year, we’d recommend taking foodie fashion with a pinch of (Himalayan pink) salt…

To separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ll be keeping you up-to-date on the food trends we think you need to know about. First up is the new super grain on the block, teff.

What is Teff?

Teff is an ancient grain and comes from Ethiopia (behind coffee, it’s touted as Ethiopia’s “second gift” to the world). Over the past year, its popularity has soared and it’s now found in health food shops across the globe.

Teff field at the base of the Eritrean Mountains. Image credit to Temesgen
Teff field at the base of the Eritrean Mountains.
Image credit to Temesgen

Teff’s seeds may be tiny (the word teff is derived from the Amharic “teffa” which means lost – drop a grain of teff to see what we mean!) but they pack an almighty punch in terms of nutrition. So much so that the demand for this grain has soared and they’re now grown by a staggering 6 million farmers across Ethiopia.

Here, teff is also called lovegrass or bunchgrass and is commonly ground up into flour (a great gluten free substitute) to make one of the country’s most beloved foods, Injera, a spongy flatbread.

While it passed under the radar of the now health-conscious West for centuries, teff is now becoming more and more popular thanks to its impressive nutritional values, as well as its appeal to the booming gluten free market.

However, sadly the growing demand for teff has pushed up prices in Ethiopia, meaning this once staple grain is now out of reach for much of the country’s poorest people.

While Ethiopia is a fast-growing economy1, it’s also still classed as severely under-developed by those at the UN. Shockingly, around one in five young children in the country is malnourished, and need this nutritious, healthy grain in their diets more than ever.

To try to combat this, the Ethiopian government has promised to try and double the production of teff this year – both domestically and for export – with many believing that it could be vital at reducing malnutrition, as well as being used in food relief emergency programmes2.

However, much of the teff you know see in shops has been grown in the US, who cottoned on to its popularity. If you really want to give something back, then please check your packets first and buy from Ethiopia wherever possible!

What are the Health Benefits?

For something roughly the size of a poppyseed (it’s one of the smallest grains in the world), teff is a nutritional powerhouse and is loaded with goodness. It also happens to be naturally gluten free, so it makes for a popular alternative in free-from or coeliac diets, particularly in baking.

Teff is also a great post-workout grain to enjoy as it’s fairly high in protein (much more so than wheat) and contains eight essential amino acids, all of which get used by the body for growth and repair.

As if that weren’t enough, teff is also rich in nutrients including calcium, manganese, phosphorous, copper, aluminium, barium, thiamine, and vitamin C, which is not commonly found in grains. In fact, teff is often recommended for people with anaemia or low iron levels because it’s also rich in iron, a form of which is easily absorbed by the body.

These small grains are mainly made up of germ and bran, which means it’s also extremely high in fibre and a low GI. It will, also, help to keep people fuller for longer and regulate bowel movements.

How Can I Cook with Teff?

Teff is a wonderfully versatile grain and can be used in all sorts of ways. There are different types of teff, which vary in colour from light to dark. The paler forms have an almost chestnut-like flavour, whereas the darker varieties are a little earthier, with a slight hazelnut taste. Red teff, which tends to be higher in iron, is also becoming readily available on health food shelves. Depending on what you want to create, it pays to have a play with the different grains!

In Ethiopia, the teff is traditionally ground into flour, where it’s then used to make traditional flatbreads.

Injera cooked on a traditional open stove. image credit to PhoTom - ፎቶም Photography (Own work)
Injera cooked on a traditional open stove.
image credit to PhoTom – ፎቶም Photography (Own work)

However, it can also be used to make gluten free breads, pancakes, cereal and cakes or muffins in place of normal or wheat flours (although it does affect the structure of bakes, so be prepared to have a good old experiment with recipes! It’s recommended to use 25 – 50% less than the amount of other flour stated).

Try this chocolate teff pancake recipe:

Ingredients

20g teff flour

40g rice flour

1 tsp. cacao powder, heaped

1 egg, beaten

120ml almond milk

1 tsp. Lucy Bee Coconut Oil

Method

Mix all ingredients (except the Lucy Bee) together. I like to use the nutri bullet for this but you can mix together in a bowl and use a balloon whisk.

Melt the Lucy Bee in a small frying pan. Add the pancake mixture and cook each side for a couple of minutes, until cooked through.

Serve with your favourite topping. I quite like this with a lemon yoghurt.

Teff can even be used as an ingredient in homemade energy or protein bars, or to make a deliciously creamy porridge – perfect for those who are intolerant to oats.

Meanwhile, uncooked teff grains can be used in cooking as a substitute for other grains or nuts and seeds. They can bulk up and thicken soups, stews and curries, while also adding a hefty nutrient boost to those foods. Since it’s so high in protein, it makes a great addition to vegetarian or vegan dishes.

Teff Recipe Ideas

For summer BBQs, you could even try adding cooked grains to homemade burger mixes, along with your favourite seasonings and spices.

Love the sound of this super grain? Get cooking by placing 1/2 cup teff grains with two cups water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Season with coconut oil, salt and your choice of spices and you’re ready to go. You could try adding your favourite natural sweetener for a pudding-like twist, too.

Be sure to let us know your favourite teff recipes!

Sam Hadadi

 

You can follow Sam at http://www.iamintothis.com/

1. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/ethiopia-faster-rate-millionaires-michael-buerk

2. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jan/23/quinoa-ethiopia-teff-super-grain

 

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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food. Sam is co-founder of a great blog, www.iamintothis.com.