Food & Drinks

What is teff grain, a gluten free superfood to try

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What is teff grain, a gluten free superfood to try

Teff is destined to be one of the protagonists of 2015, or so reports on the new year’s foodie trends would have us believe. Following the boom of quinoa, the non-cereal we see more and more often on the tables of the western world, in 2015 we shall probably be learning to cook and enjoy teff, the gluten free cereal from Eritrea and Ethiopia, grown in North-West Africa and South-West Arabia. But are you sure to know what is teff? It is a fortunate period for this ancient cereal, particularly now that food tolerance has become such an issue. An ancient cereal indeed since it was cultivated as long ago as 2000 B.C.


Teff is officially recognized as being a super food, one of those foods everyone should eat regularly. What’s so special about it? The fact that it is naturally gluten free like quinoa: this makes it a versatile basic ingredient for oven-baked dishes and pasta. But let’s not forget its other qualities: Teff contains great quantities of calcium, iron and amino acids, as well as being rich in protein.

Photo: Flickr / Carsten ten Brink


Both are excellent substitutes for more traditional cereals; both have a lower carbohydrate content than other cereals (teff: 65 g per 100 g; quinoa: 64 g per 100 g) and are protein-rich (teff: 12 g; quinoa: 14 g). Even from the more banal viewpoint of calories, the two cereals are very similar (approximately 400 calorie per 100 g). Teff is only superior to Quinoa with regard to its content of calcium and iron: 100 g of teff contains around 180 mg of calcium and 7.63 mg of iron; in 100 g of quinoa these values are considerably lower, "only" 47 mg of calcium and 4.75 mg of iron.


Teff is mainly used as a flour in Eritrean and Somali cooking; above all, it is widely used for making a spongy type of bread called Injera, particularly familiar to the clients of Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurants. Injera starts out as a dough that is almost creamy in consistency, made from flour and water, which is poured onto a hot griddle just like a crepe. Unlike quinoa, it is not a cereal that lends itself very well to preparing first course dishes, that is to say, cooked in the same way as rice or pasta. Its particles are really tiny so it is perfect as a flour for making bread, pasta and oven-baked products. In other words, it makes an excellent substitute in all those dishes in which traditional white flour is used.

Photo: Flickr / A. Charlotte Riley


There is a high demand for Teff in Ethiopia and Eritrea and, in recent years, western markets have also started to appreciate the versatility of this cereal. At present, the greatest European exporter of Teff is Spain. In some countries, it may not be easy to come by in mainstream supermarkets but it is sold in organic food stores or online. On average it costs around 5 Euros a kilo.


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