Teff: 78 million Ethiopians can’t be wrong
If you’ve ever eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant, then you’ve tasted Teff. It’s the primary flour used to make injera, that spongy, sourdough-ish flatbread that you use to scoop up your food. Teff is the staple grain grown and eaten in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and as far as staple grains go, it’s pretty darn spectacular. If teff flour hasn’t hit your local health food store or supermarket yet, it’s worth your while to seek it out. Here’s why:
1) It’s quite delicious. When I use it to make crepes (see recipe below), it reminds me a lot of buckwheat as far as the flavor goes. Slightly sweet, maybe a little nutty.
2) Whole grain teff flour is even more nutritious than whole wheat flour. While both have about the same amount of protein (4g) and fiber (4g) per 1/4 cup, Teff is also a good source of iron and a not-too-shabby source of calcium as well. That same 1/4 cup serving of teff flour contains 13% of the Daily Value for iron (versus about 6% for whole wheat flour) and 5% of the Daily Value for Calcium (versus 1% for whole wheat flour.) This makes teff flour an especially good food to incorporate into the diets of toddlers, children, teenage girls and adult women; all groups that tend not to meet the recommended intakes for iron and/or calcium on average.
2a) Even better: Whole grain teff is one of the few plant foods that’s a source of complete protein, meaning that it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own. (Some other examples of plant foods that are complete proteins include quinoa and soybeans.) This makes it a great addition to the vegetarian and vegan pantry.
2b) But wait, there’s more! The iron in teff is more bioavailable than you’d typically expect from a plant food, which means your body can absorb it relatively well. Without getting too technical, this has to do with a favorable ratio of phytates (a naturally-occurring form of phosphorous in many plant foods) to iron in teff. (Phytates bind to iron and inhibit the body’s ability to absorb it.) To enhance the iron’s bioavailabilty even further, you could eat teff in the form of traditional injera, where the yeast fermentation helps break down the phytates even further, or to eat your teff along with foods that contain vitamin C, like tomatoes, red peppers, broccoli/cabbage/cauliflower, fruits, etc..
3) It’s gluten free! This makes it a great choice for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, especially since so many of the other available gluten-free flours tend to be low in protein and fiber. A word of caution, though: many (most?) Ethiopian restaurants combine teff with whole wheat flour when they make their injera, so if you’re eating out and avoiding gluten, always be sure to ask what’s in it before you dig in.
Are you convinced?
Where to find whole grain teff flour
I’ve found teff flour sold under 2 different brands at a local health food store and at a Whole Foods Market in NJ: Shiloh Farms and Bob’s Red Mill, respectively. If you can’t find it locally, order it online through the links I’ve provided. I’ve never actually seen whole grain teff in non-flour form that I could cook as a grain anywhere in the NY metro area, so my ideas below will focus on ways to use the flour instead.
How to use whole grain teff flour
There are many ways to use whole grain teff flour, but I will focus on the 3 that I’ve seen the most.
1) As a partial substitute for whole wheat flour in any baked goods recipe (muffins, breads, cookies…). According to the helpful Bob’s Red Mill website, a good ratio would be to replace up to 1/4 cup per 1 cup of wheat flour that your recipe calls for with teff flour. Since I can’t eat wheat flour, I will have to take their word for it. And the Bob’s website has lots of other teffy recipes as well.
2) To make a super fast injera-like crepe that you can use to serve with your own Ethiopian or Indian-style lentil/bean stews or cooked vegetables… or just as brunchy crepes to serve filled with eggs, vegetables or the fillings of your choice.
3) To make peanut butter cookies. Don’t ask me why, but both Shiloh Farms and Bob’s Red Mill feature a recipe for these on their packages, and so I made them one day. They were really delicious, totally gluten-free and have some redeeming nutritional qualities as far as cookies go. Both recipes featured on the bags are very similar. They use maple syrup as a sweetener instead of refined sugar, and just use sea salt, oil, peanut butter, vanilla and teff flour. The peanut butter and teff flour are great sources of protein. The cookies have a non-trivial amount of fat, though, between the peanut butter and the canola/olive oils, but at least its mostly of the healthy polyunsaturated variety. Since the cookies are small, no major damage will be done if you stick to just one or two.
Recipe for Quick Injera (Teff Flour Crepes)
Makes 8 to 9 seven-inch pancakes
This recipe comes from The Healthy Hedonist Holidays, by Myra Kornfeld, Simon and Schuster publishers. It is reprinted here with permission from the author. I calculated the nutrition information that follows.
This recipe is a fast alternative to the traditional injera-making process, which can take up to 3 days. This clever version uses club soda and baking soda to recreate the spongy, bubbly appearance that authentic injera has as a result from the gases produced by the yeast fermentation. The batter will be thin; and as with any pancake or crepe-making experience, sometimes the first one can be a dud. Once the pan is nice and piping hot, you’ll get on a roll and start churning out gorgeous crepes like the ones pictured above.
For best results, make the crepes immediately after mixing the batter. Cover the pan to cook the crepes; there’s no need to flip them.
1 cup teff flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 TBSP melted butter or melted coconut oil
1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups club soda
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth
- Lightly oil or butter a 10-12″ nonstick skillet using a paper towel. Warm the pan over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the pan, tipping the pan in a circular motion so that the batter covers the entire surface. Cover the pan and cook until the batter is no longer wet, tiny bubbles have formed on the surface and the sides start to lift away from the pan, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Slide (or lift with a spatula) the crepe from the pan onto a plate. Repeat with the rest of the crepes. You don’t have to oil the pan in between pancakes! Stack and keep covered. You can serve these at room temperature or warm them in a 350 degree oven until warmed through.
Note: you can freeze these between layers of parchment. Cover the whole packet in foil. Defrost and warm the whole packet in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or so until heated through.
Nutrition information (assuming you use melted butter):
Each gluten-free pancake contains approximately:
90 calories, 11g carbohydrate, 4g fat (of which 2 are saturated), 3g protein, 2g fiber and 122mg of sodium (which is 5% of the daily value for sodium). 2 pancakes contain about 1/4 cup of teff flour, which provides 13% of the daily value for iron and 5% of the daily value for calcium as described above.Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.