What is teff and how should you use it?

It may be the world’s smallest food grain, but its nutty flavour and gluten-free status give it culinary clout.

By Emma Knowles
Roast cauliflower and teff salad
It may be the world's smallest food grain, but its nutty flavour and gluten-free status give it culinary clout.
What is it?
If you believe the hype, teff is the new(ish) kid on the superfood block. But teff has long been a staple in Ethiopia where it's eaten mainly in the form of the crêpe-like flatbread injera, made by fermenting teff for several days in water to form a sourdough. It's the tiniest grain in the world and has come to prominence because it's gluten-free and said to be a good source of iron, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin K. Teff comes in wholegrain form and as a very fine flour. Because the grain is so small, the flour retains all the nutrients of the outer covering, bran and germ.
Related: red lentil fritters with green yoghurt
Why do we care?
Much of teff's popularity comes down to its gluten-free status, and we've found teff flour to be a great option for gluten-free baking. We also enjoy the nutty flavour the grain brings to a salad or pilaf. Teff grain behaves similarly to semolina or polenta, making it an ideal porridge base, while just a small handful can thicken a soup or stew beautifully.
Where can I get it?
Teff comes in either brown or ivory versions (brown teff has a richer flavour) and is available from health-food shops and the health-food sections of select supermarkets. It's also available from African grocery shops.
Teff and banana pancakes
Serves 4
Process 120gm (1 cup) ivory teff flour, 250ml (1 cup) coconut milk, **1 coarsely chopped banana, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp honey, 1 tsp vanilla bean paste **and ½ tsp ground cinnamon in a food processor until smooth. Heat a little coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add a 1/3 cupful of batter and cook until bubbles appear on the surface and base is golden brown, then turn and cook other side until golden brown. Transfer to a baking tray and keep warm in a low oven while you cook remaining pancakes, wiping out pan with paper towels between each. Serve pancakes topped with sliced banana and drizzled with extra honey.
Teff, zucchini and haloumi fritters
Serves 4
Preheat oven to 200C. Combine 220gm (1 cup) teff in a saucepan with 750ml (3 cups) water, season to taste and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium and simmer until water is absorbed (10-12 minutes). Tip into a bowl, cool to room temperature, then stir in 150gm grated haloumi, 2 grated zucchini, 1 egg, ½ cup chopped mint, 2 thinly sliced spring onions, 2 tbsp teff flour, 2 tsp harissa, 1 finely grated garlic clove and the finely grated rind of 1 lemon. Season to taste and mix well. Form golfball-sized balls of mixture into patties, flatten slightly, place on a well-oiled oven tray and bake, turning once, until golden brown (15-20 minutes). Serve with lemon wedges.
Roast cauliflower and teff salad
Serves 4
Preheat oven to 220C. Toss 400gm cauliflower florets and 2 tbsp olive oil in a roasting pan to coat well, season to taste and roast until golden brown (20-25 minutes). Dry-roast 165gm (¾ cup) teff in a saucepan over medium-high heat until teff darkens slightly (30 seconds), add 375ml hot water or hot vegetable stock, cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed (5-6 minutes). Remove from heat and stand, covered, for 10 minutes to steam, then fluff up with a fork and transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Add cauliflower, 400gm drained canned chickpeas, ¾ cup each torn flat-leaf parsley and mint, ¼ thinly sliced small Spanish onion and season to taste. Shake 60ml olive oil, juice of ½ lemon (or to taste), 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar and ½ finely chopped small garlic clove in a jar and season to taste. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss and serve.