Date: Monday, 13 March 2017
It came out of Africa in a storm of hype back in 2014. Teff — a cereal from the Horn of Africa — was to be the new superfood.
A fine, brown grain to compete with acai, chia and coconut water for nutritional superiority and one-upmanship in the activewear-clad wellbeing stakes, it had all the hallmarks of a third-world staple California could, quite literally, get its teeth into.
Chockablock with iron, calcium and protein, and gluten-free to boot, teff, it was said, had already been grasped to the celebrity bosom of early adopters Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow. How could it possibly fail to be the “new quinoa”?
But three years later, in Australia at least, this fine grain about the size of a poppy seed has yet to jump the fence from ethnic staple and health food/vegetarian cafe darling to culinary “must.”
In Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurants, teff flour is mandatory for making injera, a traditional flatbread. But our trolling for contemporary chefs and restaurants using teff came up more or less a blank, with the exception of Adelaide’s Duncan Welgemoed, who uses teff for the outstanding injera bread he serves alongside many of his North African-inspired dishes at Africola.
“It’s a fairly expensive ingredient, but to do the dough properly, it’s a must,” says the South African-born chef, who grinds and mixes teff flour with conventional wheat flour to make dough and then soaks, and toasts, teff grains to add texture and interest to the dough, which is then baked in a wood oven. It’s an Africola staple.
In whole form, cooked gently with water at a ratio of 1-3, it becomes a polenta-like porridge or gruel best suited to wet stews as a gravy and juice sponge.
It has a colour no food stylist could work with.
Soaked and toasted seeds can be added to salads, or batters, for a bit of textural interest and nutritional kick. But it’s as flour that teff has the greatest potential: in pancake or muffin batters, bread doughs and cakes.
“Processed teff flour is milled without losing a valuable husk, or outer coating, which means it retains its nutrient benefit and is becoming more widely used in pancakes, muffins and breads,” Byron Bay cookery teacher and wellbeing authority Sam Gowing said. At $12.95 for 500g, teff ain’t cheap, but a little goes a long way. Try it in a rice cooker: if you don’t like it, the chooks will.