First off, I’m not suggesting you eat raw teff with a fork. That would be an effort in futility as teff is the smallest grain in the world and would be impossible to scoop up with a fork. I just wanted to showcase its dainty size and figured this would do the trick. Three-thousand grains of teff weigh only one gram, but one pound of seed can produce up to one ton of grain in only 12 weeks. Got that?
Teff is what nutritionists call a nutrient-dense food source because of its high nutrient to calorie ratio. Native to Ethiopia, it’s an ancient grain packed with goodness and rich in fiber, calcium, iron, high-quality protein, and various vitamins. It has a delicate, savory, almost herbal taste as a cooked grain and provides a rich, cocoa color to baked goods when used in flour form. The flour also has a faint chocolate flavor with hazelnut overtones. Do I sound like a grain sommelier? If I do, it’s because teff is one of my favorite grains — it’s power packed, but sweet and girlie (Zena Warrior Princess food). I use it whole to make porridge and polenta and substitute small amounts of the flour in recipes for quick breads and spiced muffins.
My sources for teff are either Bob’s Red Mill or The Teff Company. Wayne Carlson, owner of The Teff Company located in Caldwell, Idaho, worked and lived with a farm family in Ethiopia back in the 1970s. When he returned to Idaho, he was struck by the geological and climatic similarities of the Snake River Valley in Idaho and the East African Rift where teff is grown. He decided to give the ancient Ethiopian grain a try here in America and now some of the finest Maskal teff in the world is grown in Idaho.
I eat a mix of gluten-free oats, teff, toasted and blitzed brown rice* and chia for breakfast once or twice a week during the winter. A nutritious breakfast is a good way to start the day and helps keep your blood sugar and energy levels balanced for several hours. We also have a higher level of enzymatic activity in the morning, so breaking down, absorbing, and assimilating our nutrients is more efficient at that time of the day. That old saying, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” is right. Or, in my case, like a queen, princess, and pauperette.
Here’s one of my favorite winter morning breakfasts. I like mixing my ingredients — this is also a good way to use up small amounts of grains and seeds left in the bottom of various bags. It doesn’t matter, there are no rules, mix and match as you please.
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (certified gluten-free*)
1/4 cup teff
1/4 cup toasted and blitzed brown rice*
2 small scoops chia seeds
2 & 1/4 cups water or a mixture of water and organic apple juice (you can also use rice milk)
pinch of sea salt (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom
nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)
dried fruit (raisins, dates, cranberries)
Use a small to medium-sized pot with a lid. Bring liquid (add salt) to a boil and slowly add grains and other ingredients. Mix well, turn heat to low, cover pot and let simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Check and stir every 5 minutes or so and if it looks like the liquid is too low, add a small amount more. I usually end up adding a little more water as it’s cooking because I like my porridge creamy with a risotto-like texture (plus, I’m at a higher altitude). Top with a dab of honey or maple syrup and some coconut milk (or whatever type you like) and enjoy. I even add a spoonful of vanilla goat yogurt on occasion.
Makes 2 hearty servings, adjust accordingly.
* I use Montana GF Processors Oats (I love these guys). Oats are naturally gluten-free, but are often contaminated with wheat through growing and processing methods. Some people with celiac disease can’t tolerate oats, even the gluten-free version, so talk with your health-care provider and make your own decision regarding oats. You can also use gluten-free buckwheat groats in this porridge mix.
* Toasted and blitzed brown rice makes for a wonderful hot breakfast cereal alone or mixed with other ingredients. Pour one cup of dry rice (brown, wild, or a mix) in a heavy, ungreased saucepan (I use an old cast iron skillet that was my grandmother’s). Heat on medium heat and stir regularly. Let the rice toast for about 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown. It may make some “popping” noises, but don’t let it burn. Cool, pulse in a food processor, and store in the refrigerator (use as needed).
Go forth and eat a hearty breakfast.