Ethiopia is not known for its cuisine. Yesterday, while with a friend, he remarked so. And yes, the famine of the 80’s, something on a Biblical Scale has left shocking images, even by today’s standards of 24/7 news reporting. However, we are forgetting that Ethiopia has the Second longest period of continuous culture, only surpassed by the Chinese. So, in this corner of Africa, what delights have spouted out from this Ancient Civilisation. I will give three. Frankincense,
Coffee and Teff. And today I concentrate on that most overlooked piece of food, Teff!
Despite all the health fads of recent years, Teff is not a grain that has caught on, surprising with the rise in gluten free diets. Teff is one nutritious food. It not only is a carbohydrate but also contains all eight essential amino acids (the proteins that the body cannot self replicate). It also contains calcium and iron, a rarity amongst the staples. And yet it is only a major crop in one part of the world, the horn of Africa.
Teff is made into Injera, one of the many possible products, and the most commonly known in the West. With a slightly sourish taste, it will fill any person up to the brim. On Tuesday, I had Injera with meat. Basic yet fulfilling in every possible way.
The real miracle of Teff however is its growth. It can pretty much grow anywhere, uplands, lowlands, on poor soils. And it is fairly drought resistant but will also grow in the rain. In fact, dire conditions are needed for the collapse of a Teff harvest. In a part of the world with climate as unpredictable as North East Africa, this s a blessed grain. It also grows rapidly, ensuring good harvests throughout the year. For me it is astounding that this grain has not been utilised beyond its place of origin. However, this is not a grain in decline. In the last generation, the amount of land used to cultivate Teff has been increasing. While it is doubtful that this particular Abyssinian staple will ever catch on here in the UK (the Ethiopian/Eritrean/Somali communities are too small and at the moment too shattered to concentrate on take-aways) it is a treat that will fill the soul with delights of a full tummy.