I first discovered Ethiopian food in 1998, in a small restaurant on High Street in Columbus, Ohio. It was the kind of place that had boxes sitting out in the hallway to the restrooms and the lighting of the dining room was bathed in fluorescence. Alisa and I had decided to go there because neither one of us had eaten Ethiopian cuisine before and we were both intrigued.
We were further intrigued when we discovered that instead of the eating utensils we were used to (forks, knives, spoons), we would be eating our dinner with a torn piece of a pancake-like bread called injera. I had no problem with this setup, but Alisa demanded a knife and fork.
As a side note, Alisa and I soon stopped talking to one another. I’ll let you decide if these two facts are related or not.
I’ve made a similar comparison previously, but it does bear repeating: Injera is to Ethiopia as the tortilla is to Mexico. It is served with most meals on any occasion. It is made primarily with t’ef flour, but can also be made with flour from either wheat, rice, millet, barley, corn or sorghum.
T’ef injera requires you to ferment the bread for a couple of days. Which invariably means you’ll be stinking up whatever room you’ll be storing the dough. Once cooked, the result should be a soft, spongy sour bread that’s easily torn apart.
- 1 1/2 lbs t’ef flour
- 6 cups warm water
- 2 packets yeast (0.28 oz)
Into a large glass mixing bowl pour the water. Add the yeast and mix well. Sift in the flour and combine until you have a thickened batter. Cover the bowl with a cloth or saran wrap (leaving room for gases to escape) and allow to sit for 2-3 days.
The batter will then seperate, with fermenting water laying atop of the batter. When you go to make your injera, remove and dispose this layer of water, as it’s not needed.
Boil 2 cups of water in a medium sauce pan. Take 1 cup of the injera batter and add it to the boiling water. Stir it until it becomes the consistency of mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Once cool, return it to the batter and fold in thoroughly. Allow the batter to sit for another 30 minutes to allow the dough to rise.
Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat and allow the pan to come to temperature. Pour in 3/4 of a cup of the batter into the heated skillet in a circular pattern, from outside in. Cover skillet immediately and allow to cook from 2-6 minutes (depending upon the heat of the skillet). The injera will be done when the edge of the bread starts pulling away from the bottom of the skillet. At that point, remove the injera from the pan immediately and allow to cool. Repeat process until all the batter is used.
Injera made this way can be stored for 2-3 days.