Ethiopian Injera

20 Feb

Ethiopian InjeraA few years ago I had lunch with my Mum at an Ethiopian restaurant in Vancouver. Never having had Ethiopian food before, I had no idea what to expect, other than my Mum telling me that we would be eating “injera” made from “teff”, which really didn’t do much to clear things up.

What arrived at our table was a giant, crèpe-like flatbread covered in dollops of several kinds of thick, curry-like stew, to be shared between the two of us. Eating with our hands, we tore off pieces of the crèpe and used it to scoop up the stew, which was spicy and flavourful and incredibly delicious. The crèpe, as it turned out, was called injera, and it was made from a grain called teff (which happens to be gluten-free). It had a pleasant, almost spongy texture and slightly sour flavour, due to it being made with a sourdough starter of sorts. Along with being one of the most unusual eating experiences I have ever had (it’s not everyday in Canada that an edible part of your meal serves as both plate and eating utensil), that lunch was also one of the most memorable and delicious.

Since then, I had kept the notion of making injera in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t until I saw it as one of the suggested recipes for this month’s Sourdough Surprises flatbread project that it came to fruition. Traditionally, injera is made from a pre-fermented starter of teff flour, but it can easily be made with a wheat flour sourdough starter, which is what I used. It did require finding teff flour, but a trip to the local health food store had me sorted, and from there it really could not have been easier: you mix up a soupy concoction of sourdough starter, water, and teff flour, then let it ferment for several hours until it gets bubbly, then swirl it in a frying pan and cook it much like a French crèpe, only you don’t have to flip it. The injera develops its distinctive spongy texture after cooking, as it cools a bit.

The traditional Ethiopian stew served on top of injera is called wat, made from meat or vegetables and flavoured with a spice mix called berbere, which is analogous to curry powder in that there are as many variations as there are cooks. Several kinds of wat are usually served on a large communal injera, so I made a delicious approximation of this Ethiopian lamb stew (using an approximation of this berbere seasoning) along with a rather uninteresting and decidedly non-Ethiopian lentil dal to dollop on my injera. Any kind of thick, spicy stew or curry would be appropriate, too. (For more about Ethiopian cuisine, I found this page interesting.)

All in all, a pretty fun project and a good way to shake things up at dinner time!

Check out the Sourdough Surprises blog to see what other flatbreads were made this month using sourdough. :)

Ethiopian Injera

Adapted from Apple Pie, Patis, & Pàté. Makes 5 – 6 injera, 10″ – 12″  in diameter. Traditional injera are up to 20″ in diameter, but good luck finding a frying pan that size! The recipe below uses a wheat flour sourdough starter. To make a teff starter (which takes 5 days), check out this post.

In a large bowl, mix together:

1/4 cup sourdough starter

1 3/4 cups room temperature water

Stir to dissolve the starter, then add:

1 3/4 cups teff flour

Mix the batter until it is smooth. It will be quite thin, like crèpe batter.

Cover and let ferment at room temperature for 5 – 6 hours. After several hours, my batter developed a layer of water on top, and then about an hour later, the water had disappeared and and it had started to produce foamy bubbles. I took that to mean it was ready.

At this point, you can reserve 1/4 cup of the batter to keep as the starter for your next batch. I didn’t do this – I only need one kind of sourdough starter to babysit, and this was easy enough to make with the one I already have.

With a whisk, stir in:

1/4 tsp salt

The batter should be quite active now – I could actually watch it foam and ferment, which was pretty neat.

Heat a 10″ or 12″ non-stick skillet over medium heat (the skillet needs to have a lid, too). Test the skillet’s heat by flicking some drops of water on it: if they sizzle and dance, it should be ready. Pour 1/2 cup (for 10″ skillet) to 3/4 cup (for 12″ skillet) of batter into the skillet and swirl it around to coat the bottom. Bubbles should appear on the surface almost immediately. Cook for about a minute, until the outer inch of the injera starts to set.

Cover with the lid and cook/steam for another minute or so, until the middle of the injera is just set as well and the edges start to pull away from the pan.

Remove the injera by inverting the skillet and dumping the injera out upside down. Move it to a rack to cool slightly. (Note: like crèpes, the first injera might be a total disaster. The next ones will be better!)

The injera can be served warm or at room temperature. They can also be stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature. To re-heat, wrap them in a damp cloth and microwave for a minute or two, until warm. I did this, but next time I would serve them the day I make them because they got pretty crumbly.

To serve, place an injera on a plate and top it with dollops of thick stew (too much liquid or sauce will make the injera soggy). Cut the remaining injera into strips and roll them up to serve alongside.

To eat, tear off pieces of the injera with your fingers and scoop up the stew with it. Make sure you have lots of napkins handy!

This post has been YeastSpotted!

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34 Responses to “Ethiopian Injera”

  1. Sibella at February 20, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    This dish looks so delicious Korena! Great opportunity for me to try something new! BTW I love eating with my hands only! :)

  2. wendyjv February 20, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    I remember that lunch well and I’m glad it is a good memory for you. Anne and I went back to that restaurant a month or so ago and Ethiopean is still one of my favourite kinds of food. I’m really glad you’ve figured out how to make this. It looks amazing. Well done! :)

  3. Christina February 20, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    Can’t wait to make this complete dish! We love crepes for dinner. I don’t know much about teff. Perhaps I will try it with buckwheat flour instead. The stew and lentils look delicious!

    • christinajane February 20, 2013 at 10:19 am #

      Yum – just looked up the Ethiopean stew recipe. I’m gonna make it with caribou stew meat. Might be a bit strange.. but you work with what you’ve got right?

      • Korena in the Kitchen February 20, 2013 at 10:39 am #

        Hehe, Ethiopian caribou? There’s an oxymoron. I bet it will be really tasty, actually. And from what I’ve read, buckwheat is an OK substitute for teff. Let me know how it goes!

        • christinajane February 22, 2013 at 6:08 am #

          Boy was it good! Those ethiopian spices are incredible! I tossed in a bunch of green veges and served with a herby yogurt. The injera are super fun to make – weird texture but I liked it! We loved eating with our hands. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. narf77 February 20, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I have been waiting for someone that I admire to make Injera. Prior to seeing this recipe here I have always thought that it was beyond me and was going to be tough to bring into my world (although secretly lusting after them if truth be told ;) ) and now you have brought them into the realms of possibility and I am SO going to make them! Cheers for translating between the wild world and my safe little Tasmanian kitchen :)

    • Korena in the Kitchen February 20, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

      Aww, that’s so nice! If you can get your hands on some teff, the rest is a piece of cake! But once you make them, don’t tell anyone how easy they are ;)

  5. My Italian Smörgåsbord February 20, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    I will have to participate to your group! I have been wanting to do this forever. Ethiopian is our favorite take-away ever and I just love their bread! thank you for this highly inspiring post.

  6. Hamilton Courtney February 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    Korena you track down some of the most inspiring and lovely recipes I have come accross on the blogosphere.

    Thank you for sharing this. I have a friend who Will have such a huge smile on his face when he sees this.

    I hope you are well, take care. Xx

  7. Jenni (@GingeredWhisk) February 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    Awesome job!! I was secretly hoping that someone would make injera!!! I have never had it, but it looks so fun and delicious! Thanks for baking with us this month (and don’t forget to add yourself to the linky tool on the main blog!)

  8. Shelley C February 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    I am amazingly impressed. I have never heard of Injera before, but your post has me totally wanting to try it! And that stew looks pretty awesome, too!!

  9. Bam's Kitchen February 20, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Hello Korena, this is a very interesting recipe. I have not seen Teff flour before but you say that buckwheat flour is a good substitute and it is gluten free so that is a great idea. Are my comments going through? Can you please let me know? Take care, BAM

    • Korena in the Kitchen February 20, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      Your comments were in my spam folder but hopefully they won’t end up in there again. I had never seen teff anywhere either, but it was actually easier to find than expected. I’ve seen a few recipes that use buckwheat instead of teff, so I assume that it is a suitable substitute!

  10. Bam's Kitchen February 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    Hmm for some reason my comments are not going through so going to try another way… Take care, BAM

  11. Bam's Kitchen February 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Okay going to try another way to see if my comments are going through…

  12. jojo54 February 20, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    That looks interesting. I’ve never had Ethiopian food but may give it a try.

    • Korena in the Kitchen February 20, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

      If you like spicy curry, then the Ethiopian stew isn’t a far leap. And the injera is just a fun way to eat it!

  13. fadetheprompt February 20, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    The whole meal looks delicious! Injera’s now officially on my to make list.

  14. Jessica February 21, 2013 at 4:07 am #

    Wow, that turned out nice…good job :-).

  15. Jane @ The Wayward Oven February 21, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    I’ve always wanted to make injera as it’s similar to Indian dosas, but unfortunately I can’t find teff flour in Malaysia. Your platter of food looks so good!

  16. Robyn February 22, 2013 at 5:31 am #

    I’ve had injera once a long time ago and it really is a unique taste and texture. These look wonderful!

  17. Rebecca February 22, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Those look great! I have had injera and remember liking it. What a good way to try a different flour as well.

  18. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen February 22, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    I’ve never eaten Ethiopian food and now I’m dying to try! This is the sort of dish my family really enjoys.. healthy with so much spicy and flavor. I wonder if that restaurant is still in Vancouver? I’d try to get there one day! xx

    • Korena in the Kitchen February 22, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

      I think my Mum ate there again recently with a friend – I’ll find out what the name of it is!

  19. The Little Spork February 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    hm I’ve never had any sort of Ethiopian cuisine, but this does look pretty fantastic, great photos as well!

  20. Lilly Sue February 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    OH boy, I haven’t had ethiopian food in a while and now I am REALLY craving it! This looks awesome! I haven’t tried making any at home but might now!

  21. Kelster February 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    So cool! I need to get my hands on some teff and finally make an authentic injera. I actually made laxoox (pretty similar) some months ago.

  22. pizzarossa March 3, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    Injera is great – I’ve had it a couple of times at Ethiopian restaurants but you’ve inspired me to try it at home. :) I wouldn’t know where to even start looking for teff in Geneva, so I’ll skip straight to buckwheat, though!

    • Korena in the Kitchen March 4, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      Yes, teff is just a bit of a specialty ingredient, hey? ;) Good luck with the buckwheat version!

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