Yesterday I posted about Ethiopian food. Today I had something more introspective planned, but since I am craving injera my other thoughts are temporarily postponed. When challenged, food usually wins.
What is this thing I crave? Injera is an Ethiopian sponge bread in the shape of a thin pancake made of teff and used as a utensil for eating the thick and spicy wots & tibs. I could go on, but why when EthiopianRestaurant.com summarizes it nicely for me.
Injera is the Ethiopian staple bread (staple = a principal dietary item, such as flour, rice, or corn) its thin crepe like flat bread that the dishes such as Wots, Tibs and Fitfit are served on. To eat the dishes pieces of injera are torn off and used to scoop up mouthful.Injera is unique to Ethiopia, from its distinct taste and main ingredient the Teff cereal. Teff is the tiniest cereal and used as a staple food only in Ethiopia (in other parts of the world its associated with common grass). Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 and 1000 BC. Teff seeds were discovered in a pyramid thought to date back to 3359 BC.
Injera preparation usually takes two to three days, the teff is milled into powder then mixed in water along yeast and small quantity of flowers. This mix is set aside at room temperature for 2 days so it ferments and raises. During the second day it starts to give tangy aromas as the fermentation releases air bubbles; this is where the Injera’s slight tangy taste comes from.
After the fermentation process is finished the mix is cooked on hot flat iron pan called ‘Mitad’. A circular motion is used to achieve thin consistency. When the hot pan and the fermented teff mix/batter contact thousands of tiny air bubbles escape, creating thousands of tiny craters/eyes – creating the familiar look of Injera.
The side touching the hot mitad pan gets its flat look, while the one facing away towards the air has the a porous structure with thousands of mini craters. This porous structure allows the injera to be a good bread to scoop up sauces and dishes.
Restaurants will serve your dishes on injera and they bring a side dish of injera for scooping purposes either rolled up or folded. When you are about to finish your side injera attentive wait staff will bring your more free of charge.
The first time I tried injera I was less than impressed. It was a soggy, overly sour, and sticky mess. I later learned there is good injera and bad injera. Good injera tastes like a tangy, moist sourdough with a soft & spongy texture. I can hardly wait to get home from the grocery store or getting take-out before I start ripping into it and am looking forward to feeding this to our child and watching their mouth pucker as they gum the sour bread. We are fortunate to have a considerable Ethiopian population in Minneapolis and I am able to get excellent injera at our food co-op. Because of its high moisture content it must be eaten quickly or it becomes the medium for a science experiment on your counter.
This is one recipe I am fearful of trying. Other than my croissants, baking is not my strength. Injera currently runs about a buck for a large piece and is relatively easy to find here. Once I master making berbere paste, I may try my hand at this finicky bread.