After posting on a couple of my favorite Ethiopian dishes, a spicy chicken stew called Doro Wat, and a spiced and fragrant bread called Yewollo Ambasha, I realized I needed to delve into this cuisine more specifically, as most of my African cookbooks are just that – the many varied cuisines of the African continent – not only Ethiopian.
That led me to purchase Ethiopia, published in 2019, written by native Ethiopian Yohanis Gebreyesus.
From the author’s introduction: “Food is an object of survival, an entity believed to feed the body and soul across different cultures around the world. In Ethiopia on the other hand, it holds another crucial dimension, one that conveys a positive human energy through a powerful saying “enebla.” Enebla, in Amharic, translates to “let us eat” and our staple food injera is made in a way that invites more than one hand to the meal. It is a moment of sharing, of caring, and of showing respect for one another.”
Enamored as a young boy by his mother’s cooking, Mr. Gebreyesus eventually made his way to France, studying at the Paul Bocuse Institute and various restaurants, plus traveling the world making new culinary discoveries along the way. Then, he claims, “it was finally time to go back to my original, in order to unfold the rich culture I am proud to be part of.”
The first chapter in this cookbook is “Injera and Flatbreads,” which probably shows how important this bread is to the Ethiopian people and their cuisine. This is a photo of injera from this chapter. It’s so beautiful.
Injera, according to this author, “requires three moons to acquire the perfect elasticity and taste.” That didn’t help reassure me much! This is a picture of the brown variety of teff, the smallest grains in existence.
In this cookbook there are 2 recipes for injera, the traditional, 7-day procedure to make the spongy, fermented batter, and a one-day injera. The author states, specifically, that “mixing and baking the injera batter is a very difficult task that takes cooks many years to master.” Great. I’d wanted to challenge myself with the 7-day, but I didn’t have enough flour, so I’m making one-day injera.
2 cups teff flour
2 cups bottled water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
Vegetable oil for oiling pan
In a large non-reactive bowl, add the flour and begin working in the water. Stir well. Cover with a dish towel and let sit undisturbed on the kitchen counter for 24 hours. After this period, the batter should be slightly foamy. Whisk in the salt and baking powder. (The batter will deflate as you stir.
Use a non-stick crepe pan or a large, traditional mitad. My flat skillet has no sides, so I thought it might be perfect. Moisten a paper towel with oil and wipe the surface, then place the pan over medium-high heat.
When the pan is hot, use a spouted measuring cup to scoop 1/2 – 1 cup of the batter, depending on the size of the pan. Work quickly and carefully in order to pour the batter evenly around the pan. Starting at the outside edge of the skillet, going clockwise if you are right-handed, pour the batter in a thin stream and in one continuous motion in a spiral formation, without overlapping, until you end at the very center.
Cook undisturbed until bubbles have begun to form on the surface of the injera and the batter begins to set. When about 75% of the surface batter has changed color, 45 seconds – 1 1/2 minutes, cover the pan with a large lid. A glass lid is helpful here as it allows you to check the oneness of the injera without uncovering.
Cook until the edges of the injera begin to curl, the top is quite dry, and the injera has released from the bottom of the pan, from 30 seconds – 1 1/2 minutes. Do not flip. When cooked, use a long thin spatula and a thin plate to transfer the injera to a flat basket or a large plate lined with parchment paper without breaking. Remove any strays dough from the cooking surface, and then apply more oil as necessary and reheat the skillet. The heat can be now lowered to medium-low.
Allow the first injera to cool for at least 5 minutes before placing another on top, and allow all to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.
I’ve been to Ethiopian restaurants that lay multiple injera flat on a serving tray, but I’ve also seen them folded up, like when we ate at a Brooklyn restaurant called Ghenet.
More on injera: “Some people refer to our skills of manipulating injera as “dancing with fingers.” Eating with injera demands washing properly first – via a traditional water pot and bucket, brought to guests at the dining table. Having said grace, guests are invited to break pieces of injera using only the right hand. They apply the flatbread over the stews while avoiding covering their nails with the liquids, then dipping and rolling it to form a “goursha” – an injera bite that combines all the stews from the platter.”