Injera

For some reason, injera has come up a lot lately and it seems that people either really, really want to know how to make it, or they don’t know what it is.  The latter seems like a good place to start…injera is a traditional Ethiopian flatbread that is made from teff flour and is used as a utensil to scoop up thick stews and porridges.  Most recipes call for three days of fermentation, so it has a pleasantly sour taste.

Teff is the smallest grain in the world and it packs a powerful punch.  Because of its small size, it mainly consists of bran and germ, the healthy components of grain that provide fiber and protein.  Teff has a high calcium content and is relatively high in the amino lysine compared to other grains.  You can feel the strong, vital energy in this grain when you eat it.  Teff ranges in color, but is relatively to very dark and it has a strong, rich flavor.  It is my understanding that Ethiopian restaurants here in the US typically make injera from teff and wheat flours, rather than solely from teff, which is the authentic way to make it.  So as not to shock our American palettes, I suppose.

While I cannot make any claims as to the authenticity of my injera, since I’ve never been to Ethiopia, my method is traditional with the exception of the fact that I use whole grain teff rather than teff flour.  I like to keep things simple and fresh, so I avoid pre-ground flours and this is an easy way for you to do the same, assuming that you have a blender.  It’s made like a crepe and turns out to be a deliciously sour, spongy flatbread perfect with Wat – an Ethiopian stew seasoned with berberé spice – a recipe we’ll revisit at another time.

This is a simple recipe, though it does call for some planning ahead.  The only tricky part is finding a strainer that is fine enough to let water out, but keep teff in.  I have a cone-shaped strainer that is works well for small amounts as in this recipe.

  • 1 cup whole teff
  • water for soaking
  • 3/4 -1 cup spring water, or as needed for blending (must be spring water)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Soak your teff in a bowl overnight in enough water to cover.  In a very fine mesh strainer, or one lined with cheesecloth, drain your teff and rinse well, then drain again thoroughly.  Place drained teff in a blender with 1/2 cup spring water and the salt and blend, adding more water until you can make a smooth batter that is thin, but not watery.  Pour it into a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.  Set aside for 1 1/2 to 2 days, or even as long as 3 days, giving it a stir and a smell periodically to see if it has begun to sour.  A darker liquid will rise to the top – this is good, just stir in back in.  The batter is done when it smells pleasantly sour; the smell is a little stronger than typical sourdough, but has elements of that same piquant smell.  You’ll want to make your injera as soon as it gets to that place, because if it goes to far, it starts to smell a little smoky and that’s not what you are going for.

When you are ready to make your injera, heat a flat skillet, preferably cast iron, to medium.  When a drop of water sizzles wildly, it’s hot enough.  Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the middle of the pan and tilt the pan so the batter moves toward the rim of the skillet to form something resembling a circle.  Allow it to cook a couple minutes, until the edges start to pull away from the pan and it’s cooked through to the top.  Place on a plate and continue until the batter is gone, stacking the injera one on top of the other and inverting another place on top so they stay flexible.  Use the injera to scoop up a thick soup or stew – maybe a berberé-spiced lentil or split pea soup, maybe a dahl or curry, whatever you want, really.  Enjoy!

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4 Comments »

  1. I’ve struggled to find teff flour and teff grain in the U.K. I recently went to an Afro-Caribbean who assured me that Mashela flour would be fine, but I’m totally confused as I don’t exactly know what Mashela flour is – research on the internet states its a pearl millet.

    Anyway a couple of days ago, I noted in a South Asian grocery store a packet of red teff.

    Do you know much about mashela flour and would red teff work for injera.

    • adaba said

      I have actually never heard of mashela flour, but I understand that millet is sometimes used as the base for injera. I have been wanting to try it out, but haven’t done so yet. I’d like to give it a try soon, but in the meantime, if you want to give that a go, just replace the teff with whole millet. I think the red teff would work as well…please keep me posted on how it all turns out!

  2. […] I posted the injera recipe last week, I think I’ll stick this Ethiopian theme through – so next week you […]

  3. […] since I’ve never actually been there) are often thick stews, served directly on a large injera (spongy flatbread) that’s been spread out like a tablecloth, then eaten using torn pieces of […]

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