Inerja bread, for soaking up those amazing Ethiopian sauces
Incredible: I have gone through an entire year of blogging without posting one single Ethiopian recipe.
And this despite the fact, that Ethiopian food is a part of my heritage I am truly proud of. On top of that I enjoy eating it ever so much – the flavours, the textures and not least: eating with my hands.
A typical Ethiopian meal to me is Injera (a yeasted pancake like soft bread), with spicy meat sauces and milder dishes made from pulses and vegetables. (recipes to follow)
But to be honest as much as love eating it (read: my mother and sister’s versions) I do not make it often. I’ll be truthful up front: this is not a quick and easy meal!! It needs advance planning and plenty of time; it can be a bit tricky to get right ……and your house will smell of onion …..and more onion.
But the result is a truly marvelous feast! In the end, this sumptuous meal is one of the most amazing gifts to cook for people you care for!
So once in a blue moon I roll up my sleeves for a special occasion……
And the first step is to get the dough going for the Injera.
Traditionally Injera is made from teff flour, but the preparation is slightly tricky (or ‘more tricky’ I should say). Until now I have stuck to a more staight-forward alternative made from all-purpose flour and corn meal. The dough needs to be started about 3-4 days before the dinner. Let the yeast do it’s work and then bakethe soft, spongy Injera pancakes. Although the Injera is best the same day it can be kept in the fridge for about three days.
There is no single definitive recipe for making Injera – below is my mother’s, with a little addition form my sister and a few tiny touches from me.
About 21 pancakes (around 3 a person)
150g fine corn meal
1kg all-purpose flour
150g Chapatti (Atta) flour
20g (about 1/2 a cube) of fresh yeast
about 250ml water
1 tbsp salt
- Sift the flours together. Discard the bran from the Chapatti flour.
- Warm the flour a few minutes in a dry frying pan to body temperature. You will do this in a number of portions depending on the size of your frying pan. (You can skip this step if you are trying to save time, but warming the flour yields softer injera.)
- Allow flour to cool.
- Heat some water (about 2,5l) until lukewarm.
- In a bucket (or large bowl), dissolve the yeast in 500ml of the lukewarm water.
- Add the flour to the water-yeast mixture and knead through thoroughly until it is smooth.(About 5-10 minutes until the dough no longer sticks to your hands). Only add the smallest amount of water a time to make the dough soft enough to handle. Do not add too much water to avoid it clumping. Once the dough is smooth you can start adding more water until you have a thick batter (About 2 l of water).
- Cover the dough and allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free space for 3-4 days.
- When the dough has sat and you are ready to make pancakes, bring about 200ml water to the boil. Add a little cold water to cool a little.
- Typically some water will have collected on top of the batter. Carefully pour it off.
- Stir some of the medium hot water into the batter with a spoon (you are looking for enough water to form a thick batter – you will be adding some more water in the next step to achieve a smooth batter). Use your hands to mix in the water making sure that no batter sticks to the bottom of the bucket.
- Let the dough stand a few minutes until little bubbles appear.
- Add about 250ml sparkling water to achieve a smooth liquid batter.
- Allow to stand 5 min.
- Stir in salt.
- Heat a large non-stick pan (I have a pan I use for nothing else than making Injera). Pour in a ladle full of batter and swivel around the pan. Cover with a lid and cook on a medium heat until the pancake formed bubbles, the surface is dry and the edges pull away from the pan. You want to avoid the Injera colouring (but it is not a disaster if it does).
- Place the cooked Injera on a clean dish towl. Repeat.
- Once cooled the Injera can be piled on top of each other.
- If you have cooked a few Injera and then suddenly the bubbles stop forming, you can add a little more sparkling water. Alternatively: add some baking powder to the batter (best to do this in small a small batch of batter as the effect of the baking powder wears of quickly.) After adding the baking powder, wait for the foam to subside as the wholes in the Injera will otherwise be too large.
- If you are eating the Injera the same or next day: place in a large plastic bag and keep at room temperature.
- If using within the next 2-3 days: place in a large plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator. When you are ready to eat them it is best to warm them briefly in a frying pan to soften them again.
Tips & Variations
Really the variations are endless. Every household will have it’s own recipe, but here are a few from my family.
- Different flour combinations are possible: use whole wheat or spelt, for example.
- The fresh yeast can be replaced with 2pkts (20g) of instant dried yeast. The dry yeast can be stirred into the flour before adding the water.
- You could try baking Injera after the batter has sat for only two days.
- Once the batter has sat for a few days you can add only sparkling water instead of part hot, part sparkling water.
I am always too earger to eat it to make a representative picture, but believe me: this is a gorgeous combination of Ethiopian flavours and textures