The injera experiment

The first time I ate Ethiopian food was at The Blue Nile in Detroit. What struck me instantly was the similarity with Indian food..the symbiotically fermented flatbread (much like the Indian dosai), the lentils (cooked exactly like dal) and the curried vegetables. The nitter kebeh or spiced claried butter is just like the Indian ghee with added spices. Yet it was different enough to hold my interest, and utterly delicious. Since then I've been looking for teff, the nutritious grain used to make injera, and finally found it at the local Healthy Life Market.

Next came the recipe hunt. I found several recipes for injera, rating from all-wheat-flour recipes to 100% teff recipes which required a starter, which meant 'feeding the starter' several times a day, for several days.

Um. No. I kept looking, and finally found this recipe. I modified it a little bit, not using the yeast and only fermenting it overnight. I used some fenugreek seeds to aid the fermentation. While cooking the injera, I added 1/4 tsp of baking soda to the batter to get a spongier crepe.

I love everything about injera..the rich chocolate color, the incredible flavor, the fluffy lightness. We served it with Ethiopian lentil stew, or mesir wat, which is just like the Indian masoor dal. Masoor-mesir…makes me wonder if they have a common origin.

Ethiopian mesir wat/Indian masoor dal

1 cup split pink lentils (masoor dal, easily found in Indian groceries)
1 tbsp clarified butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp berbere powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp ginger-green chilli paste

– Wash and soak the lentils in 2 cups water for about 15 minutes.
– Heat the butter in a soup pot. Add the cumin, turmeric, berbere powder, onion. Cook until the onions are softened and changing color. Add the garlic. Saute for a minute, then add the tomatoes, ginger green chilli paste. Cook for another few minutes.
– Add the dal and the soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, the lower the heat, cover and simmer. Cook for about ten-fifteen minutes, until the dal is well-cooked but retains its shape. ( I make it in the pressure cooker. Much faster.)
– Sprinkle with garam masala and serve.

You can serve this as mesir wat with an Ethiopian meal, or replace the berbere with coriander powder and serve it as Indian dal with rice or rotis. Or thin it out with water/stock and serve it as a warm lentil soup for snowy winter days..delicious. 

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About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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13 Responses to The injera experiment

  1. Vijay says:

    The injera(s) look exactly like the ragi dosais that my wife & mother make.

  2. jaklumen says:

    The lentil dish sounds fantastic… although I will probably replace the clarified butter with some sort of oil instead.

  3. Looks yum! Are there many Indians in Ethiopa, do you know? My Tanzanian neighbour makes these delicious lentil samosas that are apparently very popular in Tanzania and presumably a result of Indian migration to that part of Africa.

  4. Purplesque says:

    Ragi! I must experiment with ragi..have you noticed how much more wonderful the flavor of darker flours is?

  5. Purplesque says:

    Oh, yes. Regular vegetable oil would be fine. We had not used clarified butter (ghee) in ages, but then in-laws brought a can-full with them. Since I was making Ethiopian, I decided to splurge a bit. 🙂

  6. Purplesque says:

    Wow..I did some wiki-ing and it turns out that Indians have traveled to Ethiopia all along. I know there are Indians in several parts of Africa who have been there for last three-four generations, but there apparently was another wave of migration several centuries ago, which possibly explains dishes like the injera.

  7. There you go! 🙂 Have heard there is a city in South Africa (Durban, I think) that is also famous for its Indian cuisine and restaurants.

  8. Aubrey says:

    There is a street near me that's known as 'Little Ethiopia' – it's very little indeed, consisting of only a handful of restaurants.
    But they're cheerful and colorful and I've always wanted to step in and sample their wares.

  9. Great recipe! So far I haven't tried anything from Ethiopia yet. There is no such chance in northern Florida. But I will get it some day. And I start from yours. Thanks a lot!

  10. Purplesque says:

    Be careful. Behind that cheerful and careful facade lies food that is dangerously addictive. There are many who have been hooked after that first step.

  11. Purplesque says:

    Hmm..somehow I assumed that all of Florida would be full of various ethnic restaurants..maybe I was wrong. ( If you ever want to, though, teff, both grain and flour, are available on Amazon.)

  12. Purplesque says:

    Just discovered something else. See Vijay's comment above about it being similar to ragi dosa. Ragi/finger millet was introduced in India from Ethiopia about 4000 years ago, and is quite similar to teff. The hypothesis is pretty much proved. 🙂

  13. My understanding is that India was the great sea faring nation at around that time so you will probably find similar things all over the world.

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