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.