Injera, sometimes transliterated enjera; is a yeast-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. Traditionally made out of teff flour, it is a national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea. A similar variant is eaten in Somalia (where it is called canjeelo or lahooh) and Yemen (where it is known as lahoh).
Ingredients and cooking method
The most valued grain used to make injera is from the tiny, iron-rich teff. However, its production is limited to certain middle elevations and regions with adequate rainfall, so it is relatively expensive for the average household. Because the overwhelming majority of highland Ethiopians are poor farming households that grow their own subsistence grain, wheat, barley, corn, and/or rice flour are sometimes used to replace some or all of the teff content. There are also different varieties of injera in Ethiopia, such as nech (white), kay (red) and tikur (black).
In making injera, teff flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days, as with sourdough starter. As a result of this process, injera has a mildly sour taste. The injera is then ready to bake into large flat pancakes, done either on a specialised electric stove or, more commonly, on a clay plate (Amharic mittad, Tigrinya mogogo) placed over a fire. Unusual for a yeast bread, the dough has sufficient liquidity to be poured onto the baking surface, rather than rolled out. In terms of shape, injera compares to the French crêpe and the South Indian dosa as a flatbread cooked in a circle and used as a base for other foods. The taste and texture, however, are unique and unlike the crêpe and dosa, and more similar to the South Indian appam. The bottom surface of the injera, which touches the heating surface, will have a relatively smooth texture, while the top will become porous. This porous structure allows the injera to be a good bread to scoop up sauces and dishes.
In Eritrea and Ethiopia, a variety of stews, sometimes salads(during Ethiopian Orthodox fasting, for which believers abstain from most animal products) or simply more injera (called injera firfir), are placed upon the injera for serving. Using ones right hand, small pieces of injera are torn and used to grasp the stews and salads for eating. The injera under these stews soaks up the juices and flavours of the foods and, after the stews and salads are gone, this bread is also consumed. Injera is thus simultaneously food, eating utensil, and plate. When the entire “tablecloth” of injera is gone, the meal is over.
In Somalia, at lunch (referred to as qaddo), the main meal of the day, injera might also be eaten with a stew (maraq) or soup.
In Eritrea and Ethiopia, injera is eaten daily in virtually every household. Preparing injera requires considerable time and resources. The bread is cooked on a large, black, clay plate over a fire. This set-up is a stove called a mitad (in Amharic) or mogogo (in Tigrinya), which is difficult to use, produces large amounts of smoke, and can be dangerous to children. Because of this inefficient cooking method, much of the areas limited fuel resources are wasted. However in 2003, a research group was given the Ashden award for designing a new type of stove for cooking injera. The new stove uses available fuel sources (including dung, locally called kubet) for cooking injera and other foods efficiently, saving the heat from the fuel. Several parts are made in the central cities of each country, while other parts are molded from clay by women of local areas. However, many women in urban areas now use electric injera stoves, which are topped with a large metal plate.
Outside of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Plateau, injera may be found in grocery stores and restaurants specialising in Eritrean,Ethiopian, or Somali foods.
Injera - Ethiopian Flat Bread
- ½ cup wholewheat flour
- ½ cup plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- Stir together the wholewheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
- Combine the eggs, buttermilk, and the 1 tablespoon cooking oil; add all at once to the flour mixture, stirring until smooth.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into a hot, lightly greased 15 cm heavy skillet over medium heat; lift and quickly rotate the pan so that the batter covers the bottom of the skillet. Return the skillet to medium heat. Cook about 1 minute or till light brown on the bottom.
- Invert the bread onto paper toweling. <em>(If necessary, loosen the bread with a small spatula.)</em>.
- Repeat with the remaining batter. Roll up jelly-roll style and serve warm.
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