Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"real" injera

Teff is a very tiny grain - in the grass family - that is the basis of Ethiopian injera. It is a thin bread, that is sour, with a soft, spongy texture. Its sometimes described as a thin pancake or a thick crepe, but it is much more. It functions as plate and utensil in Ethiopian cuisine.

My first visit to D.C. I saw injera at a gas station, and began my hunt for some "real injera", injera that is made with just teff. The D.C. metro area has the largest population of Ethiopians in the U.S., but all the injera - at restaurants, markets and gas stations - are cut with wheat and or barley flour. Teff, outside of Ethiopia is extremely expensive, around $10 a pound.

I decided to give it one more try, at Dashen Ehtiapain Grocery in Silver Spring. There were over 7 different types of injera, but all, even the darkest in color, were cut with barley or wheat. The clerk was very helpful, going through the bags of bread and then eventually given tips to making injera from scratch - he said it was key to mix the teff flour with water and let the larger particles settle to the bottom and discard them. 

‎This is my first attempt at injera, and while the recipe couldn't be simplier, I feel like I might be missing something. Maybe the dough needs to ferment longer. Maybe there needs to be more water? Perhaps I should have added oil to make it easier to handle. I am not sure. But the results, even though a little ugly at first, were delicious!

I have secretly thought that teff might taste like pumpernickel. This injera is very sour, more sour than sourdough - which makes sense, because you are basically cooking just the sourdough starter. There are hints of pumpernickel - aka rye - flavor, which leads me to think that a teff-based fauxpernickel is in my future. 

1/2 cup teff flour
3/4 cup water

1. Combine teff flour and water in a jar. Stir well.
2. Allow to sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 2-3 days, or until bubbles form.

Time to make the injera!
3. Stir up the starter.
4. Add a pinch of salt.
5. Stir again.
6. Pour onto a lightly greased, flat-bottom pan.
7. Cook only on one side, till bubbles form and the dough darkens.

The first batch stuck, so I switched to the caste iron skillet, which worked a lot better.

With pratice, the shapes improved and they stuck less!

Overall, I think the flavor was right, but they were not as supple and soft as I think they are suppose to be. They fell apart when I used them to pick up food. But they really were delicious with left over Peruvian chicken - with hot sauce, rice and beans and sauteed asparagus with caamelized onions. Not bad for a last-minute, late-night dinner.


  1. Real-deal 100% teff injera can be purchased at the little market next to Dukem on U-Street. They fly it in from Ethiopia. I've heard there's more available in NoVa, but who goes over there? Tastes like sourdough bread more than anything else to me.

    Also, exercise caution if fermenting longer - I made our whole house smell like gym socks when I left a bowl of the stuff alone for too long.


  2. Maybe you just overcooked them? The shot where it's not done yet looks just right to me. I also wonder if you could possibly even cook briefly in a skillet and then steam them.

  3. Davey - that's awesome! I am totally going to check them out.

    Danielle - they were cooked through, but still soft in the middle. I tried cooking them less, but they stuck to the pan and ended up in a ball-wad on the end of the spatula. I think that steaming would make them rubbery... but it might work.

  4. My recipe, from an ethiopian restaurant in Toronto says to cover and steam for 2-3 minutes. Mine are a bit sour-perhaps this is what happens when you only use teff?

  5. Steaming sounds like the way to go. I sort of wondering if the teff is fermented and then dried and ground, but the packaging did not say as such. Maybe you are right allegra and the teff is just more sour.

  6. In the Maryland area, you can buy 100% pure teff Injera at Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine in burtonsville. It is fresh (as suppose the one that comes from all the way from Ethiopia). And the lady who makes it knows her stuff about gluten free, to avoid contamination, she grinds her teff in house.
    Good stuff

  7. There is a recipie for real, teff only injera, google it. Lots of directions, it was easy and worked really well!