Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Eating with Injera

Injera is the Ethiopian staple bread. Its a thin crepe like flat bread that the dishes such as Wots, Tibs and Fitfit are served on. To eat the dishes pieces of injera are torn off and used to scoop up mouthful.

Injera is unique to Ethiopia, from its distinct taste and main ingredient the Teff cereal. Teff is the tiniest cereal and used as a staple food only in Ethiopia (in other parts of the world its associated with common grass). Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 and 1000 BC. Teff seeds were discovered in a pyramid thought to date back to 3359 BC.

Injera preparation usually takes two to three days, the teff is milled into powder then mixed in water along yeast and small quantity of flowers. This mix is set aside at room temperature for 2 days so it ferments and raises. During the second day it starts to give tangy aromas as the fermentation releases air bubbles; this is where the Injera's slight tangy taste comes from.

After the fermentation process is finished the mix is cooked on hot flat iron pan called 'Mitad'. A circular motion is used to achieve thin consistency. When the hot pan and the fermented teff mix/batter contact thousands of tiny air bubbles escape, creating thousands of tiny craters/eyes - creating the familiar look of Injera.

The side touching the hot mitad pan gets its flat look, while the one facing away towards the air has the a porous structure with thousands of mini craters. This porous structure allows the injera to be a good bread to scoop up sauces and dishes.

Restaurants will serve your dishes on injera and they bring a side dish of injera for scooping purposes either rolled up or folded. When you are about to finish your side injera attentive wait staff will bring your more free of charge.

Teff - tiniest cereal
Teff is one of the smallest grains in the world, measuring only about 1/32 of an inch in diameter. Approximately 150 grains equal the size of a kernel of wheat. Teff is considered to have an excellent amino acid composition and lysine levels. One cup of cooked teff contains 387 milligrams of calcium (40 percent of the USRDA, which is more than milk), 15 milligrams of iron (100 percent of the USRDA and twice as much iron as wheat and barley). Teff is high in protein as well as fiber. A rich source of boron, copper, phosphorus, zinc.

Eating with Injera - Handling Instructions
Starting Note:
- Side A = With Holes
- Side B = Flat & Without Holes
- Use one hand (left/right - ok)

1. Tear of a small piece (size of your palm)
2. Side A - side with holes is the one that contacts with the sauce/meat
3. Scoop/Grab sauce or meat with the injera (similar to Indian/Middle Eastern eating)
4. Use your fingers to control; so pieces won't fall down as you put the scoop your mouth
5. It's ok to grab/sample more than one sauce or dish on each scoop-trip
6. Finally you can proceed to eat the bottom/table cloth injera where the sauce was first served, by now it soaked with all the tasty juices and is full of flavors

Source: Ethiopian
Get the recipe for injera here.
Read about gursha, the act of hand-feeding another, here.

Here is some additional info and resources regarding injera from some IAN families:

"We buy injera at 10 pieces at a time and freeze it (this was suggested to us by
our ethiopian friends). When you want to use it thaw it out and then just steam
it in the microwave. I usually tear into big pieces and steam it in my pampered
chef steamer but I big bowl covered with wet paper towel or saran wrap will work

"We have found rolling the injera before freezing to be a bad idea. It seems to
defrost better when folded into 'pie' shapes."

Teff flour is available on Amazon.

Websites that sell injera and spices:

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