A white (faranje) adoptive mother to two Ethiopian (habesha) girls wends her way through
Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by D. J. Mesfin

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yet'ef Injera (Injera Made from T'ef)

I am getting serious here now.  Earlier this year, my local Ethiopian restaurant cut their hours, which meant that I couldn't run in for some dinner injera at lunch time.  Their dinner service doesn't start until about 5:30, and since we start bedtime routine at 6:30, that wasn't going to work either.  We tried the mail order injera and didn't like it (we only tried one place, but there is just something about fresh injera that makes us loathe to try another place).  Yet the Ethiopians need their injera.  Heck, I need my injera!!

Ever since we first started the journey that led to the adoption of the Ethiopians and discovered the sheer euphoria that is berbere, I had been warned about the injera process.  I was told it's impossible.  I was told it's so hard that even Ethiopians buy it rather than make it.  I was told it would be hopeless without some starter batter.  

That may all end up being true, but we're not left with many other viable options at this point and I'm planning on making some yesiga t'ibs this weekend.  I keep coming back to the realization that a lot of people do make injera and make it on a regular basis.  Some even make it to sell to folks like me who have been too afraid to give it a go.  

I'm going to give it a good shot, keep an open mind, and go into this with the expectation that I will need to work through some trial and error, but I am also hoping that, eventually, I get to the point where I can place some reasonable facsimile of injera on the table.  

This morning, my husband took the Ethiopians to school (they just started 3-day preschool last week, sigh; for their first packed school lunch, they asked for yesiga fitfit).  I stayed home to wait for the plumber so that we can stop using our propane shower water pump to empty the tub and figured I may as well get started!  I had purchased teff flour last Friday, knowing that I was going to be jumping into this sooner rather than later (my Whole Foods carries it; you can also find it on Amazon here).  Using the recipe in Exotic Ethiopian Cooking, one bag is the exact amount needed! 

The recipe is pretty straightforward.  Take the teff:

Add water and stir:

The recipe mentioned mixing with one's hands to ensure that there were no lumps.  I just used a spatula and decided that was good enough.  I almost thought about using my immersion blender, but decided the batter looked pretty good without that intervention.  

I was thrilled to see yeast in the list of ingredients!  I feared that this would be a recipe requiring "natural" fermentation: you set the pot out and hope some yeasty organisms decide to make it their new home; this is the fermentation method preferred for tej, yet it seems that this particular corner of New England doesn't lend itself all that well to natural fermentation.  Not to worry, though, as yeast was the next addition:

I may have used a bit too much water; the recipe wasn't exactly clear on how much water to use when, and I had thrown the entire amount into the flour, forgetting that I needed a cup of water to dissolve the yeast.  Later on in the recipe, there is a call for a further unidentified amount of water, so we shall see.  

After dissolving the yeast, I dumped it into the flour-and-water mixture: 

Perhaps I was just delusional, but I thought I saw bubbles start forming almost immediately!  So I decided to check just now.  In the time it took me to start this post, text with my husband about whether he remembered to give the Ethiopians' pictures to their teacher (their first homework assignment), drop a pewter mug on the computer tower causing said computer to spew out a blue screen of death and restart itself, and finish this post, this is what has happened:

Even to my inexperienced eye, this looks good to me and I am hopeful.  It also smells divine!  For now, though, the lid goes on the pot and it sits on the counter until Sunday (the recipe suggests two to three days of fermentation).  

Of course, the batter is just half of the equation.  It sounds like actually cooking injera can be tough, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for now!  Stay tuned....


  1. I've been to three Ethiopian restaurants since coming back and I only liked the injera at one of them! I feel lucky to be able to buy it at a store in Boston, what they carry also tastes like what I had in Ethiopia (unlike two out of the three restaurants). I don't think I am ever going to be ambitious enough to try to make my own unless I eventually move to the middle of nowhere and can't buy it anymore!

    Funny, I always assumed injera didn't use yeast...

  2. Don't worry, Liz, I wouldn't likely be trying it myself if I didn't have to! And injera does differ quite a bit from one place to another. We are fortunate to love the stuff our local restaurant has!

  3. I have some experience with starting a sour dough. I can't quite tell from the photo, but if you're using a metal pan (anything except 100% stainless steel) you might consider transferring it to a different bowl or pan. Because the dough is acidic it can actually eat away at the metal.

  4. Thanks for that tip, Jessica. I'm just going to have to take my chances because the dough has already risen all the way up the sides of that stew pot and I don't have any other pans big enough for the job. But that'll go on my shopping wish list!!

  5. oh my gosh. can't wait to see how this goes! i thought teff was self-yeasty, so i am surprised by the addition of yeast, but hurray for simplicity! a massive glass bowl would do the trick.

  6. middle of no where here - awaiting test results!

    (also here in NE)

  7. I'm back. Studying. Planning. It may have to wait and become a new year's resolution, but I'm on the brink of a serious attempt (or series of attempts) at injera making. Thanks for paving the way.