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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Annual Connecticut Ethiopian Adoptive Families Holiday Party


I know, I know.  Another new year is barreling towards us, gaining momentum, and I haven't been on here since September.  Somehow, I truly thought that preschool was going to bring 12 extra hours a week into my life, but it didn't quite end up working out that way.  Then the Ethiopians started ballet class, which led to the annual Nutcracker, with rehearsals and dress rehearsals enough to rival any professional production company out there.  Sometimes it's all I can do to get a home-cooked meal on the table and avoid takeout!  Our Ethiopian nights have sorely suffered.  

But, unlike Monday's dress rehearsal for The Nutcracker, our life here is not a dress rehearsal, but a work in progress, and I'll just keep getting back up on this horse!  

Tonight is the annual holiday party for our local Ethiopian families.  I would be refused admission if I showed up without my doro we't, so I pulled that together last night and it's in the crockpot now.  I somehow thought I had already documented my doro, but when I went to link to it, I see that I didn't.  Ah well, I was charging the camera battery for tonight's performance anyway.  

There had been discussion on our local listserv earlier this week about what I will call The Injera Situation.  Our local Ethiopian restaurant is only open for dinner these days, which makes procuring injera extremely difficult.  Still, I had hope.  Last night, I thought to inquire as to The Injera Situation, only to receive the news that the situation wasn't good.  Indeed, there was talk of pita bread and naan.  

Nothing against pita and naan...we're passionate consumers of both.  But they're not injera.  Not to mention that if the Ethiopians see naan, they're likely to start asking where the palak paneer is.  

So, with about 18 hours of lead time, I decided to try making some form of injera.  I Google'd "quick injera" and found recipes that called for club soda and lemon juice.  "Okay", I thought, swallowing a little bit of dignity.  "It'll be better than no injera."  Until I read through the recipes and found that they called for brushing the cooked injera with lemon juice to simulate the sourness.  I couldn't do it.  

I seemed to remember what seemed like a relatively simple injera recipe in the cookbook I reviewed earlier, "Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia - Recipes from Afar and Near".  But I couldn't find the cookbook!  I suspect it's somewhere in the detritus surrounding my husband's computer space, but I couldn't uncover it.  I did, however, remember that, on my sidebar, I had a link to the recipe!

I tripled the amounts and used buckwheat flour in lieu of the teff flour (we couldn't get to Whole Foods last night).  To this mixture, I then added some starter.  My husband, an avid amateur bread baker, has managed to not only attract wild yeast in our New England environs, but he has been farming and tending to it in a variety of starter mediums.  He graciously allowed me to take a bit of his all-purpose starter, as long as I took "no more than 75 grams".  I dutifully pulled out our digital scale and made sure to take only 74 grams (our scale only measures by even grams, and 76 grams would have been a breach of our complicated starter contract).  

The mixture started forming bubbles almost immediately and I went to bed, heartened.  

This morning, the batter looked great and had even started fermenting a bit, smelling less like plain flour and water.  Again, I'm sorry for the lack of pictures.  I'll be doing this again and promise to document it thoroughly!

A blog-less friend of mine (or I'd link to it), Kristen, had given me a Heritage Lefse Grill and I was anxious to test it out.  I know that, in my earlier injera post, I had said that I wasn't entirely convinced that having this grill would make a difference and I still think it can be done on a stove in a regular pan, but I will say that I will no longer be trying that method.  The grill is fantastic.  Even heat, a huge cooking surface, and easily removed injera.  She had given me the lid, too, which I tried, but I ended up not using it because I felt the condensation made the dough too damp.  Plus, it was easier to see when the injera was done when I didn't use the lid.  

The results were mixed, but definitely skewed towards success.  I will be working with this recipe from here on out.  It's much thicker and spongier than my earlier results and it looks and feels like injera.  But, sadly, it needed to be fermented a lot longer; twelve hours is nowhere near long enough.  This injera is quite bland.  Dipped in a bit of doro (in that red crock-pot behind and to the right of the lefse grill), however, it was passable.  Much more passable than my first injera attempt.  

This recipe was also easy.  I have to play with the mix/types of flours a bit until I get something I love, and I will have to play around with how long to ferment it, but it really was so easy that I feel confident in saying that we will be having Ethiopian again soon.