Injera & An Ethiopian Inspired Feast

One life goal that has been kicking around on my bucket list for several years now is to enjoy an Ethiopian meal together with friends on a shared carpet of injera. As far as I’m concerned, half the fun of cooking is sharing a meal with others. I find it hard to be motivated to cook only for myself, and often end up throwing together random, lazy meals or grazing on snacks. This evening, I took a completely different tact: I cooked myself a feast, with two spicy bean stews, braised greens, and mushrooms on top of homemade injera.

If you’re looking for authentic Ethiopian cuisine, there are many wonderful recipes and restaurants out there. However, as much as my taste buds love lentils and split peas, which seem to be the staple legumes in Ethiopian cooking, the rest of my digestive tract strongly disagrees, so I improvised with mung beans instead. I also didn’t have berbere or tef flour, so I did my best to approximate with what I had on hand, using half spelt, half buckwheat flour. While not the most traditional Ethiopian meal, it was still awfully colorful and tasty! Wish I had a camera to capture it.

Thanks to Imma, of Immaculate Bites, for the wonderful guidance on how to make a “Western” berbere spice mix and delicious gomen. And so many other mouth-watering African and Caribbean recipes that I will have to return to soon! I ended up just sautéing the mushrooms in butter, since by that point I was beat, but Veggie Belly has a recipe for ingudai tibs that might be fun to try in the future. And lots of other intriguing recipes, from the looks of it. An article from The Toronto Star was also illuminating when it came time to season the beans. The injera recipe is from Stephen Katz’ wild fermentation, the spark for this entire fiery meal. (And, from the looks of it, two more. Yay for leftovers!) Hope to make this again before too long, when I have time on my hands and friends to share it with.

UPDATE (2/22/17): Have neither time to spare nor friends around to feed, but did have an over-abundance of mung beans and kale, so I made a simple meal of alicha, gomen, and injera. Didn’t have any buckwheat flour left, so I used all spelt, and added the baking powder hoping for lots of bubbling. Instead I got no bubbling at all, which was disappointing, but I was still glad I chose to add it, as the acidity was more to my liking and easier on my stomach this time around. I also struggled with the first several sticking and breaking apart. Cooking them on a flat griddle pan and being careful not to make them quite so thin seemed to help, though the texture was still a bit strange, like a chewy crepe. I assume this is due to using only spelt flour. As soon as I scooped the stew and greens on top, however, all was set right — the perfect combination!

Injera (Ethiopian Sponge Bread)
Makes 16-20

2 cups sourdough starter
5 cups lukewarm water
4 cups flour (traditionally at least half tef flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder or soda (optional)

Mix together the starter, water, and flour to form a thin batter. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for 24 hours or so in a warm place, stirring occasionally if you have the chance. Stir in salt, and baking powder if you choose to use it, which will react with the acidity of the sourdough, resulting in more bubbly and less sour injera, or for an even milder taste, you can use a teaspoon of baking soda instead. If you are using only the natural leavening of the sourdough, stir in a tablespoon of flour instead.

Lightly grease and heat a large skillet (I used cast iron) over medium heat, then ladle batter onto the pan and swirl it to spread it thinly across the pan. Add a little more water if necessary. Cover and cook until top is dry, which happens remarkably quickly! If you are using baking powder or soda, the top will also fill with holes, but this may not be the case with natural leavening, and in that case at least, I didn’t actually notice a difference between covering the pan or not. Loosen one edge of the injera from the pan with a spatula and then pull off the pan with two hands — I found the injera was less likely to split apart with this method than when I tried to pick the whole thing up with a spatula. Place on a plate or towel and repeat, setting aside until ready to serve the meal.

Spicy Stews

My shortcut method, since all the ingredients but the spices are the same, was to chop all the onion, and blend together a head worth of garlic and a few inches of fresh ginger in the food processor. I then started two pots going at the same time, sautéing the onion, then garlic-ginger paste, then added in cooked mung beans, the appropriate spices for each, and enough water to make a thick stew. Of course, you could also follow the more traditional method of frying up the onions, then the pureed garlic and ginger and spices, and then stirring in the split peas or lentils for a few minutes before adding water and letting them cook.

Chopped onion
A couple spoonfuls garlic-ginger puree
About 1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric, to taste
A teaspoon salt, or to taste
Finely minced jalapeño (optional – since not in season, I used a drizzle of our fermented jalapeño hot sauce instead)

Chopped onion
A couple spoonfuls garlic-ginger puree
1/4 to 1/2 cup berbere spice mix, to taste
A teaspoon salt, or to taste

“Cheating” Berbere
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1-2 teaspoons cayenne or other hot chili powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or mace
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
(You could also include a little cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and/or allspice)

1 bunch kale or collard greens
A spoonful or two of garlic-ginger puree
A pinch of berbere, or paprika and cardamom (optional, I skipped it)
Lemon juice, to taste (optional, my lemon turned out to be rotten so I skipped it)

Saute greens with garlic-ginger puree for a couple minutes, until wilted and fragrant, then stir in spices and a splash water and cook for a few more minutes, until tender, then remove from heat and squeeze lemon juice over.

This entry was posted in Breads and Baked Goods, Gluten Free, Out of the Frypan, Stews and curries, Vegan and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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