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Ethiopian Teff Flatbread: Injera
by Shannon Joyner, Garden Companion Editor

Injera with 8 kinds of stew. Artem.G - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, first experience with Ethiopian food was at a restaurant in Portland, OR. I was a student at the time, and sitting on cushions with friends around the low table as the server brought a platter covered with a giant, spongy flatbread called injera, topped with savory little mounds of different Ethiopian specialties seemed the height of sophistication— and certainly a treat, contrasting strongly with the cheap, highly processed institutional food served in our cafeteria. No utensils were used, just our clean fingers, ripping a bit of warm bread off from the edge, and using it to scoop up morsels of braised greens, stewed chicken, and spicy lentils from the center of the platter. Hilarity ensued as we attempted to figure out how to pick up a very slippery whole hardboiled egg in a savory red sauce. Everything was delicious. Ethiopian food is similar to Indian curries in that it falls into the same "saucy-spicy-lots of vegetables" category, but the flavors are really unique, and I have yet to replicate them successfully at home. The bread, however, I've had more luck with. At many restaurants, injera is made with wheat flour, as it's cheaper and easier to source than teff in the U.S., although with gluten-free grains gaining popularity here, it's now easier to buy teff flour than it was 10 years ago. Teff provides a uniquely delicious flavor, ferments rapidly to give the perfect spongy texture, and has a nutritional profile—high in protein, iron, and calcium, and with a low glycemic index—that makes it worth seeking it out (if you can't find it, though, you can try sorghum or buckwheat flour, too). There are many injera recipes online, with varying degrees of complexity. Some use a starter, and a batter, and a sort of cooked teff roux called absit as an emulsifier. Others use only teff flour and water with a leavener to make an unfermented batter like regular pancakes. I found this one (paraphrased below), which combines a bit of fermentation and a bit of leavening, to give a nice flavor and texture without an overly complex preparation. Injera is delicious served with Misr Wat (Ethiopian spiced red lentils), or can be used like any other flatbread or wrap, with any fillings or toppings you like.

Ingredients (~4 servings)

2 cups teff flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
4 cups water, divided
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup olive oil or ghee

Place the teff flour in a glass or ceramic bowl, add 31/2 cups of room-temperature water, and stir well to combine. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, and leave the mixture on the countertop to ferment for 2 days, undisturbed (if you have a cold kitchen, you can put it in your oven with the light turned on (just don't forget it's in there and accidentally cook your starter!) The mixture should be start bubbling, and smell sour/fresh.

After a minimum of 48 hours of fermentation, the teff should sink to the bottom of the bowl, with a layer of foamy liquid on top. Do not stir the mixture, but carefully pour off all the foam and liquid, leaving the teff solids in the bottom of the bowl. Gradually add about 1/2 cup of fresh room-temperature water to the solids, and stir to make a thin batter, similar in consistency to crepe batter. Stir in salt and baking soda.

Generously grease a pre-heated 12-inch cast iron skillet. Pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the skillet to form a flatbread of roughly 1/4 inch thick. Cover with a lid, and cook on medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until the top of the injera is dry (don't flip it over), then use a spatula to transfer the flatbread to a warm plate. Repeat until all the batter is used up. Enjoy!

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