My first home-made Ethiopian meal

Posted by on February 10, 2009 at 8:22 pm.

After living in Nottingham for a few months, I started missing Ethiopian food.  Tiana and I lived within walking distance to a fantastic Ethiopian restaurant called the Red Sea in City Heights.  I did some looking around Nottingham and, as far as I can tell, there are no Ethiopian restaurants here (although, I’ve heard there are some in London).  So, I decided to see if I could make it myself!

Ethiopian meals are centred around various stews served over injera bread.  The hardest part of this process was definitely the injera (see pictures below), as it involves a long process of waiting for a flour mixture to ferment.  Now, it’s possible to buy sourdough starters, but I didn’t really see any of these in the stores I went into, so I decided to just do it myself.  In comparison, the stews themselves took a lot of preparation, but as far as actual skill and patience required, they were, what my adviser would call “wee buns.”

I did a lot of internet research and ended up following the following process for making the injera bread:

  1. Bought teff flour online from Tobia Teff.  Again, I scoured every likely place in Nottingham for teff flour and could not find any.  I think most of the African markets here may be Kenyan?
  2. Followed Breadtopia’s video tutorial on how to make a sourdough starter from scratch using the ‘pineapple juice method’.  This was the longest part of the process.  It would have probably taken half the time if it wasn’t so cold in Nottingham at the moment.  One commenter from Australia said that, due to living near bread factories creating a lot of yeast in the air and the very warm climate, his starter became active within a day!  I started this in late December 2008 and it wasn’t until late January when I finally got a very active culture of teff flour starter.  I began by following the example using regular flour first, and then about five days later I began converting it to a teff flour starter. [By the way, from here on out, I am going to make another starter (and switch to that one only) using gluten-free flours.  I was cheap and used gluten-laden self-rising flour for the self-rising flour step documented in the next step.  One of our guests on the night we served it was alergic to gluten.]
  3. For the actual making of the injera bread, I followed Heather’s Burakaeyae Step-by-step Injera Instructions.  Accompanying her very detailed blog post are youtube videos for each step, and after a few searches on youtube, one will see that she has, hands-down, the best instructional material for how to make injera for every step along the way (except the sourdough starter step which she assumes you have already done, see #2 above, although she has her own blog post on how to do this, but it would take even longer). Heather broke the creation down into 3 steps, each done about 8 hours apart.  Because it’s a bit chilly in Nottingham at the moment, though, the final 8-hour interval actually took two days for the injera starter/batter to become active (and actually, another day would have improved the sourness and ain [air bubble] count even more). Because super large frying pans do not really exist in any practical manner, and because they do not seem to sell this product here in the UK, I had to make injera into smaller-than-normal pieces.  Traditional pieces of injera are rather large and a single piece will fill a platter, but I had to make mine into large pancake sizes, which turned out just fine.  At times the edges got a bit crispy, so I ended up cutting those off with a pizza cutter!
Preparing the injera

Preparing the injera: rolling up a cooled piece while others are still cooling off

All of the prepared injera: two dishes for the injera servings and the main serving platter, ready for the Ethiopian stews

All of the prepared injera: two dishes for the injera servings and the main serving platter, ready for the Ethiopian stews. If we had a real mitad, I wouldn't have to layer the small pieces around the platter because a single piece would have been big enough for the entire thing! (In the background you can see a jar of messy brown stuff: that's my remaining teff starter.)

For the actual Ethiopian stews, we followed these recipes:

Here is the final display of everything!

The final display! Salad (in the centre), Yemiser W'et (brown spicy lentils), Gomen (Collard greens), and Atar Allecha (spiced yellow split spea pureé).

The final display! Salad (in the centre), Yemiser W'et (brown spicy lentils), Gomen (Collard greens), and Atar Allecha (spiced yellow split spea pureé). The multiple pieces of injera become less noticable when the stews are served on the platter.

It was absolutely delicious (and vegan!).  In the end, all of the injera was eaten, including the one lining the serving platter, as is tradition. I must say, that even though veggie burritos from Santana’s and Cotijas in San Diego are probably my favourite food item, Ethiopian is probably my favourite meal for its flavours and the experience.

If anybody has any tips on where to find teff flour in Nottingham (or nearby) so that I don’t have to order it, that would save quite a few quid in the future.  Or, if you live in San Diego or the Bay Area where we know Ethiopian restaurants exist, and you would like to visit us soon, we’ll reimburse you if you bring us some teff!