Injera is an African flat bread that can be up to 1/2 metre (1 1/2 feet) wide.
It is best known in the west as an Ethiopian bread, but it is also made in Sudan, Somalia and Kenya.
Injera has a spongy texture with a slightly sour taste, and will make you feel really full after eating it.
It is often made from flour ground from a grain called “teff.” It is mixed with water into a paste the consistency of pancake batter, then let to ferment for up to 3 days. During this time, it gets colonized by wild yeast that is already on the teff grain. Batter from a previous batch can also be used to help leaven it. During fermentation, mould and a yellow liquid will appear on the top. All but the very poor will scrape this top layer off and discard it.
When fermented, a bit of the batter is added to some boiling water, stirred in until the water comes back to the boil, then the liquid is stirred back into the main batter. More water may be added to thin the batter further. It is then let stand for about 30 minutes.
The batter is then spread out on a large clay tray (called a “mitead”) and cooked over a fire. Outside of Ethiopia, people use electric non-stick frying pans.
As it cooks, tiny bubbles form on top. The batter doesn’t have enough gluten to hold the air, so it escapes, leaving behind a spongy batter with air holes in it. The dough is cooked for about a minute uncovered, then it’s covered and let cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. It is not flipped.
In Eritrea and Ethiopia, it is made only from teff (aka “xaafi.”) East African immigrants in other parts of the world may add buckwheat and white wheat flour. In some areas, sorghum and barley may be mixed in, depending on what crops are grown in the area. In Arrusi and Begemder provinces of Ethiopia, barley is used; in Shoa Province, corn. Some regions toast the flour first.
Injera can be served for any meal of the day, and is often used as a plate for to serve food on. Often Injera served on the side is torn up into pieces and used as scoops to pick up food. At breakfast, it is cut into strips, and mixed with onions, olive oil and peppers to make a dish known as “fir fir.”
Western recipes may call for self-rising wheat flour, baking powder, lemon juice and carbonated water, and have you cook the bread right away, skipping the 30 minute resting stage.
When made from teff, Injera will stay fresh for up to 3 days.