Injera served at restaurant

Cooked on a huge flat griddle

Injera, kuzu vegan cheese, sauces

Fermented pulp from the false banana plant makes vegan cheeseis used

Coffee ceremony with frankincense

Hot coals to heat up the coffee and burn frankinsense

Serving another round

Leftovers are eaten as fir fir for breakfast

Hospitality in a humble home

Injera and berbere, with fermented grain beer.

Ethiopian injera, berbere and vegetables

All about the Ethiopian injera

It is not easy to travel around the world on a diet that is vegetarian and gluten free. That is why injera made from teff  (a type of grass seed) came to the rescue in Ethiopia. Injera is rich in probiotics and beneficial to any traveller’s gut.

Teff  is ground into flour, mixed with water and left in a warm place to ferment. The ratio is five parts of flour to six parts of water. Locally, they use large quantities to make huge vats of the fermenting mixture. This slow process causes yeast and other micro-organisms to proliferate and produce a sour sort of sludge. After a day or two some clear liquid rises to the surface and can be poured off. The creamy residue is mixed with a leavening agent – probably more yeast, or baking powder.

A large flat clay or metal pan is heated, oiled and the batter is poured around in concentric circles, starting from the outside to form a thin pancake. It is smoothed out and the surface becomes bubbly, almost like a sponge. It is removed and spread out onto a large tray when it is strong (rubbery) enough to lift up Making a similar injera back home Teff is not readily available but I managed to make a reasonable sour dough batter with buckwheat. It is also gluten free.

This home version of injera required a little cheating, but it has a similar taste 

It may not work out the first time. I had to make a few adjustments. 

Ingredients

250ml buckwheat or rye flour (unless you have teff flour)

300ml warm water

50-100ml rice flour

Optional: 1 egg to improve the strength of the pancake and 5ml baking powder

It takes a few days to prepare the sour batter. Then you can keep it in the fridge for at least a week. At any time you can then heat up a pan and make a quick injera. Soak the buckwheat flour with the warm water in a covered jug for 2 – 3 days Then pour off the water that rises above the creamy section at the bottom.

Ferment this for another day or two until it smells “yeasty”. Add rice flour to thicken the batter and mix in the baking powder (not authentic, but it improves the texture for beginners like me). The batter should be able to flow easily from a spoon. You can also beat in the egg with a fork and this will improve the texture of your injera. (Not for vegans)

Heat up a large flat pan, and proceed as if you are making a normal pancake. Add a little oil. Pour in a stream of batter around the outer edge of the pan and quickly tilt it around to spread out the batter evenly. Wait until the top side begins to bubble and firm up. Ideally, this should be enough cooking. To be on the safe side, you can cover it with a large lid or flip over the injera.

When done, transfer to a plate and make another one.

Berbere sauce: Serve injera with berbere, a tomato and smoked paprika paste with a little curry powder. Bulk it up with a paste made of baked beans. Add plenty of oil to make it creamy. It is fairly hot and spicy.They eat this combination for breakfast and call it firfir. It is nicest with some cottage cheese and a few spoons of leftover curry or bean stew and cooked spinach. Enjoy the new experience!

Injera is a large gluten free bread-like pancake from Ethiopia

guests at a local home

they served injera with berbere and we drank a fermented grain brew

African veg platter

Pumpkin stew, sweet potato balls, bean fritters, maroc

Butternut ring with veg

Black I bean burgers, fermented cheese

Koju fermented banana stem

Tastes like feta cheese - vegan!

Sweet potato balls

Fry in sesame seeds

Fir Fir is made from leftover injera

A great Ethiopian breakfast favouite is Fir Fir. Basically, it means little bits of injera simmered in last night's sauce! It is very delicious second time around and if you have taken home a doggy bag from the restaurant, simply warm up the injera pieces mixed with the other sauces in a microwave. 

Leftover sauce and injera for fir fir

Any sauces can be mixed, especially chakalaka or a braai relish. Use any bread

Mix and microwave for instant fir fir

Even strips of tortilla or flatbread can be mixed into the stew

Ethiopian restaurant dishes

No meat is eaten twice a week - called "fasting"

Make your own birbir mixture

Toamtoes can be substituted with paprika, carrots and vinegar

Buckwheat pancake - also gluten free

If you have no teff, try other grains, bind with tapioca flour

Make a spicy sauce like Ethiopian berbere to eat with your injera