Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ethiopian cooking

I tried my hand for the first time at honest-to-goodness Injera (for the uninitiated, it's the pancake-like bread Ethiopians use to eat their food). I'd heard it was a bit tricky to make, but went at it with supreme confidence.

The Injera is a fermented bread with a taste somewhat like sourdough. Last week, I kicked off the process with a sourdough starter (which made decent sourdough bread, by the way). On Friday, I took a cup of the starter and mixed it with water and flour to get my Injera batter rolling. Yes, I know Ethiopians use Tef (a different kind of flour), but I didn't have any handy.

Today, the mix smelled perfect. While we were in Ethiopia, I watched one of the guest house cooks making the bread, and figured I had it down.

It smelled right, but seemed a bit runny. I didn't want to run out of time if the mixture was off somehow, so I tried cooking one.

Disaster. It was a gelatinized blob. I couldn't even get myself to taste it, the mixture looked so disgusting.

So I tried adding some flour -- you know, to thicken it up a bit.

Another slightly less disgusting disaster. The batter next went down the drain.

Of course, I had a back-up plan of sorts. There is a pseudo-Injera detailed in an old cookbook (Jeff Smith -- Our Immigrant Ancestors) that I've successfully made before. In a rush I mixed up a batch of that batter.

It also didn't work. This time I figured out why, however. It seems bread flour is a poor substitute for self-rising flour. Oops.

On the fourth try I did finally manage to make the back-up pseudo-injera. It went fine with the spicy beef stew and Chick Pea stew I made, and a tasty dinner was had by all.

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