What is injera?
Eritrea, one of the four countries of the Horn of Africa, is the 4th youngest country in the world as it declared its independence from Ethiopia in May 1993 of which it was a federated state since 1953. We are in the highlands of the Horn of Africa, which includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. On these arid mountains, where famine is raging, people eat meals prepared with flour from a little known cereal: teff.
Injera is a round loaf of bread, with a spongy consistency and a slightly sour taste, due to its slow fermentation, which goes well with the strong and very spicy flavors of African cuisine. It is probably one of the most popular Ethiopian recipes.
People traditionally prepare the injera recipe with teff, a cereal that is only produced in Africa. Injera bread is present in the diet of all African families and, in addition to being a staple food, injera also serves as a plate and table for eating other foods.
It is broken with the hands and serves as a “spoon” to scoop food. The injera recipe can be prepared with millet flour or with teff flour, but not wheat flour.
What is teff?
Teff is a cereal grown primarily in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The grains are ground into flour, then fermented for 48 hours to make injera, a type of flat leavened bread with an appearance and texture similar to buckwheat crepes. The flour made from teff is rich in calcium and potassium, and is also suitable for gluten intolerant people.
Indeed, the characteristic that distinguishes teff is the absence of gluten, which makes it an interesting and refined cereal for the preparation of dishes for gluten-intolerant people and diabetics.
The increasing incidence of dietary problems related to celiac disease makes teff and teff flour an excellent substitute for wheat, with nutritional values that are significantly higher. This is one of the reasons teff recipes like this Ethiopian injera have gained popularity lately.
What is the origin of teff?
The name teff derives from the Amharic word (a Hamito-Semitic language of the Semitic language family) teffa which means “loss”. The word teffa emphasizes the small size of teff and therefore the fact that it can easily get lost. Indeed, teff is the smallest of all cereals measuring 1.5 mm in length and 1 mm in diameter.
The researchers estimated that the origin of teff goes back 5000 years. Testimonies show that teff was grown in Ethiopia between 4000 and 1000 BC and is still the most important cereal in the Ethiopian and Eritrean diet.
In ancient times, the Ethiopian empire extended to eastern North Africa and even the Egyptian pharaohs understood the value of this small grain that provides so much nutrients. Indeed, people found grains of teff inside some pyramids.
Teff grows in the African hills in altitudes between 5000 and 8000 feet and in recent years, it has become as popular as quinoa, for example.
There are several uses for teff, mainly in bakery products especially because it is one of the few gluten-free cereals with which you can make a good bread. You can also make cookies, muffins, crepes, various kinds of desserts, waffles or porridge. And you can even make pizza dough!
Teff flour and teff grains should be stored in a cool, dry place, in tightly closed wood or ceramic containers. In these conditions, it can be stored for up to 2 years.
How to make injera
Making injera bread is not difficult but it is just a matter of patience. Indeed, after mixing all the bread ingredients, you need to place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 2 days to allow the dough to ferment. That way, this Ethiopian flat bread will have a characteristic and pleasant slightly sour taste and spongy texture.
My advice: start by going to a typical Eritrean restaurant, offering a true Eritrean cuisine open to anyone wanting to discover and experience delicious aromas, but also Eritrean traditions. You will always be greeted with injera bread!
Injera is a sourdough flatbread, originally from East Africa, with a slightly spongy texture that is traditionally prepared with teff flour, but can also be made of millet flour.
- ½ lb teff flour
- ½ package active yeast
- 1 pinch baking soda
- 2 cups water (warm)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Mix all ingredients except salt in a blender for 1 minute.
- Add salt and blend again for 15 seconds.
Put the mixture into a large bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 48 hours in refrigerator.
Heat a non stick pan or griddle at maximum temperature. Lightly oil.
Pour a thin layer of batter with a small ladle for each injera and cook on one side for 90 seconds to 2 minutes.
Remove the injera from the skillet and enjoy warm.