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Nov 23, 2007 10:26 AM

What to eat with injera … or wats on injera?



What’s on inejra?

Right. Wats on injera


Ok … enough butchering Abbot and Costello

A little store in my area sells fresh injera so I bought some … yep, I can say for certain I’ve never had injera before.

It is a huge spongy flatbread that is sort of like what would happen if a crepe, crumpet and pancake mated … and the offspring went bad and took steroids.

It has a tangy, sour taste … which started my Google search … was this spoiled injera or was it supposed to taste like that?

It is supposed to taste liked that. It does have a nice aroma like a sour rye bread.

It is used as a plate and utensil for Ethiopian food. Stews (called wat) are ladled on top and pieces from injera are used to scoop up the food. Here’s a nice picture.

That blog also has a great quote about the importance of tactile contact with food …

“I remember hearing an elderly relative remark that as one can only get to know one's spouse by touching him or her, that's also the only way to truly know one's food. It really is quite sensual to discover first hand, literally, the various textures and temperatures: warm rice, cold relishes, tender meat curries, crispy fish. As the old folks used to say, it was a more satisfying meal.”

Well, I have some huge pieces left. So could people give me a clue about what flavors would pair well with it?

I like the idea of ladling stew on it and the juices soaking up. I’m just wondering what flavors would bring out the best of this bread. I do think that sourdough taste would be amazing with the right dish.

Also, how long does it keep? What’s the best way to store it … on the counter or in the fridge? Can it be frozen?

Any creative ideas outside of me trotting over to a restaurant to pick up some take-out wat-ever?

This mentions …
“For breakfast, the bread is cut into strips and mixed with peppers, onions and olive oil for a dish called fir fir that's accompanied by eggs.”

I could do that. I think I read it is a cold dish … sort of a bread salad?

This has a layered sandwich using cream cheese, salmon, sun-dried tomato, red onions, olives and basil.

In the first reply, just some things I learned about injera in my search.

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  1. A good general info article by the NY Times about an injera maker …

    “In Ethiopia she would pour the batter in a circular motion into a concave clay griddle, over a wood fire. Here she dollops it onto a Teflon-coated round electric frying pan. Back home, her mother would cover it with the traditional lid of woven grass packed with sun-baked cow dung; here, Ms. Reta uses a tin top.”

    An aside to New Yorkers … supposedly this woman makes the best injera in NY ... well, at least according to one of her customers.

    Nice article about how to eat inerja and the correct side of the bread to ladle the stew

    Here’s a good article about the grain that injera is made from … teff (aka lovegrass, annual bunch grass) … the smallest grain in the world (from the Amharic word that means ‘lost’ because it is hard to find if dropped … with pictures of it and why it is so nutricious …

    “It supplies more fiber rich bran and nutritious germ than any other grain! It also packs a high mineral content that boasts 17 times the calcium of whole wheat or barley. It takes 150 grains of teff to weigh as much as one grain of wheat which accounts for its high nutritional. In any grain the nutrients are concentrated in the germ and bran. With teff the germ and bran make up the bulk of the grain and because it is too small to hull, its nutrients are abundant and stay intact.”

    More than you want to know about Teff

    1. Ooooh, you're in for a treat. Never tried Ethiopian at home, in large part because of a lack of a source for injera.

      As far as what to eat with it, the bread is traditionally tablecloth, plate, utensils, and napkin all rolled (or flattened, as the case may be) into one. Put one on a big platter and serve with scoops of various foods. Popular Ethiopian standards include wats (including the ubiquitous doro wat with chicken and hard-boiled egg), kitfo (spicy chopped raw beef), legumes such as lentils and split peas, and any vegetable that can be braised (from collard greens to cabbage to carrots).

      If you're going to cook this stuff at home you'll need some exotic ingredients (berbere and niter kabbeh are indispensible) but if the local shop sells injera, they'll probably have other Ethiopian ingredients, too. On the other hand, most of these preparations are pretty time-intensive, so you may want to try this stuff in a restaurant before attempting it at home.

      Well now you've done it. I'm off to my favorite vegetarian Ethiopian buffet for lunch. Good eating.

      2 Replies
      1. re: alanbarnes

        Berbere you can make (it's just a mixed spice, and and you can make it a whole lot cheaper than you can buy it). Niter kibbeh would be very god to have, but OMG the calories ... I love the authentic flavor, but it's 100% butter-based, and I live quite well adjusting my recipes to use altogether less fat. WAY less fat. It's a compromise, but what the heck?

        1 teaspoon Ground ginger
        1 teaspoon Cinnamon
        3/4 teaspoon Ground cardamom
        1/2 teaspoon Allspice
        1/2 teaspoon Ground coriander
        1 teaspoon Ground fenugreek seeds
        1 1/4 cups Cayenne pepper
        1/2 teaspoon Grated nutmeg
        1/2 cup Paprika
        1/2 teaspoon Ground cloves
        1 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper
        1 teaspoon Ginger powder
        1/2 teaspoon Turmeric

        In a heavy saucepan, toast the following ground spices together over a low heat for 4 to 5 minutes: ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and allspice. Shake or stir to prevent burning. Add the salt, cayenne pepper, paprika and fresh ground black pepper and continue toasting and stirring for 10 to 15 more minutes.

        Cool and store tightly covered glass jar. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

        1. re: wayne keyser

          Thanks so much. In my non cooking world I would have had to buy nine of those spices which I probably would not use again in my lifetime. So I bought the bebere which was $2 and less that what it would have cost to buy all those spices.

          However, do you have any tips for spiced butter?

      2. here's a good link of recipes (the wats are on the bottom). here in msp we can get both injera & wat at the grocery store, & i tried to find a recipe online for my fave cheap meal, "keye wat/wote", which is a simple, vegetarian, highly spiced with cardamom & cayenne, lentil wat. it seems like it would be very easy to make at home, similar to dal, but i couldn't find a recipe! the sandwich sounds interesting but i'd be sure to try your injera with some traditional hot stews on top.

        5 Replies
        1. re: soupkitten

          Lentil wat is really easy to make - there is a nice very basic recipe for Ethiopian Lentils in, of all places, the Frugal Gourmet 'Our Immigrant Ancestors', by Jeff Smith. It doesn't include cardamom, but that's an easy fix - I always up the wattage (<--- oh gads, that was quite unintentional but I'm leaving it!) on the spicing in mine anyway. If you want the basic recipe, let me know and I'll post it for you on Home Cooking. You will need to have berbere and niter kibbeh for the recipe as well, but those keep well for other stews.

          1. re: cayjohan

            Actually that would be nice if you posted the recipe. I'd appreciate it. There's a little African spice store near me where I could pick up some of these spices and play around a little.

            Wattage ... heh ... I'm a bad influence on your subconscious.

            1. re: rworange

              Posting now.

              And to soupkitten - I was a big brain dead idiot about the cardamom; the niter kibbeh has it in spades.

              1. re: cayjohan

                Thanks !!! That seems doable even for me and I've been into beans/dried legumes lately anyway. Gives me an excuse to visit that African store again.

                Here's the link to the recipe for anyone else interested.

                1. re: rworange

                  I tried your recipe and it was great. I really didn't realize wonderful 'Ethiopean' food is.

                  Given the only Ethiopean food I've eaten was this, I'm putting it in quotes. I'm going to have to get myself to an Etheopean restaurant to see how it compared.

                  I froze the injera which sort of was ok. It flattened it a bit so it didn't have as light and spongy a texture. The wat helped the injera, but I'm thinking I'm not so crazy about injera.

                  The one thing that I did like was making the cold bread salad with the injera called Timatim Fitfit. Here's my take of it on Chow.

                  Is that nerve or what ... considering my 'expertise' in this area.

                  The reason I did was because there wasn't much I could find on the web as far as Ethiopen recipes for this dish except this link

                  A lot of people talked about eating it at restaurants and mentioned some ingrediants, but there were no actual recipes for a guideline.

                  My one other invention was a grilled cheese sandwich using injera ... it had that rye bread smell so since I like grilled cheese on rye I thought I'd give it a shot. Ok, but wouldn't do it again. Maybe I should have used spiced butter.

                  Thanks everyone for all the input into my little African adventure.

                  Wat ... I like it, I really like it.

        2. Ooh, you lucky 'hound! I'm lucky to live in an area (Arlington VA, near DC) with a whole bunch of Ethiopians and the stores and restaurants that cater to them. That means (yum!) fresh injera. Be aware you're lookin' at what some sources say is about 400 calories each.

          The tangy sourdough taste is because it is a simple sourdough bread.

          How long does it keep? If made traditionally, with no preservatives, you'll be lucky to get 3 days out of it at room temperature before it either molds or gets "un-pliable" enough to defy its intended use. I've seen some people refrigerate it, even freeze it, but I haven't had luck.

          That said, I'll bet you could freeze the leftovers, broken into slightly more compact size, and use as the Ethiopians use aging injers: "fitfit" style, meaning (as you proposed) broken up small (maybe i-inch or less morsels) and tossed with any of the usual entrees or salads.

          Here's a Wikipedia "fitfit" link which also mentions "firfir":

          I "fusion" injera with any Indian curry, or soft-cooked vegetable dishes which you may not think of as Ethiopian, but are right off the Ethiopian menu, like cabbale and carrots cooked soft in butter and ginger, or collards right out of the can (well-drained). I also love eating simple large-curd cottage cheese with injera.

          1. I have made sheero wat and kitfo at home. To be perfectly honest, to make them from scratch means making the spiced butter, which, while lovely, is an pretty long undertaking. So, having had the experience once, I now just happily trot across the street to my local fav ethiopain place.

            however, if anyone has a good recipe for Azifa, I'd love to hear it.