Heavy Meals: Ethiopian Spread

A while ago, I tried making injera bread. It went ok.

I still had some teff flour left, though, so I decided to go ahead with the second batch. I took the advice in the comments section (how anyone finds this obscure blog, I have no idea) and used a different recipe that ferments longer. This one called for making a starter and also incorporates regular flour in addition to the teff.

Then I figured, maybe I should just try and make a meal of it. What could go wrong?

T iqur Qarya Awaze (That Green Stuff)

Injera is often served with a spicy green sauce. I based mine off these instructions. I stir fried two green bell peppers and two jalapeños in a generous helping of canola oil, along with one tablespoon of minced ginger and another of minced garlic.

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Once the vegetables were suitably mushy, I drained the oil and put them in a blender with a handful of minced cilantro and a splash of water. I didn’t have any holy basil, so I sprinkled in Italian seasoning instead. Close enough.

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After I tasted the sauce, I felt like it was missing something. I poured out some water and poured in little white vinegar. Better. Then I squeezed in some lime juice because the sauce is green and limes are also green, so it seemed like they should be together. I scooped the sauce into a bowl, covered it with foil, and stuck it in the fridge for later.

Injera, the Second Batch

First, I poured a cup of teff and a cup of water into a pot and covered it with a lid. Then I left it to sit on my counter for three days.

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Before fermentation

I opened the lid only occasionally to scrape off the mold and give the mix a good whiff. It smelled well, like something that’s been growing microorganisms for several days. I did sprinkle in about half a teaspoon of yeast at one point, just to help it along.

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After fermentation

Everything went according to plan. I had a three-layered starter, as per the recipe said I should. The night of the third day, I added another cup of teff and kneaded the crumbly dough until my hands started cramping. It took many, many washes to get the odor off my skin. Then, I added in enough water to get a thin batter and stirred it well.

The next morning, about twelve hours after the previous step, I poured the batter into a blender. After the dough seemed uniform enough, I blended in a cup and a half of flour and a teaspoon of baking soda (since I didn’t have self-rising flour), plus more water.

The mix was allowed to rise for about five hours. Once it started to settle down (and stopped leaking all over my counter), I put it in the fridge for an hour.

Now that the batter was chilling, it was time to start on the mesir wat.

Mesir Wat, Al Dente

I don’t love cooking lentils. They take too long. That’s why the same jar of yellow lentils has been in my cabinet since 2014. Since one of the common dishes to eat with injera is mesir wat, it seemed logical to try it.

First, I rinsed and boiled a cup of yellow lentils (you’re supposed to use red, but y’all know I never follow instructions), scraping the foam off the top as they cooked. While that was happening, I fried the injera in my skillet, salting the bottom of the pan to help encourage the bubbles, “eyes,” to develop. This injera was smooth and fairly rubbery.

After the lentils had been cooking for about fifteen minutes or so, I stirred in two small cooking onions (chopped), two tablespoons of minced garlic, one tablespoon of minced ginger, and two Thai red peppers. The recipe called for berbere, but all I had was a bag of unmarked Indian curry mix. I think it was for some kind of dal. Possibly. Well, I already used Italian seasoning and Thai peppers, so might as well get all culturally-diverse up in here. Into the pot you go, India. Melting pot ‘Murica!

I cooked the lentils until I got bored. They were still a bit al dente but, honestly, I like them better that way. Then I garnished the wat with chopped onion, cilantro, and lime juice.

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The finished product. It was mediocre, like my life.

I’d say I captured a good 60% of the Ethiopia experience with this spread. A gentleman’s F. It took entirely too long and I think I’m put off breads that use starters forever now (that includes you, sourdough). Somehow, eating something that I’ve watched/smelled ferment (and grow mold) on the counter was just too much. Neither my brother nor I died, so I’m assuming it’s non-toxic, but I’m adding injera to the list of fermented foods I’m not interested in eating, right along with sauerkraut and kimchi.

No more four-day meals. Sheesh.

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