Ethiopian food is my favorite. You eat it with your hands, it has delicious spices, and the bread, Injera, that comes with the meal is delicious… and fermented, which makes it a highly nutritious food that is basically predigested and easy for our relatively weak digestive systems to absorb.
Injera is made from water and teff flour, and one of the tiniest grains you’ll ever see.
But head’s up—many Ethiopian restaurants add flour to their Injera mix, so one way to enjoy this delicious food.
On today’s short Guts & Glory podcast I show you how to make this delicious treat that’s full of happiness for your tastebuds.
I want to know (scroll to the bottom of this post and answer this question): Have you had success making sourdough or other fermented breads at home?
Summer: Welcome everyone, this is Guts and Glory. We're going to talk today about injera. I'm Summer Bock, this is Lauren Haynes from Wooden Spoon Herbs.
Summer: We're just going to make an awesome, what I call it's Ethiopian fermented pancake, sour pancake if you will. That's probably not what they call it, they say, “injera” and it's delicious. If you go to an Ethiopian restaurant, your food is going to come on a giant pancake and it's all sitting there and you eat the food with this flat bread essentially. You use it as the utensil, so it's an amazing process. We have this special injera cooker right here, so we're going to practice making it today and I'm going to show you it's actually pretty simple.
First, you want to start off with some teff. Teff is the tiniest grain in the world. This is teff flour. We got the Bob's Red Mill kind, I actually think it's really fresh tasting, it's super yummy. I usually use about 1 or 2 cups of this, if I don't make a ton at a time. Then I add some water. Usually about 1 cup and I let it ferment for about a day or two. Basically it starts to get bubbly. I cover it usually with like a wooden cutting board and I let it sit for you know, 24 to 48 hours. Get it a little bit bubbly.
What we're going to do here is I'm just going to pour this into a new bowl right now. This is our fermented teff and water. There's lactobacillus, there's yeast growing in here but there's a lot of bacteria that have made it sour using lactic acid and their kind of bi product. You can smell it, it smells slightly sour. What do you?
Lauren: It smells so good. It smells amazing. It smells wonderful.
Summer: I love it. Okay, so then I'm going to add a little bit of salt because you need some salt to make … When you start cooking it. I'm going to do I think a half teaspoon of salt there.
Summer: Then I'm going to add little bit of baking powder. It helps it rise a little bit, it cuts some of the sour flavor. I'm going to do just yeah, a half teaspoon of that as well. Oh, by the way, this salt is from Oregon.
Lauren: Oh, awesome.
Summer: From the ocean that's on the west coast. The pacific one.
Lauren: The pacific one?
Lauren: I've heard of it thank you.
Summer: I almost forgot the name. You know, the pacific ocean.
Lauren: The west ocean.
Summer: The west coast cocean. Ssh. Okay. I'm going to mix all this stuff up and this is just going to be really pretty thin. I'm going to kind of show you how we do this.
Lauren: You don't add any un-fermented flour?
Summer: I didn't. Other people do sometimes.
Summer: You know, I just do the fermented version of it. This is just my preference.
Lauren: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Summer: I think it's delicious this way. I mean, I want it to have fermented for a day or two so that the flours have had a chance to break down. If I add fresh flour to it, it's going to be like, more starchy and that flour will be harder to digest. In my mind, the point of this is to like make the starch easier to digest. Also, okay, so let's talk a little bit about this crazy injera cooker. It took me a while to find this. I finally got it at an Ethiopian supply store in Portland. Here, I'll just put this up here. Write that down, if you want this.
Lauren: People in the background having fun, they're fishing.
Summer: They are look. Here's the item number. Hope you can read that.
Lauren: Could you use any kind of wide, flat skillet?
Summer: Yes, you can use … I used to teach this using cast iron pan, but you have to use oil because you have to get this up to like 500 degrees, that's the key is having this be really really hot. I mean, it is really getting hot in there right now. That's the major secret to like making you know, authentic injera. Just know that ideally, you want one of these if you're going to make the real thing.
Summer: Yeah, otherwise you're going to end up with like kind of a greasy flat bread. It's still close.
Lauren: Sounds good.
Summer: You know, greasy flat bread. I'm just rinsing off my little [dealimabob 00:04:18] here. Actually you know what? I kind of want to use a metal one. This is all sort of an experiment guys. I've seen some people use oil on this and some people not. We're going to try it without oil and hope that we're able to give you guys good example. I'm just going to use this little thingy. I kind of wish I had a little bit bigger one because what I really want to do is I want to kind of spread it out really fast. It's almost like dosas, like in Indian food.
Lauren: Or crepes.
Summer: Or crepes, exactly. I'm just going to put some on here and do this. No, cover up.
Lauren: It's cooking really fast.
Summer: It's cooking really fast. Let's just try this. I didn't get it very big. We're going to cover it. Supposedly, just like 2 or 3 minutes.
Lauren: Wow, so it cooks itself from the top and the bottom.
Lauren: No flipping required?
Summer: You do not flip it.
Summer: I think I'm going to try this plastic guy because I'm nervous about the nonstick situation. Here's the thing. I did a lot of research because I wanted to try to get a non stick one. I couldn't find one.
Lauren: Mm-hmm (affirmative) That's okay.
Summer: I'm sure traditionally they probably stick like you know these cast iron things over like a fire or something.
Lauren: To get it hot.
Summer: Look at that. People.
Lauren: It's beautiful. Looks like a giant cookie.
Summer: Okay. I'm so nervous, this is not my solid rock. See what happens here. Remember I didn't add any oil. Yeah.
Lauren: Lovely. Look at that. That's so pretty.
Summer: No oil. This is just flour, water, yeah.
Lauren: What was the ratio of flour and water?
Summer: I used probably about 2 cups of flour to 1 cup of water.
Lauren: Okay. Perfect.
Summer: Let's try this again. I think obviously what's missing is called technique.
Lauren: I've heard of it.
Summer: Something that I'm sure you develop when you practice this a lot. I'm going to try this little guy now. I mean, it's just a little bit bigger. I'm going to see if I can actually …
Lauren: That's going to melt.
Summer: That's what I'm worried about.
Lauren: It's going to melt.
Summer: Okay. Let's do this.
Lauren: We could do …
Summer: We're just going to use this. I got it. I'm ready. What are you going to do?
Lauren: I was looking for a metal spoon, but I'm sure you would have already grabbed it.
Summer: Yeah, I don't have one. Okay, I'm ready. I know what we're going to do here.
Lauren: Yeah. How thin do you want it?
Summer: The thinner the better. That's where I'm having a little bit of trouble. This is obviously like …
Lauren: I'm having trouble not eating this.
Summer: Right. This is obviously my 5th rodeo. You can eat it.
Lauren: You know what you're doing. Want to taste test.
Summer: It's not my 1st rodeo, but it's definitely not like, my hundredth. What do you think?
Lauren: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Highly satisfying.
Summer: Is it good?
Lauren: Mm-hmm (affirmative). My brain wants it to be chocolate, but it's not. It's really good.
Summer: Oh my God, that's so good.
Lauren: It's so good.
Summer: You know what's nice about it, it's like I used to make this with oil and it was crazy with the oil because it like, it would get crispy on the bottom. This is soft. Can you imagine like some sort of like lentilly deliciousness or like steamed greens that are like cooked to death? I love Ethiopian food. Ethiopian food is my favorite. How you know it's done is it all gets evenly the same color. Like here, there's still some light parts. That part is not ready yet. We want to just let it cook. It really is doing this pretty fast. 1 to 3 minutes. Make sure that it's cooked all the way through. The sourness and adding a little bit of baking soda is what causes all the bubbles to form. Those bubbles are what really help to cook it. It steams out all of the moisture really quick. Then you end up with this awesome doo-dad.
Lauren: It's really neutral, it could be sweet or savory.
Summer: Yeah. That's a good point.
Lauren: Veggies or something fruit.
Summer: You taste that like nuttiness?
Lauren: It has a little bit of a texture.
Summer: Gotta love it. As you can see, one of the biggest requirements here is going to be the injera cooker. Supposedly at injera restaurants they go through these like crazy because these start to melt off because they're like keeping it at 500 degrees for hours and hours and it's not quite an industrial machine.
Lauren: I think in 10 minutes you could make like a week's supply of these. Do you think they'd freeze well?
Summer: Oh you know what? I have … one of my fermentationists is checking that out.
Summer: She asked the exact same thing, so she's trying it.
Summer: Oh, I just can't stop. Look how beautiful and like flat that is. Yet, still light and airy.
Lauren: It's really wonderful. It's kind of like a sourdough pancake but it's lighter and thinner so it's like more luxury.
Summer: There's a little history here, teff has a lot of phytates in it and that's one of your enzyme blockers. It makes it hard to digest when you have phytates present. It binds up with all your digestive enzymes and basically things don't digest properly. You end up not absorbing certain vitamins. When you do this, when you ferment this teff in this way, you basically get rid of those phytates and the various organisms in there are helping with that process. This is like one way to help with like us as humans, our weak digestive tracts. We have these spindly little weak digestive tracts compared to most mammals and most other animals in general and so we have to prep our food in a lot of different ways and I think that's where fermentation comes in a lot of times. Fermented foods really help to predigest things so then we can absorb more from it. This ends up being a highly nutritious food.
Summer: We're going to go now and finish this so we'll see you guys later. Thanks for joining us.