Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ethiopian Feast: The Results and Modified Recipes

Check out this recipe on my new and improved website:

Serve family style on a "plate" of injera
The Process:
The process of memorizing the four different Ethiopian dishes (besides the injera) came down to minuscule but significant differences. Essentially every dish I prepared looked like a variation of this basic recipe:

  1. Heat 1/4 cup oil with finely chopped onions, garlic, ginger, and spices
  2. Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently
  3. Add the main ingredient and some water
  4. Cook until it is soft but not watery, about 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently

Somehow this process allowed me to make four very different tasting dishes. As long as I remembered all of the small variations (red vs. yellow onion, which spices to use for each dish, and what the main ingredient is), the rest was either based on the pattern above or just made sense (I know what it means for something to be soft but not watery, so I don't have to memorize the cook times).

Misir Wat: Red Lentils with Berbere
(red lentils, red onion, and berbere/nigella set this dish apart)
Kik Alicha: Split Peas (split peas, yellow onion, no berbere,
and turmeric/cardamom make this dish different from the Misir Wat)
Like I mentioned in my last post, as soon as all the spices are secured (I spent about $30 for a good supply of berbere, nigella, turmeric, cardamom, and shiro), the other ingredients are not expensive at all. Also, these dishes can be made in enormous batches, so the hour-long preparation time is well worth it if you enjoy leftovers.

The Verdict:

This story has a sad beginning and a happy ending. I had let the injera batter sit overnight (I realized that the volume and weight measurements were woefully inaccurate on the Food & Wine recipe-- 4 cups do not equal 5 ounces-- so I used the measurement that made most sense, volume). I prepared the hot pan, poured in the batter, let it bubble (the top looked really good!), covered it for 30 seconds, and flipped the injera out onto a wooden cutting board to cool only to find that the bottom of the injera was still soaking wet. It was like a pancake that had just been put on the griddle. In other words, it was gross. Determined to make my own injera despite this set back, I started experimenting. I'll spare you the details, but it basically went like this:

  • Attempt #1: 1/2 cup batter in hot dry pan
  • Attempt #2: 1/2 cup batter in hot dry pan (expecting different results... am I insane?)
  • Attempt #3: 1/4 cup batter in hot dry pan
  • Attempt #4: 1/2 cup batter in pan with safflower oil
  • Attempt #5: Mixed 1 cup of coconut flour into the batter, then 1/2 cup batter in hot dry pan
All of the results ended up on my cutting board in a sad clump of sadness (I do believe that is the appropriate culinary term). My roommate walked by, gave an impressed nod at the cutting board, and when hearing that my bread was terrible, said, "Oh... that's not meat?" Ouch.

Left: The meat-like remains of failed injera attempts
Center: The watery batter
Right: The way I felt 
My other two roommates saved dinner by running to our nearest Ethiopian restaurant, Queen of Sheba, which sadly does not have gluten-free injera. My gluten-free friend would just have to settle with rice, because I was NOT feeding her the abomination of a pancake that I had made out of teff flour.

Now you know the sad beginning of my story, but the happy ending is short and sweet:
  • The other food was awesome (we all had favorites, but at least one person dubbed each dish their favorite)
  • The Queen of Sheba injera was amazing, as usual
  • We had two new family dinner guests
  • We had very few dishes to wash-- 4 pots and 2 serving trays
I am still determined to find a gluten-free injera recipe that works, but until that happens I must respectfully veto the reappearance of the Food & Wine injera recipe on this blog. All others can be found without modifications on the Ethiopian Feast: The 5 Recipes page.

Grab a piece of injera, scoop the filling you want, and enjoy.
No silverware, no plates, no problem!


  1. G'day! I am SO laughing WITH you today!
    Thanks for the laughter over my what I CAN say!
    The pan photo says it all, TRUE!
    I SO feel your pain about making these and you make me feel SO much better for my experiences in trying too! :)
    I did find a Swedish recipe for Injera on line. Do you have an email address I can send the link to? Cheers! Joanne

  2. Thanks, Joanne! I would love the recipe. You can email me at I appreciate it!

  3. Thanks for posting the recipes. I live in a city with very only a few mediocre places to get my Ethiopian food fix; making my own at home seemed like a good but daunting challenge. Your instructions and pictures helped me get through my first attempts successfully! Yay!

  4. Thanks so much, Shaz! I am so happy the recipes worked out. Once the spices are purchased all the other ingredients are cheap and easy to find, so these will carry you through many more batches. If you find any good Injera recipes please send them my way. Happy cooking!

  5. excellent post ! you were so brave to attempt injera!

  6. Hey! I just wanted to let you know that we do use plates ;) You place the injera on top a plate like any other dish. Remember have extra injera handy/on the side to pick up your bites/kolasso/gursha with. Finally, I've yet to learn how to make injera myself but I've observed my mom and others make it - it's quite the challenge: a successful injera has many, many holes in it - if the holes are few and far between it is "failed" attempt. I've seen my mom throw them out several times haha. I think letting it ferment sufficiently helps - but injeramaking is an unpredictable affair. Bon appetit if you're still into Ethi/Eri food in 2017 :)