Injera is a type of flatbread made in Ethiopia and several other East African nations. The bread is a staple food in Ethiopia, where it is served with almost every meal. True injera is made with teff flour, a gluten free flour produced from teff, a popular African grain. Injera has a distinctive sour flavor and spongy texture which makes it ideally suited to sopping up curries, stews, and other wet dishes.
To make injera, cooks ferment ground teff at room temperature, much like cooks producing sourdough in other parts of the world. The fermentation collects natural yeasts, which provide some loft for the bread and impart a classically sour flavor. It is possible to overferment the teff, potentially creating a borderline alcoholic dough or simply a sour, distasteful dough which will not be pleasant to eat. Cooks who are experimenting with injera may require several tries before they get it right, but they should not despair.
Many people who have eaten at African restaurants are familiar with basic injera. Variations on the flatbread can be made with different types of teff flour, or with flour blends. Some experimental cooks even try mixing ingredients like minced onions into their injera batter, for a unique flavor and texture. In all cases, the finished product will be bubbly with a strong texture which holds up well on the table.
Once the dough is fermented, it is lightly salted and then fried, either on a griddle or in a large pan. Since teff has no gluten, the bread will not rise, but it will acquire a dense, spongy texture. In Ethiopia, injera often lines serving dishes and pans, with diners tearing small pieces off to scoop up food as needed. In regions where teff is expensive or unavailable, other grains may be used as substitutes, sometimes to the great detriment of general flavor.
To make injera at home, mix three quarters of a cup of teff flour with three and one half cups water. Cover the mixture with a dishcloth, and keep it somewhere warm for a few days, until it starts to bubble and taste sour. This can take three to four days in some climates, with warmer climates requiring less fermentation. Add several pinches of salt to the fermented batter, and then fry it like pancakes with oil. The injera can be served with African food, or used for a fresh take on naan with Indian curries.