My first visit to Mesob was at the insistence of my vegan friend. My second, third, fourth, and fifth visits, however, were by my own craving.
Seven years ago, two sisters from Ethiopia, Berekti Mengistu and Akberet “Aki” Mengistu, opened Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant, at 515 Bloomfield Avenue, in Montclair. Berekti and Aki prepare and serve traditional Ethiopian food.
There is no item more ubiquitous in Ethiopian cuisine than the crepe-like, soft, spongy, slightly tangy, almost sour, and completely addictive flatbread, known as Injera. According to Berekti, Injera is unique and indigenous to Ethiopia and made no where else in Africa. Injera plays an essential role in Ethiopian table culture by encouraging, if not demanding, family style eating. At meal time, a large Injera is laid on a plate, while other preparations are placed on top of the Injera. Injera is both utensil and bread; to eat the food, one rips off a piece of Injera, uses it to pick up the food, and eats both together.
Want to take a peak inside the Ethiopian Kitchen? Watch the video to see Berekti make authentic Injera, and check out what else is cooking inside the Ethiopian kitchen. For extra footage, click here.
2 Large bowls with lids
Small measuring cup
10-12 inch heavy nonstick flat or shallow skillet or nonstick frying pan; must have lids
Round rattan charger or placemat (minimum 14 inches in diameter)
Clean white cotton tablecloth
2 cups teff flour
11 cups cold water
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup barley flour
Pinch of fenugreek powder (optional)
Mix 2 cups of teff flour with 6 cups of water in a large bowl, using your fingers to break up any lumps. The batter should be smooth and almost runny. Cover and set aside.
The batter for Injera is very temperature sensitive. If the temperature in the house is hot, allow the batter to ferment for 2-3 days. If the temperature is mild, allow 5 days of fermentation. If the temperature is cold, allow 6 or more days for the batter to ferment. If the batter is not fermented well, the Injera may stick to the pan when you cook it. Check the batter after the 6th day: if all the water has risen to the top and is separated from the batter, then fermentation is complete. If the water has not separated, allow to ferment for another day and check again.
After the batter has fermented, in a separate bowl, mix together self-rising, wheat, and barley flours, and fenugreek powder with 5 cups of water, using your fingers to break up any lumps. Pour into the teff batter and mix well. Cover and set the batter aside at room temperature for 24 hours. Afterward, refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain off any water that has separated from the batter into a small measuring cup and set aside. Mix batter well – it should be smooth and runny. If the batter is too thick, use the drained water to make it thinner. If the water is not needed, discard.
Preheat skillet or frying pan until hot enough that water droplets sizzle on the surface. Stir the batter, and ladle one-half cup into the measuring cup. Start pouring the batter into the center of the skillet, and continue pouring in a circular motion until the batter covers the pan. Cook until bubbles or “eyes” cover 80% of the injera and cover for 30 seconds. Remove cover and check the injera; if the edges are curling, the injera is done. To remove injera from the skillet, carefully lift one edge and slide the charger or placemat underneath and pull the injera onto it. Carefully slide injera onto the tablecloth to cool.
Stir the batter well, and repeat the steps mentioned above for each injera until the batter is finished.
For leftover Injera, store in tightly closed container. At room temperature Injera can last up to 2 days but it is best to refrigerate it.
Making injera requires patience and may take a few tries before you get it right.
Note: The batter may have a fermented odor but this is part of the process.
For a less fermented or “sour” Injera, reduce the fermentation time from 5 days to 3 days. This type of injera is known as afleña injera. It is also good for people who have trouble digesting fully fermented Injera.
In honor of its Seventh Anniversary, Mesob has launched their first ever creative contest, the winner to be awarded a $25 gift certificate. The challenge is this: express your Ethiopian food experience in just 7 words. Entries can be in a creative sentence, or in a 2-3-2 catch phrase, here’s an example, “Eat meat. Or go vegan. Eat Ethiopian.” Entries can be submitted in person at Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant, or by e-mail to Mesob@saywowmarketing.com.The contest will run until Friday, October 29, 2010.