Monday Meal Review: Eritrea


“It’s alive!” my sister gasped.

I chuckled, shrugging off the suggestion as a joke.

“No look!” she said, pointing into the bowl.

I brought my face closer.

Just wait, she said.

Bloop. Bloop. Two bubbles wiggled their way to the surface, making the blackish, scuzzy liquid quiver slightly. The scent of alcohol and yeast clung to the air.

It is alive, I said, “and it smells really … strong!”

“It’s totally teff” she said.

We recoiled, laughing. Neither of us was sure what to do next. I scanned through the pile of injera recipes that littered the counter tops while Elisa sipped her wine. A few of the recipes suggested pouring off the liquid. Several didn’t mention it. There was no question that I would be pouring it down the drain. There was just no way that liquid was supposed to be part of the injera. Not any injera I’d be eating, anyway.

As I tipped the bowl over the sink, I had the creepy, crawly feeling that I was about to dump the entire batter down the drain. I took a breath, slowed down, and let the liquid trickle out. Elisa watched.

“Are you sure you don’t need that liquid?” she said.

“No, not really,” I said, “but that’s part of the Adventure.”

The truth is, we didn’t need the scuzzy liquid. The injera cooked up beautifully without it. All we needed was underneath the yuck – a beautiful light brown batter, ready for glory. I couldn’t help but think about the yuck clinging to my spirit and how much better off I’d be without it. Anxiety, expectations, stress – it’s all just “stuff” getting in the way of enjoying beautiful, simple life.

About an hour later we munched away on the injera. Gone were all traces of the black, scuzzy creature. Gone, too, was our silverware (except for stubborn Mr Picky, who insisted on using his). The thin teff pancakes were pocked with bubbles, frozen in a beautiful display, perfect for gripping onto stew.


Teff Pancake (Injera) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Cooled injera has a nice texture – no longer sticky and somewhat elastic. The elasticity makes it easy to handle and a great tool to pick up thick stews. My sister and I had a blast using it to pick up the stew with the injera, but Mr Picky remained firmly stuck in western culture – and continued to use his fork.

What I liked least about this dish:

There are a lot of steps to making injera which make it difficult to learn on the fly. I will definitely be remaking this one when we get to Ethiopia – just so I can perfect it. I was frustrated that I didn’t have the proper pan, but I made due with a cheap-0 large square nonstick griddle – a lone survivor from Keith’s bachelor pad. I can’t believe it worked (I never use that pan) but it was perfect. Score one for Mr. Picky’s kitchenware.

Berberé – Hot East African Spice mix [Recipe]

What I liked most about this seasoning blend:

First of all, this spice blend rocks. Second of all, it was a fun excuse to get out the spice grinder (aka coffee grinder) and make the house smell like “good.” Anything would taste great with berberé – the more berberé you add to recipes, the hotter they get -but the various spices give three dimensional heat. You’ll be smitten by the range of flavor. Finally, play around with the quantities – make this recipe your own!

What I liked least about this seasoning blend:

When you toast the spices in a dry skillet the fumes can make you cough – it might be best to open a window and turn on the vent hood.

Spicy Lentil Stew [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

These lentils have a lot going for them – comforting, vegan, flavorful, and spicy. I’d eat these any day of the week. Mr Picky barely touched his; I’m guessing it wasn’t spicy enough. When my sister and I were mixing the seasonings into the lentils it seemed crazy spicy. After cooking for 45 minutes all the beans had soaked up the berberé seasoning and the dish turned out rather mild. Something to keep in mind.

What I liked least about this dish:

Watch the mixture and keep stirring – it has a tendency to dry out a little. You may even find you need to add more liquid.

Hembesha-Inspired Sweet Loaf [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

While this was loosely based on hembesha, the sweet use of cumin was still unique (to my palate at least). The cumin and cardamom add the most delicate background flavor – although I’m not used to having those flavors in a sweet bread, it was a neat treat.

What I liked least about this dish:

Not much – although next time I might add more raisins. Ava kept picking them out – and only when she’d eaten all the raisins in her slice would she consider eating the bread. She stuffed her face with this one.

Ava’s Corner



  1. Jessica Bennett says

    And did Mr. Picky at least try to eat without utensils before using them for the rest of the meal? If not, shame on Mr. Picky for not attempting to experience the culture as fully as possible without actually going there.

    • With some goading I tried a bite or two without utensils. After that it was back to a fork for me. Heck I use a fork for pizza (till I get to the crust).


      • Sasha Martin says

        We’ll try again next week, when we cook Ethiopia. I’m hoping to perfect the recipe.

      • Jessica Bennett says

        It’s great that you have your own way of doing things. I just think with your wife’s reason for doing this adventure (understanding other cultures) that it’s a good idea to try to eat like they do, at least briefly, just to see what it’s like. One week, you may even find something you prefer to what you’ve been used to 🙂 By the way, my partner’s daughter uses a fork on French Fries and soft cookies.

        • Sasha Martin says

          Hear, hear! Nothing like peer pressure from the interwebs 🙂 Thanks Jessica!

          • Jessica Bennett says

            Glad to help 🙂 And I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Picky. I think he’s doing a wonderful thing in trying every dish. That’s very impressive!

  2. Funny…the grown-up girl with the tiny cup and the small child-girl with the big cup!!
    …love these pictures…
    Why not use crepes?…made with water (not milk)

    • Sasha Martin says

      I know, I love that picture – so cute! As for the rest— for starters, crepes are not African -they are made with wheat flour – injera is made with teff flour.

      • elisa waller says

        So much fun.. reading down I see one of your readers is eager to make her own Injera…yay! We accomplished the great “frightening away the fear” of making Injera, I mean just watching those videos on how the native women were whipping those circles of Injera out was amazing…
        Turned out deliciously homemade in global table style!!! It was so great to be part of this meal…I will always be reminded of Eritria when I think of Ava’s Dedication and vice versa..what a memory! <3

  3. I LOVE that your daughter is tasting all the foods of the world at such a young age. We get ‘stuck’ in foods we grew up with and that’s where the adventure stops. I like trying new things while my husband is a traditionalist. My kids are teens now – I wish I did this ten years ago. For now, I’m totally enjoying following your adventures- glad I found you!

    • Sasha Martin says

      Thank you Pam! You are so right about getting stuck – it can take a lot of courage to branch out and try new things, but the end result is so worth it. Thanks for following along, keep in touch 🙂

  4. I LOVE Ethiopian & Eritrean food – this is what I want to learn to make at home next!! I have been spoiled living in Minneapolis, where we have a lot of restaurants opened by East African immigrants.

    I was intimidated by the idea of making injera, but your pictures have convinced me – it can be done!


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