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



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