Ethiopian Injera with Mustard Lentils and Braised Cabbage

March 16th, 2014


One of the best things about the warm winter here in St. Petersburg, Florida is our Saturday morning market. Situated right on the waterfront in the heart of downtown, the market buzzes with crowds of people, who come here to enjoy the live music, plenty of sunshine, beautiful local produce, and the array of ethnic food stands. Produce from the local organic Warden farm has become so popular in the past few years, that we have to get up earlier on Saturdays if we want to get there before all the red baby kale, salad turnips, huge bushes of fragrant herbs, and lots of other amazing things are sold out.
Somehow, it’s become a tradition among our circle of friends to meet by the Ethiopian kiosk for some spicy vegan fare every Saturday, after packing our bags full of local produce. The food there is very simple yet flavorful and fresh. I, along with most of our friends, prefer their lentils and cabbage with the spongy sour bread, injera, which is traditionally used in place of utensils and pairs perfectly with spicy food.


Of course, being as cooking crazed as I am, I presented myself with the challenge of recreating the injera bread recipe at home, which turned out to be quite an easy and interesting process. I found out that traditional Ethiopian injera is made of teff flour, native to Ethiopia, which I never used before. After experimenting with teff, I can justify that it tastes just like rye, only it’s gluten free. It has a slightly grainier texture than rye and is very nutritious. I happen to absolutely love the taste of rye, so teff won my heart right away. After making my own injera from 100% teff flour, I realized that our Ethiopian vendors from the market add wheat to their injera, which would make the process a bit easier. It’s like that time I tried to make sourdough bread both completely gluten free and with gluten – the glutenous recipe went much smoother, and there is no need to add yeast in this case. But I decided to stick to the gluten-free injera, which is not complicated or labour intensive to make at all, but takes five days of waiting for the teff mixture to ferment. A word of warning – the starter has an unpleasant smell during the process, and not in the fruity, cozy way that a wheat sourdough starter does. Once bread is cooked, the smell disappears and the taste is wonderfully earthy.
I looked to an Ethiopian recipe to recreate the Mustard Lentils, while the Braised Cabbage recipe is my own idea of tasty cabbage inspired by our Ethiopian market stand.


Ethiopian Injera
(adapted from here)

to make the starter
1/2 cup teff flour
1/8 teaspoon dry active yeast
3/4 cup water at 70 F (20 C)

1. Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl or a glass jar, cover with something breathable like cheesecloth and leave to rest at room temperature for 2 days. You should see some rising along the way.
2. Stir the starter – it will smell very grassy, almost in a spoiled kind of way (it might even make you think that it went bad – it likely did not). Resist the urge to throw it away, the smell indicates fermentation and that’s what we’re looking for. You also should see bubbles on the surface. Feed the starter with 1/3 cup teff flour and 1/2 cup water, cover and leave to ferment for another 2 days.
3. The starter may separate into two layers at this point – that’s fine. Stir it and feed with another 1/3 cup teff flour and 1/2 cup water. Cover and let ferment for at least another 4 hours or overnight. After that, your starter is ready.

to make the injera
1/4 cup starter from above
1 3/4 cups water at room temperature
1 3/4 cups teff flour
generous pinch of sea salt

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the starter in water. Add in the flour and whisk into a smooth pancake batter. Cover and let it ferment for 5-6 hours. Reserve 1/4 cup of starter for the next batch if desired.
2. Add in salt, whisk again to dissolve and begin cooking the injera. Optionally, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to get more bubbles.
3. Heat a non-stick pan or a skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Lightly grease it with vegetable oil using a paper towel.
4. Add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter to the pan, depending on its size, tilting it and swirling the batter to cover the surface evenly. Cook for about 1 minute until bubbles appear on the surface.
5. Cover with a lid and steam the injera for about 3 minutes, until the top is set and the bread easily pulls off the pan. No need to flip it over. Remove it and continue with the rest of the batter. It will take a few tries to get the temperature and the cooking time just right.
6.  Keep the cooked injera covered and warm. Serve with any spicy dish like this lentil salad.

Braised Cabbage

1 medium cabbage head – cut into 8 wedges
2 medium carrots – peeled and diced
1 large onion – peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
pinch red pepper flakes – optional
1 teaspoon turmeric – optional

1. Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C). Snuggly arrange the cabbage wedges in a lightly oiled baking dish. Drizzle olive oil and broth/water over it, followed by salt, pepper and turmeric, if using.
2. Cover with foil and braise for 1 hour. Remove the dish from the oven and carefully flip the cabbage wedges. Braise for another hour. Increase oven temperature to 400 F (200 C).
3. Remove the foil and place the dish back into the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the cabbage is golden brown.

Mustard Lentils

1 cup lentils (I used puy, but green or black would work just as well)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon sea salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
juice of 2 small or 1 large lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 chile or jalapeno – seeded and minced

1. Cook the lentils in plenty of salted water until soft, 15 minutes or so, depending on the type of lentils.
2. Grind the mustard seeds and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. Add in the salt and cayenne and pour 1 tablespoon of boiling water over the spices. Add lemon juice and olive oil, stir to combine.
3. Add the chile/jalapeno into the lentils and pour the dressing over them. Toss well to combine, adjust salt.

Tags: bread, gluten free, lentils

  • We have this fabulous Ethiopian place near our apartment that encourages you to eat with your hands and serves the best injera!! I’ve always wanted to make my own and TOTALLY will now!! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  • Chelsea says:

    I’ve had some teff flour sitting in my pantry with the intention of making my own injera. Your post has inspired me to give it a shot. Everything looks so good!

  • Clara says:

    Im so glad you posted this recipe. When I lived in London I used to eat at the Ethiopian stand on Spitalfields Market. I always loved it, and now I can make it at home!
    What did you do with the remaining starter? Can I keep in the fridge and feed it once a week? Thanks.

    • Anya says:

      Clara, you should be able to keep and maintain the starter this way, but I’ve never done it with gluten free starter myself, so I’m not totally sure.

  • Amy says:

    I’m so impressed that you’ve made injera from scratch! This looks amazing!

  • This looks wonderful! It seems like everyone raves about Ethiopian cuisine and I, poor soul, have never had a taste of it. You know, sometimes you’re very intrigued by something yet you never really get to make it. Yeah, that’s the case with me and Ethiopian dishes. I really should change that asap… I’ve used teff flour in baking, particularly when making gluten-free muffins. Its aroma is really great so I’m sure I would love injera as well.

    Have a great week,

  • Alanna says:

    Just stunning. I love injera and am so happy to have a recipe for it now. Thank you for sharing!

  • cheri says:

    I love everything about this, love the mustard lentils.

  • You know what’s so fun is that my brother-in-law was in St. Petersburg this weekend and went to that very same market! I love the idea of your paths intersecting, and I love the idea of this bread.

  • kristie says:

    I have always wanted to make my own injera, and know I am inspired to do so! What beautiful photos, and creative dishes. It all looks so delicious!

  • Ruby Ellen says:

    I have a bag of pink lentils on hand, although I have never actually tried them, and I have looked for Puy lentils before in my area with no luck. Do you think think the mustard lentils would good if I used pink lentils? Also, I have eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant before and our only utensil was the injera, it was a fun way to eat.

    • Anya says:

      Ruby Ellen, any lentils – green, yellow or black will work here. In my experience, pink lentils don’t work in salads as well as other types, as they quickly become mushy when boiled. If you decide to use them, boil them for 8-10 minutes until just tender with a bite remaining.

      • Ruby Ellen says:

        I just wanted to share with you the result of my pink/red lentils. I reduced the water recommended by the packaging by a third and still they turned to mush. I went ahead and added all of the ingredients but because the lentils were no longer of salad consistency they were a bit tart. Tartness aside though, I really enjoyed the mushier consistency and if I choose to use red lentils again, I will just lower the amount of oil and lemon juice (if, again, they turn to mush). Again, thank you for the tasty recipe!

  • Laura says:

    Your market snack/recreation of it sounds heavenly–hearty and beautiful for these last bits of cold up here. I’ve always loved injera and Ethiopian food in general, but I’ve never had the patience to try and make my own. You make it seem so approachable and easy (like everything you do–seriously, just amazing, Anya).

  • Anna says:

    I love the St Pete farmer’s market! And the Ethiopian stand is my favorite! My other favorite vendors are the pickles- the half sours and also the tamale place which also sells really awesome salsas and mole sauce. Is it just me or do you find that the injera bread tastes remarkably like Ukrainian black bread? Every time I eat it, it brings me back :)

    • Anya says:

      Yes Anna, the injera does have a similar taste, especially this homemade version of it. My daughter loves that pickle stand as well. We’ll try tamale next time, thanks for the suggestions.

  • Deena Kakaya says:

    I love the simplicity of this dish, it rarely goes wrong. Your pics are absolutely beautiful x

  • Sam says:

    It looks soooo good I reconized the dish because I am from ethiopia and I have eaten this dish before but now i´m going to try this recipe! thank you

  • Veronica says:

    Great recipe :) thank you

  • Julie says:

    I’ve just started the starter and it occurred to me that perhaps my whole grain teff needs to be ground into flour?
    Out of the bag (Bob’s Red Mill) it’s tiny teff grains, and they separate from the water and sink to the bottom of the bowl.
    Will they soften in the water and absorb it to form the starter or should I begin again with ground teff?


    • Anya says:

      Hi Julie,
      Yes, you definitely need teff flour, not whole grains! You’ll need to either grind yours if you have a high speed blender or a grain mill, or look for teff flour in a health food store (I believe that Bob’s Red Mill makes one as well).

  • Julie says:

    Hi Anya,
    Thanks for that, I feel quite silly!
    I now have the starter complete and the injera dough on it’s 5-6 hour ferment before cooking. I’m wondering if the starter has to be fed on the counter until I feel like making injera again or if it can be stored dormant in the fridge for a while?

    • Anya says:

      Julie, it should be fine stored in the fridge, although I haven’t tried to do it myself. Please let me know the results.


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