On my trip back from the West Coast, I finally got around to reading the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association alumni newsletter. What a joy! All the characters and the nutty news you’d expect from student-run living and dining appeared on those pages: A current Obie fresh from a national co-op conference related the perils of dating in the Twin Oaks intentional community, while a past president recalled the OSCA of the early ’80s and how he got the office moved from a tiny garret to a proper room in the student union building and launched a filing system. A recent president announced that the lactofermentation revolution had hit the co-ops.
Of course, the supporters of this fermentation trend follow radical OSCA fashion, and some of the Yogurt Makers now walk the line between dedication and health code violation by sleeping with their cultured milk. Hey–you’ve got to keep the stuff at a constant 100 degrees if you want it to be good.
In honor of OSCA, I reach back now to my Head Cook days and give you a (fermented) recipe. I think I included this in a cookbook back in the day, when I took a semester off from supervising lunch for 70 to become the Harkness dining co-op’s “nutritionist.” This is written to serve a whole co-op, but I’ve scaled down the quantities so you can make it at home.
Injera (Ethiopian Pancakes)
These thin pancakes are essential for Ethiopian-style meals to serve stews. To eat, tear off a piece and dip in the stew. I suggest a split pea stew (make this by using less water than a normal split pea soup) and tofu with berebere sauce or chopped and steamed/sauteed greens.
Yield: About 80 pancakes? (12-20 at home with the smaller quantities, depending on the size of the skillet)
1 heaping Tbs (1 tsp) dry yeast
12 cups (2 cups) warm water
20 cups (3 cups) flour — use up to 1/2 whole wheat or teff flour
1 heaping Tbs (1 tsp) baking powder
Dissolve the yeast in the water, add it to the flour, and mix well.
Let the mixture stand at room temperature about 24 hours from when you’ll start cooking. Allow up to three days when the weather is cold. When the mixture smells like sourdough, it’s ready.
When you’re ready to fry ‘em up:
Turn the fermented dough into a Hobart bowl fitted with the wire whisk attachment (at home, use a mixing bowl and whisk). Add water until you have a thin batter (like crepe batter). This may be about 1 gallon or so (2 to 3 cups at home)… but add little by little. Stir in the baking powder and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.
Put about 1/2 teaspoon oil in large skillet, add about 3/4 cup of the batter (for a 12-inch skillet), and tilt the pan until the batter thins out and covers the whole bottom. Fry over low heat for 1 or 2 minutes, until the top is completely dry. Turn out the pancake to a baking pan. Prepare all the pancakes this way, frying on one side only. Stack them when they’re done – they won’t stick together.
The injera are served at room temperature with stews heaped on top. Mmm mm.
A little note: In Ethiopia the injera are prepared with teff, a grain of the millet family, but this recipe calls white flour.