Traditional Foods

Ingera is made from a cereal grain that is unique known as Tef. Though t'efs is unique to Ethiopia it is diverse in color and habitat. Tef is a member of the grass genus Eragrostis or lovegrass. T'ef will grow in many areas it is not an easy crop to farm. One problem in particular is that the weight of the grain bends the stem to the ground. Fortunately for the Ethiopian Jews ( and all Ethiopians) depends on Tef Ingera, as a staple of their diet. Tef is nutritional miracle food. It contains two to three times the iron of wheat or barley. The calcium, potassium and other essential minerals are also many times what would be found in an equal amount of other grains. Tef has 14% protein, 3% fat and 81% complex carbohydrate.

Tef is the only grain to have symbiotic yeast. Like grapes, the yeast is on the grain so no yeast is added in the preparation of ingera. Tef is milled to flour and made into batter. the batter is allowed to sit so the yeast can become active. When the batter is ready it is poured on a large flat oven and allowed to cook. This process is much harder than it sounds and it is recommended buying from an Ethiopian Market or Restaurant in your area. Make sure it is Tef Ingera not a substitute Western grains.

The cuisine of Ethiopia is one of the world's best kept secrets. Ethiopian food is a spicy mix of vegetable and lentil stews and slow simmered meats. This country in East Africa has been called the "Land of Bread and Honey." Ethiopia, once known as Abyssinia, is a place of high plateaus and low-lying plains. The northern high country is populated mainly by Christians, while the plains are home to Muslims and animists. Dietary restrictions in religions have given rise to a wide variety of both meat and vegetarian dishes. While most Ethiopian cuisine is indigenous, certain ingredients such as red chilies, ginger, and spices have enriched its flavors. Grains like millet, sorghum, wheat and ancient teff form the basic breadstuffs of the diet. Most farming in Ethiopia is subsistence, so the vegetables and animals are often grown and raised at home. The ancient practice of beekeeping produces exquisite honey. It is fermented to make tej, a honey wine.

Essential components of Ethiopian cooking are injera bread, berbere, a spicy red pepper paste, and niter kibbeh, a spice-infused clarified butter. Most foods have a stewy consistency. Alicha indicates a mild stew. Wats are stews with the spicy flavor of berberé. An essential spice in Ethiopian cooking is fenugreek. This hard seed gives a unique flavor to Ethiopian food. Desserts are not really served in Ethiopia, but iab, like a mixture of cottage cheese and yogurt, is traditionally the final course of a meal.