Explorations of African cuisine in Rabun Co schools

On the Thursday before winter break at Rabun County Middle School, Mrs. Free’s 7th grade Social Studies classes learned about Africa through a culinary lense. A Georgia standard for 7th grade is to “describe the diverse cultures of people who live in Africa”.  A culinary lesson on Ethiopia was incorporated as their cuisine includes a variety of interesting traditions.  The students learned about the geography of Ethiopia, Ethiopian history as well as Ethiopian culinary history.  Students learned that berbere, a frequently used spice in Ethiopia, was introduced to Africa through the Silk Route.  They also learned about injera, a fermented, sourdough-risen flat bread that is made in both Ethiopia and Eritrea.  The students learned about the process of fermentation, which is a common practice for food preservation in countries that don’t have access to electricity. The students learned how to make injera as well as Ethiopian-Style chard with berbere.  Traditionally, the dishes are served on top on the injera and using hands, the injera is rolled up around the dish and is eaten.  The lesson concluded with a tasting of both the injera and chard.  The lesson marked some students first tasting of chard and it marked every students first tasting of injera!

Recipes for Injera and the Ethiopian-Style Chard with Berbere are included below.

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Ethiopian-Style Chard with Berbere


Serves 4 as a side dish


Vegetarian, vegan if you use oil instead of butter, and gluten-free

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or oil

1/2 onion, thinly slices

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 –  3 tablespoons of berbere

2 bunches of chard, washed, trimmed, leaves stripped, and stems chopped into bite-sized pieces. Leave it damp.

Salt

Heat the butter or oil in a large, preferably cast iron, skillet over medium-high heat

Fry the onion and garlic for 2 minutes

Add 1 tablespoon of the berbere (more if you know you want the heat) and cook for 10 seconds. Immediately add the damp chard and stir to make sure the spices don’t burn. Add two big pinches of salt. Stir.

Add a couple tablespoons of water if needed and cover for 10 minutes or so, until the greens are wilted and the stems tender. Remove lid and cook of remaining water. The greens should be gilded with butter and spices.

Taste and adjust seasoning. You may want more berbere or salt. A squeeze of lemon juice might be good too.

 Injera

(There are many ways to make injera, this is just one!)

Makes 4-6 Injera, Time: 1 day to ferment, about 30 minutes to cook

Tools:
 Large glass bowl
, cheesecloth, muslin or kitchen towel with a thin weave, parchment paper

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups teff flour

2 cups pure water

1/2 tsp baking powder

Coconut oil for pan


1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste

 Place Teff flour in a large glass bowl, add water and stir well.

 Cover with a cheesecloth or towel and place on the counter and let it sit for 1 day/24hrs. Do not agitate or stir the batter, just leave it be.

 After 24 hours, you’ll see that your batter is alive and fermenting. Every batch I made looked a bit different, some were brain-like (below) and some were less puffy.

 Bring a pan to medium heat, and very lightly, coat the pan with coconut oil.

 Stir in the salt, and season with more taste if you like, until you can barely detect the saltiness. Also stir in the baking powder. Your batter will deflate when you stir it.

 Now pour enough batter into the pan to fill entire surface and cover with a lid, or if you don’t have a lid, use a cookie sheet. It’s important to keep a lot of moisture in the pan or the Injera will crack. You don’t flip Injera, and you aren’t supposed to brown it’s underside, but I like the taste of it browned so I tend to overcook it a bit. It takes about 5-7 minutes to cook Injera. You’ll see the top bubble like pancakes and start to dry out. When the top is dry, and the edges begin to curl/dry, use a spatula to remove the Injera from the pan.

 Place on a plate and repeat, layering cooked Injera with parchment paper until you use up all the batter.

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