In April, Awel from the Oromo Community Group approached me about arranging a pick and cook session at PLOT 22. And so in half term several members of the group came with their children and enjoyed exploring the PLOT, picking peas and beans and cooking pop corn on the fire. It was my first chance to taste Injera.
Injera is not only a kind of bread — it’s also an eating utensil. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, this spongy, sour flatbread (somewhere between a pancake and a crumpet) is used to scoop up meat and vegetable stews. Injera also lines the tray on which the stews are served, soaking up their juices as the meal progresses. When this edible tablecloth is eaten, the meal is officially over.
Injera is made with teff, a tiny, round grain that flourishes in the highlands of Ethiopia. Teff is very nutritious and contains practically no gluten. Though this means it won’t make raised bread injera still takes advantage of the special properties of yeast. A few hours of fermentation in a warm place gives it an airy, bubbly texture, and also a slightly sour taste. The Oromo women said they have had to modify their recipe to use self raising wheat flour since living in Brighton.
The people of the Oromo Community first came to Brighton in September 2006 through Gateway Refugee Protection Programme under the Home Office. They had fled the political troubles in Ethiopia and were living in very difficult conditions in a camp in Kenya before being offered refugee status in the United Kingdom. Their community group helps them keep their language, family connections and cultural traditions alive.
Awel also brought along a team of female photographers and film makers including Cathy Maxwell, and Sylvie Collier. They are making a film celebrating the connecting power of cooking for women from countries of conflict. You can see their beautiful photographs of the morning on Flickr.