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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ethiopian Food – Lots of Taste, Low Sodium, High Fiber, Low Carb... Recipes for Injera, Mesir Wat, Atkilt Wat and Gomen Wat


As I've mentioned in the past most authentic international foods are much healthier than the typical American diet. I was introduced to Ethiopian food about a year ago and I really enjoyed it. So when I was diagnosed with CHF I wasn't sure whether or not I could still eat it. After a lot of research comparing different recipes and restaurant's nutritional data facts it seemed as though most of the time, even when eating in a restaurant, Ethiopian food is low sodium and low carb. A lot of the meat dishes tend to be high in sodium – I don't know whether it's because of the natural sodium in meat or if they add more salt to meat dishes but either way I've just chosen to avoid them. Also, if you are a vegan or vegetarian then you will find Ethiopian food very friendly to your lifestyle.

It seems that everyone that experiences Ethiopian food makes a big deal about how you “eat with your hands”. I don't understand why, we eat a lot of foods with our hands such as burritos, bacon, french fries, hot dogs, pickles, etc. but people seem to think that eating with your hands is unique, fun and different. Well whatever turns you on....

So exactly how do Ethiopians eat with their hands? Well, you start out with a bread called Injera it's made from a grain called Teff (which is gluten free!). Injera is kind of like a crepe or pancake, but different it - tastes a little like whole wheat sour dough bread. Traditionally you scoop up your food, which is usually “stew” like, with a bit of Injera and then pop the whole thing into your mouth. Restaurants serve your food ladled onto a giant piece of Injera and then give you more to scoop and eat your food – then when the food is gone you eat the piece that your food was served on. I have to say, this is the best part of the meal because all of the food juices are in that bottom piece.

I think Ethiopian food is very filling, probably because it's high in fiber. The following recipes serve about 8 people – it might not look like a lot when you have three little piles of food on your Injera, but trust me it will fill you up. By the way, the first picture below is of my first attempt at making Injera from scratch, the second picture is more like what it should look like – it's not easy. The batter needs to be very, very thin – kind of like thick melted ice cream rather than pancake batter. Don't give up, I'm not, because it really rounds out the flavor of the food and you'll be missing something if you don't make it and eat it. Good luck!

My Injera

Good Injera
Injera – Makes 12 rounds
3 c water
2 c teff (or 1 ½ c flour and ½ c teff)
1 tsp yeast

Mix together and let sit overnight. Stir well, pour onto a lightly greased skillet over a medium-low flame. This needs to be a very thin layer of batter. Let it cook until it bubbles like a pancake, using spatula a remove Injera from skillet. Repeat until batter is gone. Done...

Nutritional Data for 1 round of Injera
Calories 79
Total Fat .7g
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 5.3 mg
Potassium 23 mg
Total Carbohydrate 15g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 0g
Protein 3g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 3.4%
Iron 9%

Mesir Wat – Stewed Lentils – Serves 8
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp turmeric
4 Tbl berebere seasoning (see Berebere Seasoning, July 2, 2013)
1 lb lentils, red or other colors
5 c water

Heat oil in a large pot, saute onion, garlic and spices for about 5 minutes, add lentils and water, simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. The lentils should get a little soft and slightly mushy. The dish should be thick and not watery – cook until the water is completely incorporated into the dish.

Nutritional Data for Mesir Wat – Serves 8
Calories 112
Total Fat 3.9g
Saturated Fat .5g
Polyunsaturated Fat .4g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.5g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 38 mg
Potassium 250 mg
Total Carbohydrate 15g
Dietary Fiber 5.5g
Sugars .1g
Protein 6g
Vitamin A .1%
Vitamin C 3.8%
Calcium 2%
Iron 12%


Atkilt Wat – Cabbage, Carrots & Potato – Serves 8
2 Tbl olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, cut into 1” pieces
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
½ head of cabbage, sliced into ¾” wide wedges
½ c water

Heat oil in a large pot. Saute onions and carrots for about 5 minutes. Add spices, cabbage and water, cook for about 15 minutes, add potatoes, cover and cook for an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

**You can lower the carbs in this dish from 17 to 9 if you either leave out or don't eat the potatoes.**

Nutritional Data for Atkilt Wat – Serves 8
Calories 106
Total Fat 3.8g
Saturated Fat .5g
Polyunsaturated Fat .5g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.5g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 117 mg
Potassium 539 mg
Total Carbohydrate 17g
Dietary Fiber 4.3g
Sugars 2g
Protein 2.6g
Vitamin A 76%
Vitamin C 64%
Calcium 6%
Iron 7%


Gomen Wat – Collard Greens – Serves 6
2 Tbl olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp berebere seasoning (see Berebere Seasoning, July 2, 2013)
1 tsp ginger
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ lb collard greens (or mustard greens or kale), stems removed and sliced across the leaves in 3/4” strips
1 Tbl lemon juice or vinegar

Heat oil in large pot. Saute onion, turmeric and berebere for about 10 minutes. Add garlic, salt and ginger cook for about 3 minutes. Add collard greens and water. Cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in lemon juice or vinegar prior to serving.

Nutritional Data for Gomen Wat – Serves 6
Calories 91
Total Fat 5.1g
Saturated Fat .7g
Polyunsaturated Fat .6g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.4g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 125 mg
Potassium 258 mg
Total Carbohydrate 10g
Dietary Fiber 4.7g
Sugars .7g
Protein 3.3g
Vitamin A 151%
Vitamin C 75%
Calcium 18%
Iron 3.1%


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