As many of you know, Graham and I packed up and moved to Germany a couple of months ago. For the first two months neither of us had jobs and we were worried about running out of savings quickly, so I've been cooking and baking on a tight budget. Really tight budget. I currently don't have chia, nuts, frozen berries, quinoa, or coconut oil in the house - things I consider staples but that can be on the pricey side. I've been developing recipes based on what I do have, and many of these very simple meals have been surprisingly delicious (and affordable).
I've switched out coconut oil primarily for olive oil. We have had a few jars of coconut oil since moving here, but I've generally stopped using it for baking in favour of olive oil, and saved coconut for higher heat cooking. We've been eating a lot of in-season apples that we picked at my grandmother's instead of berries, and replaced quinoa with brown rice. I did have a little container of chia but haven't replaced it.
If you're looking to eat healthy on a budget, there are a couple of tips that I can't recommend more highly. First, buy dried pulses and cook them on your own. They cost pennies, they're healthier than the canned varieties, and you're reducing waste by doing it. Use spices to brighten otherwise simple meals, like cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger. Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables and look in the frozen section for things like spinach and peas. Frozen is just as healthy, almost always cheaper, and you don't need to worry about forgetting it in the fridge and having to throw out food.
Luckily I'm starting at a pottery studio this week and set up a website over the past few days to start selling my work once it's completed. It should be ready to go in about a month, so I'll keep you updated! That being said, we'll still be working with a lower income for the foreseeable future and my recipes will reflect that.
This recipe utilizes seasonal pumpkin, cooked chickpeas, coconut milk, and lots of warm spices to make it a little more interesting. I usually add tomatoes to my stews but left them out the first time I made it because it was a Sunday and the shops were closed. Not adding tomatoes made the stew much cozier and let the spices really shine. I added spinach after my first trial and you could leave it out, but it helps to boost the nutrition content. Served over brown rice it's a filling meal that's perfect for this time of year.
Don't forget to keep your pumpkin seeds! Scoop the seeds and separate them from the flesh, then soak overnight, dry on a board for a few hours, and roast at 150C/300F with a little oil and salt for about forty minutes or until golden and crunchy. They're high in protein and good fats, and they're very satisfyingly crunchy.
Pumpkin Chickpea Stew
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb ginger, minced
1 pinky sized piece of fresh turmeric, minced*
1 small pumpkin, chopped into 4 cm chunks (about 2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pod cardamom, crushed*
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 can coconut milk
1 cup frozen spinach (optional)
2 cups cooked brown rice
Heat a large pot over medium heat with a tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and cook for about two minutes, or until it's starting to soften. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and turmeric and cook for another minute or until fragrant.
Place the chopped pumpkin into the pot and let it start to soften, stirring frequently, for about five minutes. Add the cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, and cayenne pepper and stir to coat everything in the spices. Pour in the vinegar and stir to loosen any spices that stuck to the bottom of the pot, then add the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then stir in the chickpeas, coconut milk, salt, and pepper and reduce to a simmer.
Let the stew simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. Add the spinach and heat through. Taste and see if it needs any more salt, then serve hot with 1/2 cup of brown rice for each bowl.
• To cook chickpeas at home, soak them for 24 hours first, covered in water and with a splash of ACV to break down the phytic acid that makes you gassy. Yep.
• Soak the brown rice for the same reasons - I can never seem to get the water ratio quite right after soaking my rice, so I just cover it with water to cook and them drain it once it's done, like pasta.
1. If you can't get fresh turmeric, use 1/4 teaspoon powdered instead and add it at the same time as the other spices.
2. I just gently crush my cardamom with a hammer. To substitute powdered cardamom, use slightly less than 1/4 teaspoon.