Ottawa chefs share recipes for cheap meals

It took imagination and skill, but four of Ottawa's top chefs were able to create a meal using 3 food bank items and a budget of $3.15. That's about the amount a person on social assistance would have left over each day to buy food.

It took imagination and skill, but four of Ottawa's top chefs were able to create a meal using three food bank items and a budget of $3.15.

That's about the amount a person on social assistance would have left over each day to buy food. Here are their creative recipes.

Cajun Carrot-Chickpea Scotch Eggs

Chef Stephen La Salle says this winning recipe takes 20 minutes to make. He used food bank staples such as eggs and chickpeas.

Stephen La Salle, The Albion Rooms

  • 1 can chickpeas.
  • 3 large carrots, peeled.
  • 5 eggs.
  • Cajun Spice Blend* 2 tablespoons.

Note: I would ordinarily blend the spices myself but the spirit of the Poor Chefs Competition is about what a youth with this budget could cook and a youth would not have a spice cupboard or have a minimally stocked one at that so I opted for premade spice blend. This was actually the most costly item I used and even though I only used a fraction of the container, I included the entire cost. It doubled as salt so I did not have to budget salt into my recipe.

  • 1 sleeve soda crackers.
  • canola oil.
  • 1 container plain yoghurt.
  • 1 lime.


  1. Bring 4 litres of water to a boil and carefully lower eggs in and simmer for six minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove eggs to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Carefully peel the eggs.
  2. Crush the sleeve of soda crackers into small crumbs, this is what the Scotch Egg will be breaded with. With a fine sifter, sift the bread crumbs. The fine cracker "flour" will be used instead of flour.
  3. With a large cheese grater, grate the carrots and add to a food processor.
  4. Combine the carrots with the strained chickpeas and spice blend and puree. Add a couple tablespoons of chickpea brine from the can to loosen while pureeing, the end result should be a chunky hummus or sausage like texture.
  5. Spread the chickpea-carrot mix out on a layer of plastic wrap to a 1.5 – 2 cm thickness.
  6. Roll the peeled egg in fine cracker crumb and place in middle of small plate size diameter of chickpea-carrot mix, with both hands cup the mixture around the egg until completely covered. Repeat for 3 more eggs.
  7. Whisk one egg for a breading station. Dip the chickpea covered egg in the fine cracker "flour", then coat in the egg wash and then roll in the cracker bread crumbs. Repeat once more for double breading.
  8. In a large pan bring 2 cm deepness of canola oil to a medium-high temperature and brown the edges of the Scotch Eggs.
  9. Remove from pan and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.
  10. Mix yoghurt with zest and juice of one lime.
  11. Remove Scotch Eggs, slice and serve with lime yoghurt. 

Chickpea and Oat Fritters with Eggplant Smear

This is the creation of Chef Mark Steele of OCCO Kitchen in Orleans. These fritters are topped with a sweet potato crunch. The judges gave it high marks for presentation.

Chef Mark Steele, OCCO Kitchen

Makes 12 servings 

  • 1/8 of a large Spanish onion.
  • 1/4 sweet red pepper.
  • half a fresh jalapeño pepper.
  • 8 to 10 Kalamata olives.
  • 2 cloves garlic.
  • One 19-oz (540-mL) can mixed beans.
  • One 19-oz (540-mL) can chickpeas.
  • 1 cup (250 mL) rolled oats.
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) smoked paprika.
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) chili powder.
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) cilantro, chopped.
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) breadcrumbs.
  • 4 tbsp (60 mL) oil.
  • Salt and pepper, to taste.


  1. Dice onion, pepper, jalapeño, olives and garlic and sauté in pan for a couple of minutes with 2 tbsp (30 mL) oil.
  2. Process oats in food processor. Add sautéed vegetables and process with oats.
  3. Strain and rinse beans then add to processor along with chopped herbs and spices and pulse with other ingredients.
  4. Pour mixture into mixing bowl and form into cakes, press in breadcrumbs.
  5. Heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) of oil in pan and sear both sides of cakes then serve and enjoy.

Grilled Eggplant Smear

Makes: 2 cups (500 mL)

  • 1 medium eggplant.
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil .
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) tahini paste.
  • 1 clove garlic.
  •  Juice from half a lemon.
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) sour cream.
  • Salt, pepper to taste.


  1. Pre-heat barbecue or grill pan. Peel, slice and grill eggplants until nicely charred and cooked through, approximately 8 minutes.
  2. Place all ingredients in blender and purée until extremely smooth. Water may be added to produce a thinner consistency.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and smear on plate.

Pasta con Sarde e Ceci  

It's a fancy name for pasta with sardines and chickpeas. Chef Kyle Proulx of Lowertown Brewery chose his ingredients on the basis of "heartiness." Proulx wanted the meal to be protein rich even with a limited budget of $3.15.

Chef Kyle Mortimer-Proulx, Lowertown Brewery

  • 200g whole wheat pasta.
  • 1 yellow onion, small.
  • 1 head of garlic, fresh, minced.
  • 150g button mushrooms, quartered.
  • 1 can diced tomatoes.
  • 1 container sardines, packed in oil.
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and cut into 3" pieces.
  • 1 can chickpeas.
  • 4 slices fresh bread (a few days old to reduce cost).
  • 3 tbsp margarine.


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.  Add the pasta to the water and stir to prevent it from sticking together. Cook for the amount of time as directed on the box.  Strain it and run it under cool water. Set aside until needed.
  2. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and drain the oil from the sardines into the pan.
  3. Peel and slice the onion into thin slices, adding them to the oil. Cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and a spoonful of margarine to the pan, stirring to keep the garlic from burning – cook for a further 3 minutes.
  5. Open and drain the liquid from the chickpeas. Add to the pan and stir to combine.  
  6. Open the tomatoes and add to the pan. Stir to combine.  
  7. Break the sardines into 1" pieces and add to the pan. Gently stir together, so that they don't break up too much.
  8. Add the spinach to the pan, gently stirring it into the sauce so that it wilts.  
  9. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix it around so that it gets coated with the sauce.
  10. Divide pasta into four serving bowls and top with remaining sauce from the pan. Add a slice of fresh bread to the side of the bowl to help scoop up any remaining pasta sauce at the end!

Moroccan lentil stew with roasted sweet potato & chickpea dosa

Chef Bruce Wood of Beau's Brewery created this tasty dish that allows you to stretch your food dollars. The chickpeas and lentils provide the protein while eating dosas with your hands provides the fun.

​Chef Bruce Wood, Beau's Brewery

  • 1 medium sweet potato.
  • 1 small onion, peeled & finely chopped.
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped.
  • 1 cup red lentils ( green are fine as well, the stew will just have to simmer longer).
  • 1 28 oz tin chickpeas.
  • 1 28 oz tin chopped tomatoes.
  • 2 cups of chopped mixed vegetables. Go to what I lovingly refer to as the Island of lost vegetables, or the day old vegetable cart. You can also use tinned or frozen veg in a pinch.
  • 4  tsp vegetable oil.
  • 1 tbsp Moroccan spice (recipe follows).


  1. In a pot large enough to hold all the vegetables, heat 2 tsp. of the oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until soft and they smell good. 
  2. Add the lentils, vegetables and spices and stir well.
  3. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and stir well.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes on medium heat, stirring often.
  5. While the stew is cooking prepare the potato. Wash the sweet potato & prick all over with a fork.
  6. Rub with 1 tsp of the oil and place on a plate. Microwave the potato on high for 10 minutes. Remove from the microwave and cut in half lengthwise (careful it's hot). Heat a small frying pan with 1 tsp of the oil.
  7. Place the sweet potato in the pan, cut side down and cook until nicely browned, about 3-4 minutes.
  8. Remove to a clean plate cut side up. Spoon the stew over the sweet potato & serve with the dosa.

All purpose Moroccan spice

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon .
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds.
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds.
  • 2 tsp salt.
  • One tsp ground black pepper.
  • ¼  tsp cayenne.
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika.

Mix all together and reserve until needed.

Dosa (makes 4 to 6)

  • 1 cup chickpea flour.
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour.
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda.
  • 1/2 tsp salt.
  • 1 1/2 tsp Moroccan spice.
  • 1 3/4 cups water.
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted .
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil.


  1. In a bowl whisk together the chickpea flour, all purpose flour & baking soda. Add the water and melted butter and mix well to combine.
  2. Preheat an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, brush with a little oil. Pour about 1/2 cup of batter into the centre of the skillet, tilting the pan until the batter evenly covers the bottom of the skillet.
  3. When the edges begin to peel back and the dosa begins to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, use a spatula to flip it over and cook for about 10 seconds. Transfer to a clean plate. Repeat until you have used all the dosa batter.