Black Cat

Those who think that veganism is for wimps should check out the hearty plates of filling fodder served up at the Black Cat café, a book-filled Hackney haven on Clarence Road. It's a place where food and politics meet, for a Zapatista coffee and a sugar-free Manna cake. The café is run by the Black Cat cooperative, and decisions about running the place are made collectively.

An equal element of the ethos is making Black Cat part of the community – on Tuesday evenings the space is used for spoken word events, political meetings and discussions, and events such as Feminist Bingo.

This is the thinking person's corner café – the shelves are piled up with tomes about the politics of food, revolutionary struggle and alternative ways of living. A copy of 'The Vegan's Guide to People Arguing with Vegans' suggests that those who choose not to dine off our animal chums have to harden themselves against critiques of their behaviour.

Perhaps disbelievers should try a piled-high plate of Black Cat's comfort food: there's a daily special, plus a choice of a curry, burger or pasta dish. Another speciality is their thick fruity milkshakes.

When Eat Hackney visited, Food Not Bombs were preparing for a Tuesday-night residency and producing beautifully bright posters to display. Food for thought, and plenty of it – Black Cat had us purring.

Black Cat Café, 76a Clarence Rd, London E5 8HB


Tofu scramble

At Black Cat Café they keep their scramble simple. It’s part of the full ‘English’ breakfast, and they want it to complement, rather than overpower, the rest of the things on the plate. However, if you’re going to make scramble on toast – then they totally think you should add in some extra flavours!

Black Cat's vegan fry up, with scrambled tofu cleverly disguised as scrambled egg

Black Cat's vegan fry up, with scrambled tofu cleverly disguised as scrambled egg

Standard scramble

1 block (around 250 gr of firm tofu: Black Cat use Clean Bean Tofu, made in Brick Lane). Unlike other recipes it is not necessary to press the tofu for this recipe because it works best when it retains some moisture.

  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 spring onions
  • spice blend consisting of:
    • ½ tsp cumin
    • sprig of thyme
    • ½ tsp paprika
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp yeast flakes
  •   1 teaspoon kala namak ( black salt that can be found in some spice shops )

Optional ingredients to add extra flavour

  • baby spinach (add towards the end of the cooking so that it becomes lightly wilted)
  • grated courgette, olives & sundried tomatoes
  • roasted shitake mushrooms, thinly slicedwith a bit of oil, tamari, pinch of salt
  • 30g roasted pumpkin seeds and or sunflower seeds (optional but great to give it a crunch)
  • parsley to garnish

Finely dice the onion and leek. Crush or finely chop the garlic. Mix the spices.

Heat oil in a pan over a medium-high heat. Sauté the onions and leek for 5 minutes, until softened. Add spice blend and garlic and mix it up for 15 seconds or so. Add a splash of water to deglaze the pan and prevent the spices from sticking. Crumble in the tofu and mix well. (You can either go for a very smooth tofu, crushed with a potato masher for example, or a slightly chunkier version.)

Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and add splashes of water if necessary to keep it from sticking. Add nutritional yeast, finely chopped spring onions and sesame oil. Add the kala namak (it really adds a eggy taste and smell to the scramble). Cook for a couple of minutes while you prep your toast, then garnish, serve, and devour!