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Steamed veg & tofu with sesame black bean sauce

24 Feb

This recipe is the result of a glorious sojourn to London’s Chinatown. Man Woman realised we had not been for years, despite constant complaints about the lack of east Asian produce anywhere in London. Anywhere except, you know, in the smackbang centre of it.

So we spent our Sunday afternoon gleefully wallowing in the New Loon Moon Supermarket, picking up ingredients from the eastern Orient, getting jostled by other more regular customers who clearly did not share our White People’s Joy at shopping at an ethnic supermarket.

Thus armed with a bamboo steamer and black bean sauce for the first time in nearly 5 years, Man Woman made this super quick mid-week (we can dream on a Monday) meal. Those Chinese. First they invent golf and then they invent (I’m sure) black bean sauce. Top stuff, China. Nice work.

A note about tofu here. Don’t use the Cauldron brand or other such. If it’s covered in cardboard, if the packaging does not allow you to see the tofu, as a general rule, don’t buy it. It’s probably inexplicably dry and chewy. This recipe needs good quality, fresh tofu – but it’s still dirt cheap. A 600g packet of tofu – enough for 2 very tofu-heavy dinners for 2 – cost about £1.60. Man Woman may dedicate a post to this in future, but green grocers, Asian supermarkets and health food shops should stock fresh tofu, which should be in a tray with a clear plastic cover and partially covered in water. Also, the Mori-Nu UHT-style tofu, sold in Sainsbury’s Clapham for £1, is perfectly good and fresh. At all costs, avoid Cauldron. God knows what they do to the beans.

Sesame black bean sauce

  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 TBSP sesame seeds
  • 3 TBSP black bean sauce
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 1 large clove crushed garlic


  • 2 bunches spinach
  • 300g fresh tofu, cut into chunky cubes
  • Bunch of enoki mushrooms

Corn noodles

Get water boiling in a pot underneath your steamer thingie. Throw in cubed tofu (we found no need to drain the tofu) and enoki mushrooms.

Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat vegetable oil. When hot – but not crazy hot – add sesame seeds. When they start to colour add blackbean sauce, lemon juice, water and garlic. Stir and adjust proportions to taste.

After about 5 minutes of steaming, and checking that the water is boiling, lift the steam levels and throw in your noodles. At this time also add the spinach (or whatever greens you fancy) to the steamer.

Keep sauce simmering in the pan.

Cook for about 5 minutes. Serve noodles and veg with sauce drizzled over.

Estimated cost: £2.60

Musical accompaniment: Seasick Steve

A happy steamer spinach monster!


Aeroplane food – Victories of the vegetarian traveller

18 Jan

Man and Woman apologise for their blogging absence, we’ve been blog-free in Sydney and Melbourne over the past month. Ah. Tough. Life. Eh.

As a result, our first post back is related to aviationary food. Really, a revelation regarding food in-flight.

It takes four separate, ten-hour long flights to get from London to Sydney and back. Given the frequency with which airlines tend to feed (read ‘stupefy’) their passengers, that equates to about 426 meals. That’s 426 episodes of disappointment and confusion. This is one of the reasons Woman had not been back to Sydney in three years (sorry Sydney).

The one sliver of silver lining in the cloud as a vegetarian passenger, is that you get to be served first, feel all special and then wonder what’s not vegetarian about the chocolate cake the other omnivorous passengers get to consume.

We’d booked our stock standard lacto-ovo meals for the Korean Air trip, resulting in one meal which appeared to be anemic polenta coupled with potatoes and off-white broccoli and another which was pasta, full stop. So, with not a little trepidation, at Sydney airport last Friday we requested Asian vegetarian for our meals on our fourth and final leg. The theory being, of course, that we should help the Koreans play to their strengths, being Asian themselves.

As it turns out, ‘Asian’ for Korean Airlines is used in much the way ‘Asian’ is used by the British – that is to mean, the Sub-Continent. And Man Woman are not going to argue about definitions, particularly when Asians themselves choose to use this definition of Asian. And particularly not when the result was a triumph in airplane cuisine. Yes, dear readers, a triumph.

Why all airplane food is not Indian curries, little sachets of mixed pickle and warmed chappatis we do not know. All we do know is that we must have pissed off every single passenger around us with our vocal surprise and delight and what might only be called tastiness of the food in our plastic and tin foil boxes.

Is this really a review of airline food? I’m afraid yes it is, a little bit. But more it is a word of advice, even for meat eaters: Go Asian. Go Asian all the way. You’ll thank us.

Dark chocolate ganache tarts (ManWoman vs Bourke St Bakery, take two)

1 Dec

So, not daunted by the less than perfect first attempt at a pate brisee, Man Woman tackled the BSB cookbook again. Fear has no meaning in this flat. 

And this time, we gave ourselves time and defrosted the frozen pastry cases the day before, planning to make the custard for chai-spiced creme brulee tarts the night before we had guests over. We were very pleased with our impressive level of organisation.

Only to find, Bourke Street thwarted us again. In fact, it takes two days to make the custard – one night, you see, for the milk to infuse the chai spices. My bloody oath. Anyway, so this left Woman (for in truth, the rouse is up, Man was in Warsaw on work at this venture) with a conundrum, and forced her to go to Waitrose in the middle of the night in her gym gear and buy chocolate. Never before has she been made to feel like such a ‘woman’.

This recipe is inspired by the Bourke Street ganache, but they called for milk chocolate and we can’t be having that. Also they called for heavier cream, which I didn’t have to hand and I’ll be damned if I go back to the supermarket even later at night for double cream. I have some dignity.

What ensued was very, very rich – but quite yum. Definitely in need of some berries to lighten the load and, perhaps, a long digestive period after mains to make room.

Dark chocolate ‘ganache’ tarts (makes 5 tarts)

  • 200g dark chocolate (70%)
  • 200ml single cream (18% fat)
  • punnet of raspberries
  • punnet of blueberries
  • icing sugar for dusting
  • 1/4 portion of Bourke Street Bakery cookbook pate brisee (sorry, can’t bring myself to plaigarise)

So, crack good quality dark chocolate into a large bowl. Bring cream to boil in a saucepan and immediately  pour over dark chocolate, stirring until blended. Pour (or, seriously this is thick stuff, you’ll have to dollop or spoon or heave it) into cooked pastry shells.

Top with berries and icing sugar before serving. Watch guests struggle to finish against their will.

Estimated cost: £8

Musical accompaniment: Janis Joplin

ManWoman vs the Bourke Street Bakery: Pâte brisée, take one

25 Nov

One of the advantages of being so vocally food obsessed, is this obsession is routinely fed, as it were, by friends. Our friends are feeders. Man Woman have been brought mamma-made Kurdish breads from Gothenberg, mamma-made spanakopita from Thessaloniki, home grown herbs from about the place. It’s a sweet gig.

One of our most loved, and daunting, food-related gifts has been the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook. Being from Sydney we felt something of a national pride at looking through the amazing, hardcover book, involving multi-page recipes for everything from pizza dough to puff pastry. We’ve already picked the low-hanging fruit from the book. But last week, we took on the pate brisee (sweet pastry).

What ensued was not perfect (we have learned we must cut larger pastry discs), but despite the preparation time being spread out over days, plucking a flaky, buttery, delicate piece of hot pastry out of the oven was worth every re-reading of the dense instructions. Also, we left the timing way too late, so we couldn’t make the chocolate ganache we intended, but had to cobble together a raspberry-topped ricotta filling. Passable.

You may now view our valiant, if imperfect, attempt.

Hell no, risotto! The Campaign Against Risotto

14 Sep

Hell no, risotto

Listen here, restauranteurs of the world. Down your pans for a moment, if you please, maestro chef.

Sloppy rice is not the only thing you can feed a person who does not eat meat.

For too long vegetarians have looked down the list of courses on menus to find risotto as the only thing they can consume. For too many meals non-meat-eaters have had to swallow the loathing of carnivorous chefs, cursing their un-introduced names, with each mushy bite of the once exciting Italian rice dish.

Culinary masters of London, there are things in this world that are not meat which are also not risotto.

Courgettes are not risotto. Pulses also, not risotto. Noodles, tofu, eggplant, mushrooms, corn, sweet potato, polenta, artichokes, pies even – all are not risotto. There are so many foods in this world which are not risotto, yet in some bizarre conspiracy against they who abstain from flesh, the good chefs of London seem to have come together, no doubt in some dark meat freezer, surrounded by the glistening caracasses of hanging pigs, and decided over nibbles of trotters and ears that after quiche had a very good run, risotto shall now be the vegetarian option. Everywhere. ‘Let them eat risotto!’, they all laugh, clink their silver goblets and then go about the far more interesting business of what else they can do with steak.

Well, we have had enough. And not just us – not everyone who wants to meat wants to eat it always, at every meal, at every restaurant, pub and cafe.

Clearly, there’s not much we can do except not eat the risotto. There is also unlikely to be many chefs who, at the end of their shift, look at the coagulated trough of rice and think ‘Shit, have they revolted? My god, the vegetarians are fighting back, get me the tempeh!’.

But, Man Woman has had enough. We can no longer sit in sloppy silence. We will be keeping a Risotto Watch of those places which show such disdain, lack of hospitality and imagination to keep risotto as the one and only vegetable option.

We’ve started a little angry Facebook group, The Campaign Against Risotto. Join it if you want to share good places, bad places and your general thoughts on life and the state of the Galapagos.

(And stop being such cheap buggers. Rice is cheaper than sea bass, we know that. Stop charging us the same price)

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27 Jul

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