“Our philosophy is simple: Food free from animals and additives”
This is the statement and ethos behind pop-up vegetarian and vegan cafe, Cowherds, based in the developing Greengate Square area in Salford. With a focus on providing food on the go made from organic, locally sourced ingredients combined with a strong health focus, Cowherds is paving the way for the rise of the health food movement gradually growing in Manchester.
What’s special about Cowherds is its social enterprise status, meaning community and providing social value by working in partnership with institutes to help set up healthy eating initiatives is key to what they stand for. This element can sometimes be lost; not JUST a focus on ‘clean eating’ and listening to demand, but also supporting local businesses, employing local people and striving to make products affordable.
I have a lot of respect for this passion for spreading the word of healthy living and helping others within the community to realise the benefits of choosing healthier options, particularly when eating out. Also offering cooking classes dedicated to showing how to make healthy food on a budget, it is this outlook that compelled me to visit founder Paula and her team.
Not just lettuce leaves and tofu
Having snooped through Cowherd’s vibrant and aesthetically appealing Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, I couldn’t wait to sample these healthy offerings myself. Housed within a charismatic van, there was a queue already forming on this particular rainy/sunny Saturday lunchtime (standard British summer weather). Greeted by the very smiley and friendly Paula, I was surprised and impressed by the choice of juices, hot drinks and both savoury and sweet dishes, including a hot meal which changes on a daily basis; nothing like a bit of variety!
Opting for a Spiced Rooibus tea, I was asked by Jon if I’d like to try a ‘ginger shot’ – hell yeh, why not! And I must say, it packed a punch that was so deliciously refreshing that I could easily drink this regularly and feel invigorated. Wonderful. Now deciding what to eat; I’m used to having a choice of about 2-3 healthy things when eating out, but this really was a tough decision!
I opted for the warm Buddah Bowl dish of the day, Mushroom Stroganoff, made from a concoction of onions, garlic, mushrooms, paprika, parsley, tamari and vegan yogurt, served with a generous portion of brown rice and sprinkled with seeds. WOW. Warming, satisfying and flavoursome, this bowl was so well balanced and delicious I didn’t want it to end. Bland? Not at all. Did I miss meat in it? It was so filling that I didn’t. Boring? Certainly not. A winner of a dish, making me want to come every day to try other bowls of goodness.
Proof of The Power of Food
In between savouring each mouthful, I had the pleasure of chatting to the lovely Paula and finding more about her background and how Cowherds came about. Her passion and love for food and animals is clear, a vegan who used the power of food to help support being diagnosed the disease ulcerative colitis. As a result of making changes to her lifestyle and diet, amazingly Paula doesn’t need her medication and is much healthier both physically and mentally.
This sounds rather miraculous, but I am a strong believer in how food can heal both inside and out, and meeting someone like Paula is proof of this connection between wholesome ingredients and wellness. Wanting to share this transformation with others, after four years of planning and with a background in health and wellbeing, Paula launched Cowherds at the start of 2014 and now leads a team of 10 to run pop-up venues and juice deliveries around the city.
For me, this is even more reason why I have so much enthusiasm for enterprises like this, especially as someone who really values and cherishes Manchester’s offerings for all tastes and dietary requirements.
Back to the food: here’s a selection of the offerings:
I couldn’t resist taking away the Raw Taco Salad (walnuts, quinoa, sun-dried tomatoes, cumin, garlic, chilli, rocket, avocado, Pico de Gallo and spring onions), plus a few sweet treats – the Yin & Yang Balls, as recommended by My Big Fat Diary (cacao, carob, dates, almonds, cashews, agave nectar and Himalayan salt), and the Raw Caramel Slice (dates, almonds, coconut oil, tahini, rice bran syrup, cashews and cocoa powder). And yes I you will see that I took a bite out of this before I took the photo – it was too irresistible!
I won’t reveal much more (bottom line: all absolutely delicious, as expected) as I’d strongly advise going down to the ‘lunch wagon’ and trying the food for yourself. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, a health foodie or not, I can’t recommend the people, the food and drinks offerings highly enough. And it’s bloody brilliant to see something like this flourish in Manchester, especially as it’s only round the corner from my flat! 😉