Natural Healthy Food

Natural Healthy Foods

Firstly a little history lesson. Like many people in Birmingham, and if you were vegetarian or vegan, The One Earth shop may well have been the only place you could buy things you could actually eat. I started visiting about 10-12 years ago when the soya milk still tasted like wee and it was very difficult to eat a variety of different food if you were a vegetarian let alone a vegan. The shop always had a homely and cosy feel and you usually were able to buy interesting and obscure products that you couldn’t but in the supermarkets. The sign was a hand painted one which lasted the test of time over many years and was even kept when the shop changed hands and was renamed 100% Vegan.

Natural Healthy Foods

But it’s 2015 now and all things must come to an end, or modernised and that is exactly what Simon and Susan have done with their new venture Natural Healthy Food. The old sign is gone and the new sign is very authentic and you don’t need to walk in to know that all our needs are catered for. It reads “Dairy Free, Raw, Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free.” We are covered friends of Birmingham.

Natural Healthy Foods

Having spoken to Susan only online, this was the first time meeting her and Simon but felt like I had known this pair forever. Susan was very enthusiastic about products on offer and gave me a tour of the new shop. Knowing about my wheat problems, she was quick to point out what I was allowed to have and there was an absolute wealth of it. She was kind enough to send me some pictures before so I had high hopes! Check out the pictures of the wheat free on Facebook and what I brought today on my Instagram..

Speaking to Susan, I discovered she had the same attitude to things like sugar as me and was lovely and refreshing to speak to someone very honesty about products on offer. They are very proud of only selling things they like and are of a high quality, as we all know there are still quite a lot of bad vegan items out there especially in the cheese world!

Natural Healthy Foods

The other owner Simon, I found to be a very interesting, passionate and knowledgeable chap. We discussed Zinc, b12 and cooking Tempeh for ages! He is qualified in Naturopathic Nutrition and is very keen to use his experience and knowledge to help people in their nutritional journey. His fundamental view is to use the shop “to inspire people to cook good and quick meals using nutritious ingredients” and “to eat well on a plant based diet.” I certainly saw that in abundance with uncommon products like Fava beans that you may never have heard of, but are busting with goodness. Simon was great because when I picked up something I didn’t know how to use, he was instantly able to tell me a recipe and how to cook it! Natural Healthy Food now stock high quality supplements and protein powders which is useful when you are on vegan diet.

Natural Healthy Foods

I was very struck by the sugars shelf in the shop. There of course was sugar as we know it in brown Demerara sugar, but also things like Coconut palm sugar and nectar which has a much lower glycaemic index rating that refined sugar. Choice is a wonderful thing and something we can forget about when we have intolerances and that was found on every shelf in the shop. Of course you have all the usual suspects like Quinoa, green tea and Chickpeas, but what about Black Rice, Matcha and Beluga Lentils?

Natural Healthy Foods

I was very excited to hear about plans for events, support local producers and utilising the space for interesting things in the future, but I will let them reveal that to you!

An introduction to “Pizza goals” #1

I’m sure you all feel the same way as me. When you are vegan, have a dairy allergy, wheat/gluten intolerant etc etc you hear from all your mates about the wonder of this delicious looking and smelling thing called Pizza. The thing you are not allowed to ingest for many reasons. And has got to be one of the worst things you crave when you have eating issues right? It certainly did for me when I found out I was allergic to dairy when I was 12. When you have something then it’s taken away from you. I would never have dairy now anyway, but that time, school dinners of Pizza and Chips looked so appealing.

So for many years after, I had to accept that I would never have Pizza again. And being Pizza free had become a way of life. I had never given this much thought until I went to New York for the first time, which was my goal after being Cancer free back in the summer of 2010.

In my research of places to eat, which is standard for anyone with dietary requirements, I found Vinnie’s Pizza in Brooklyn which did VEGAN PIZZA! This was my first time tasting such a thing and this is where my obsession and desire for Pizza began again after being deprived of it for so many years. I swear after that night I thought about the massive Pizza I shared with my friend there, every day! This Pizza was so huge, we couldn’t’ finish it between the two of us so took back to the apartment for breakfast the next day!

Vinnie's

On my return from New York, and still thinking about Pizza, I was determined to find somewhere in England where I could taste something like I had that night in Brooklyn. And the on the 2nd September 2010 (I don’t know how I remember these things. But when food is involved you know….) I travelled up to Leeds to the Grove Café with one my best friends to try the Soya Delight, which was an absolute massive delight with some Garlic Supreme bread. It is well worth a visit if you are in Yorkshire, as not only to they do curries but a huge of range other Vegan Pizzas from the Soya Delight to the Ammazoni to the Foragers Favourite. The main draw, being vegan was certainly the Pizzas as they included Vegan Cheese so you don’t have to request a sub standard  “Pizza without cheese” when you go to other outlets. I visited here about 3-4 times per year back then as the food was so delicious and the owners so hilarious.

Grove Cafe Garlic Bread Supreme and Soya Delight

When I was getting my head around that, BOOM Wheat Intolerance struck so had to step up the search further. And that’s where PIZZA GOALS has begun. Of course I have all the usual life goals like nice house, car, job yadayadayda… but now added to that list is to find THE BEST VEGAN AND WHEAT FREE IN THE WORLD! It’s going to happen. Right here on this blog!

Let’s get this party started with the first one..

Stingray Café

135 Fortress Road 

Tufnell Park

London

http://www.stingraycafe.co.uk/

Stingray

You want Gluten free Italian and Mediterranean in London? You got it all right here! They have a passion for this sort of thing and it’s evident all over the website and menu. Pizza, Pasta and even desserts! That Vegan Mango sorbet will be mine one day! I didn’t know that a traditional Pizza is 14 inches so when my Pizza arrived, I had a MASSIVE SHOCK. Vegetariana was crunchy, dense and fillings with my taste buds experiencing crazy things. Even with an added £2 for a gluten free base, I felt the total cost was a very reasonable price for a Pizza of this size. I really loved the friendly and relaxed nature of the staff at Stingray who were very accommodating to me. As it was cheeseless, they very kindly swapped the 2 cheeses for different toppings for no extra cost; Spinach and Mushrooms  It was great to have soya milk for my brew even! Make sure you pick up a loyalty card when you visit and check out the vast number of special offers Stingray run during the week.

York…

York is a place I have been to many times in my youth. But a place I have visited under the cover of darkness to go to shows or club nights at York Fibbers. So I was very excited to spend a couple days up in York as I was then for my some of my best friends wedding.

Whenever I go to a “new place” it’s standard that I will ask around for things to do. Obviously it’s very naïve to rock up into a city, having problems with eating and not researching where you will eat and drink coffee. That is just silly. But I was also told that York is a small city and ideal for just wondering around and exploring. This was out my comfort zone somewhat as I like to plan what galleries and sights I am going to see. So after going defeating the story in my mind of “I’m going to get lost and miss the wedding!” I found York pretty easy to navigate when plenty to see and do all around you.

It helped that the 4 places I planned to eat and drink at were all spread out and some tucked away so it was a nice challenge to find them all.

After checking in at my hotel I took a nice stroll into town and my destination for lunch was El Piano. El Piano is place which is so intriguing. You really have to experience it to be believed. For people like us, it’s perfect. It’s fully Vegan, gluten free, nut free, palm oil free and has it’s roots in Spanish cooking, but influenced by dishes from all around the world. They are proud to source ingredients within 30 miles and give you a percentage of how much the dish is! Talk about attention to detail  I had no idea how they could make it all work but they really do.  On paper it sounds a bit bonkers but it is like no other.El Piano front

When you enter the restaurant, it was quite overwhelming for me. You are met with the open kitchen, tonnes of certificates El Piano has received proudly displayed,  the louds sounds of the hustle and bustle of the people inside with the incredible waft of food. It was a Saturday lunchtime and the downstairs was heaving but luckily for me, I was taken upstairs into a smaller room with you guessed it, there was a massive brown grand piano inside! Along with Guitars hanging up on the wall really creates a welcoming atmosphere. It had a chilled vibe up here over looking the street below.

 

The menu is jam packed full of information and it’s clear they take allergen sufferers very very seriously in El Piano. Dishes containing Soya, Coconut, Sesame and Mustard are highlighted too as they come from the allergens list. And to take it further, it clearly states that other dishes can be amended to for other allergens too! I don’t think I have been to a place where such consideration to our needs it taken.

To drink, I had a Hot Granada Chai, which they have kits on sale that you can take home and prepare. It contained all the components that I would need for the day ahead. Spices, Chilli and sweetness  energised me after the drive from Birmingham and set me up nicely for the meal ahead.

And what a meal it was! How the mains work is that it’s 9.95 and consists of a principal dish, fritter and cold salad. So when you order, you have this responsibility to chose the right 3 things to work together. Which is fine by me!

I chose Thai style Tofu, Sweet Potato Croquetas and blanched greens. As you can see, I did a pretty good job of combining the three. The salsa to dip the Croquetas in was a nice touch and added some more flavour to them. A note of warning though. I really wasn’t expecting the dollop of hot sauce in the middle of the dish. I dived straight in, much to my burning regret!

With all the endless combinations on the menu, you would keep coming back to try everything else on the menu. But even if that isn’t enough for you they have a cooking school and sell cook books teaching you how to make things from the menu!

My next stop was Bishopthorpe Road, or “Bishy Road”  as it is affectionately know by the locals, on the way back to my hotel for a brew and cake. Bishy Road is a haven for independent businesses, where I spend most my time through out the week. They even have their own website. Pubs, cafes, restaurants, home stores, they have got it all.

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I visited the stylish Stanley and Ramona on Bishy Road and discovered it was their first birthday that day which was proudly celebrated with balloons and the promise my free birthday cake. The shop is more of a takeaway place I feel, as it only held a handful of seats inside and out and not really designed to work for hours on end. But despite this, the coffee was ace and had a latte with Origin Brazilian Fazenda.

IMG_3450

But the absolute star of the show was the cake cabinet. Listen to this ALL gluten free and a few dairy AND gluten free. My massive gripe in the free from community is finding cake that is both dairy and gluten free, so was astounded to see some wonderful treats on sale in an independent coffee shop such as Stanley and Ramona. This selection was great to see and I wasn’t complaining at all.

On the Sunday morning after the wedding, I dragged my very hung-over friend across York to a coffee joint, the well established Spring Espresso which was very busy despite everything on Fossgate being closed at this time, so we had a good feeling about the place. She had what seems like the worlds biggest mug of Tea while I had a soy latte from the guest roaster.

Spring Espresso Spring Espresso

The York City Walls and seeing York Minster was next on my plan for the day in the pouring rain. I found the City Walls a great way to walk around the city with out getting lost, and viewing landmarks from different heights and viewpoints. I sure there is a ton of history surrounding the Walls, but my History A level only taught me so much!

My final stop was for lunch and the quite excellent Goji Café which I had high expectations for. Even after viewing the website, you find a wealth of colourful photographs documenting a history of dishes they have created for the customer, along with a wide range of special events. Goji are very proud and passionate about their food which really came across in the meal I had.

Goji

While waiting for the waiter to seat you, downstairs has a massive deli counter, with a huge selection of dishes. Not just your standard sandwiches and salads. Roast vegetable with smoked tofu and tomato anyone? Yum!

I was taken to my seat on the second floor and a door opened to a cosy room full of diners which presented a homely and comfortable atmosphere to me. .

The food menu was very vast and much like El Piano, it was clear that they have created satisfying meals with all needs in mind. Which is why it took me some time to decide what to drink, let alone eat!

Staff were very polite and attentive when I told them about my dietary needs, and I ordered a large pot of the house Goji caffeine free Tea which was floral and comforting to warm me up after a cold time walking around York.

Goji

For my main, I ordered the Sweet Potato and Quinoa on a bed of Polenta. In between the polenta and the burger, leaves were places quite carefully which gave the dish a nice texture. It was welcome as the burger (to me anyway! And have to note I don’t do spice very well these days!) had a sharp spice to it, with the place having a light dusting on Paprika, The meal was so filling!

So that was York! A place which I was a bit worried about visiting and eating, but found these creative places in amongst the wild time we had at the wedding and night out!

The void.

Gosh! Has really almost been a year since I last posted? How embarrassing! But trust me when I say I had good reasons… my health has been very rocky but I am coming out the other side now, and making some more new changes which I’m sure I will tell you about over the next few months, Hopefully these benefit me in the long run!

I know this is where we can talk about food, positivity and the good times but I wanted to share some things with you..

The main piece of major and life changing good news I had came over Christmas. Since starting Chemotherapy 6 years ago, my life has all been about Cancer. The one constant in my life when people and things have let me down. Boring and predictable/unpredictable Cancer.  It’s always been there. Sitting on my shoulders, following me wherever I go no matter how far I run or run to.  

And making me think about it all the time even when I don’t want to. It’s hard to forget about what happened to you, even after you get the “all clear” as you still need to attend regular check-ups and unfortunately in my case, things went wrong during my treatment and in the last 5 years since finished my treatment.

Going to check-ups every few months, calling the amazing Queen Elizabeth Hospital when I haven’t been feeling great and informing them when things have gone wrong, yet always been seen very quickly.

Having the anxiety and fear in the days leading up to appointments was something I never got used to. Thinking “what if they find something wrong with my blood?” and “what it it’s come back?” and that story being replayed in your head time and time again making yourself shit because you are going to a shitty place. Because the clinic was the place I associated with being stabbed with needles and chemicals pumped into me with others who had been mostly dealt a tougher hand than mine…

After a while, this becomes normality. And you just begin to accept that this is what the rest of your life is going to be like, forever. The endless cycle of worries, fears, uncertainty..

Until one day over Christmas I had an appointment and it was just like autopilot when I got there, not requiring much though as I had followed this routines many many times. Check in, sit down, wait to have your blood taken, roll up your sleeve, make small talk with the nurse, go in and see the doctor, lie on the bed, let them have a feel of you to see if there any lumps or bumps, sit back down in the comfortable chair, discuss your blood results, discuss your weight then have a chat if I have had any problems.

But this time was different..

Doctor “Did you know it is almost 5 years to the day you had your last session of treatment?”

Me “Oh really? So what does that mean?”

Doctor “It means that after 5 years, the chance of you Cancer coming back is less than 5%”

Me “Cool”

After the shock of the news, it was great. No more appointments, no more dread and being able to look forward to the rest of my life.

The unwelcome and continued rhetoric has gone. I don’t have to talk about it or think about it much anymore. I’m a survivor. Not a victim. I can use my experience to help people without struggling with my own battles anymore.

Now let’s have some vegan, wheat, sugar and gluten free cake.

Manna roast…

Primrose Hill is probably my favourite area of London. There is nothing I like more than to have a slow walk to the top of the hill, and look out onto the madness of London where it is almost silent. On ground level, you will find many independent businesses in beautiful and colourful shop fronts. The last two times I have been in Primrose Hill I have spotted Russell Howard and Nick Grimshaw. Just saying..

manna_cuisine_logo

I visited Manna for Sunday lunch with my sister (a wheat and meat eater) and we had a delightful time. Manna is fully Vegan restaurant and has strong ethics in regards to Wheat and Gluten. I love this piece on their website. Even their wines are vegan and organic.

We had a table booked for 12:30 which was a good time as by the time we left, the place was bustling but never did feel rushed. The front of the restaurant is a lovely conservatory which houses a table which I feel would be a lovely place to sit and eat.

Before I came in, I had my heart set on the roast but there was so much variety on the menu that I would love to go back and sample more dishes. (The Baja Californian plate is what I am having next time!) Although after speaking with the waitress, the specials are almost always Wheat free.

This day, the Sunday roast was a smashing number which left me very full and ready to face the rest of a busy day in London. The roast was a Cashew nut and Spinach one. The addition of Spinach made the roast much more moist and easier to swallow in comparison to other vegan nut roasts that are served elsewhere. Topped with shredded Beetroot was a nice addition which complemented the other flavours well. This all was rested on a bed of Kale, Carrots, half cut new Potatoes with a delicious gravy. The size and variety of the roast is what struck me the most and I was highly impressed. Washed down with a Coconut water, made me very happy today.

Manna roast

Manna also hold special events such as cooking classes and have a plethora of different cake they create themselves. Manna is worth a trip for sure and you probably haven’t heard about it. Just go.

Manna

We’re going to have a Samosa party tonight..

People often ask me “Manoj. What do you miss most about a having to give up Wheat? Pizza? Bread? Pasta?” My answer is always SAMOSAS! So imagine my delight when I heard about 24 Carrot market based in the lovely surroundings of St Paul Square in Jewellery Quarter Birmingham. I checked the stall holders and discovered that a lady named Afia would be there selling her WHEAT FREE SAMOSAS AND PAKORA. That was it for me. All week I was counting down the minutes until the market…

It was the first time I had met Afia and I felt like I had know this friendly young lady forever. Amongst having a ton of laughs, we had a massive chat about her business and aspirations. It really impressed me that she really is a one woman Samosa making machine, running her whole business out of her kitchen at home (although at this time she had an apprentice who had just started to work with Afia). It was clear to me that she has lots of ideas, and is a someone who supports her local community by working and supporting events in her local area of Selly Oak.

Afia and her products

Onto the food. Afia creates 10 types of Samosa! With 5 of those suitable for vegans! Did I mention they are wheat free?! Afia told me about the painstaking trial and error process of months it took her to devise her own wheat free flour for the Samosas. Top secret of course. On this day, Afia had brought along a big selection of her range along with facilities to fry fresh Samosas.

Afia's Samosa Shop

I tried a Traditional Vegetable and a Spicy Daal with her amazing homemade Tamarind sauce with was thick and tangy. I had never tried, or even seen Daal as a Samosa filling before, and this one filled me up! After 2 Samosa and a couple of Pakoras I was stuffed! One the left is the Daal, and right it Traditional Vegetable.

Daal and Traditional Vegetable

Samosas and Pakoras are available freshly fried or can be picked up frozen to be cooked at a later date. When ordering a large amount (which I plan to do for my birthday this year!) about 7 days notice is required.

Prices

I really wish Afia’s Samosa shop all the best for the future and I urge you all to try her products and support her!

Afia’s Samosa Shop

Wheat free Bread with no egg!!!!

I have managed to find one and I’m going to share it with you all now! I seem to be searching high and low for a decent loaf of wheat free bread, and have tried them all. Supermarket own brand, Genius, DS, you name it I have tried it. The only one that is decent and a view shared by my brothers and sisters online too is this one from Genius…

BUT contains that dried egg white. YUK.

I nipped into my local CO-OP and had a look at their free from section not expecting to find anything of use to me. But then I found this!

Dietary Special Wholesome Seeded Sliced Loaf!

DS egg and wheat free

It was delicious! It actually tasted of something, soft and stayed intact when I made a sandwich.

Vegan and wheat free sandwich

I used violife cheese slices in this one. I also recommend these too especially being soya free too.

violife slices

Slice size is on the small size as with all wheat free breads unfortunately. But it certainly made up for it in taste.

DS wheat free

The bread is not quite vegan as it contains Honey but the lack of egg is certainly an improvement, so maybe someday the Honey could get removed in a future recipe.

Ingredients