Deliciously Conscious Cooking for Vegan & Gluten-Free Diets

Posted by Belinda Connolly
5 June, 2014

I wrote The Deliciously Conscious Cookbook in response to the growing need for delicious food that’s free from gluten, dairy, animal products, cane sugar and nuts. My aim was to bring together a collection of recipes that everyone could eat, and at the same time offer the vegetarian cook extensive freedom of choice when catering for those with diverse dietary needs.

Whatever diet you choose to follow, the health benefits of eating a diet rich in whole foods and complex carbohydrates are now widely recognized. The issue of sustainability is also one of growing importance – we not only want to eat delicious, wholesome food, we also want to know where it’s come from.

More people are now beginning to explore their unhelpful relationships with food, asking questions such as: ‘Who’s really in charge of what I eat?’ ‘Is quality or quantity more important?’ ‘Which part of me really needs feeding, and with what?’

As you explore my recipes, I advocate mindful experimentation to discover new ways to meet your particular needs. The idea is that you are free to experiment based on how you feel and what your body tells you it needs. Here is not the place to go into a detailed nutritional analysis, but to consult your inner nutritionist!

My philosophy of cooking

For me, cooking and eating are flip sides of the same coin. When creating a dish, I allow my whole being to be guided intuitively by what pleases me. As I cook, I’m already seeing the result in my mind’s eye. It is as if I am looking backwards from the future, watching others already enjoying the dish.

I have learned to enjoy cooking with the freshest of local seasonal produce, and now derive a deep satisfaction from tasting the simplicity of the land rather than being strung out between feeling the need to create something amazing for supper every night, or falling too frequently into pasta default mode.

This J.R.R. Tolkien quote echoes my sentiments exactly:

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

Mini Millet Burgers with Tomato and Avocado Salsa

Prep 40 minutes, plus at least 2 hours chilling and making the salsa
Makes 24 | Cook 16-20 minutes
| Dairy free | Gluten free | Vegan

When my children were at the local school, I ran the burger stall at the summer fair, and this recipe was kindly donated by a fellow parent. The burgers were so popular that the recipe lives on in the local community and here it is for everyone to enjoy.

For the Burgers:

750ml/1 1/4pints/3 cups vegetable stock
225g/8oz/heaped 1 cup millet
1 bay leaf, scrunched
115g/4oz flat field mushrooms, wiped and trimmed
5-6 garlic cloves, smashed
3 celery sticks, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 small green (bell) pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1 small red (bell) pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded (optional)
4-6 tbsp olive or raw coconut oil
55g/2oz/1 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
freshly grated zest of 1 lime
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season
sunflower oil, for frying
selection of salsa and salads, to serve

  1. Put the stock, millet, bay leaf and a few grinds of pepper in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the millet is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Set aside, covered with a clean kitchen towel. When cool, remove the bay leaf.
  2. Meanwhile, place the all the vegetables and the chilli in a food processor and pulse-blitz to finely chop, or finely chop by hand. Do not puree or the burgers will be soggy.
  3. Heat a 0.5cm/1/4in layer of oil in a frying pan. Add the vegetables and fry, stirring, until they are very soft and turning golden. Lower the heat as necessary. When the millet is cool enough to handle, combine it with the vegetables, coriander (cilantro) and zest. Season and mix together.
  4. Use wet hands to shape the mixture into 24 mini burgers, pressing together firmly. Place the burgers on a tray lined with parchment paper. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours, but no longer than 36 hours.
  5. Shallow-fry the burgers in batches over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side until they are golden brown and crisp on both sides. Let a good crust form before attempting to turn them. Transfer to a warm oven and continue frying until all the burgers are cooked.
  6. Drain the burgers well on kitchen paper (paper towels), then serve with the salsa and salads of your choice.

For the Tomato & Avocado Salsa

1 garlic clove, smashed and finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
225g/8oz ripe tomatoes
2 ripe avocados


  1. Combine the garlic, onion and chilli, if using, in a non-metallic bowl with the coriander (cilantro), smoked paprika, lime juice, salt to taste and a few grinds of pepper.
  2. Next, use a small curved knife to remove the tough core at the top of the tomatoes in a cone shape. Finely dice the flesh and add to the other salsa ingredients.
  3. Split an avocado in half lengthways, then smack a large knife into the stone and twist – the stone should come out with ease. Repeat with the other avocado, then peel and dice them. Add to the salsa and gently mix together. Cover and chill until required.


From The Deliciously Conscious Cookbook, © 2014 by Belinda Connolly, published by Hay House.




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