Wednesday 27 July 2011

Torta di Mais - A Cake for Nursing Mothers

Yesterday saw the first meeting of the St Albans Vegetarian Parents support group. The group is the brain child of my friend Marianne, who wants to create a place for parents to share a love of vegetarian food, cookery, products and recipes, without all of the political stuff that can often be attributed to being a vegetarian. 

The group currently has four members, and three of us met up yesterday with our children to share recipes and sample some delicious vegetarian cake and frittata. We also discussed bringing our kids up as vegetarians, and whether we feel comfortable having them eat meat at home or elsewhere. My kids are not 100% vegetarian, although they do eat mainly vegetarian at home, so it was interesting to hear everyone's different perspectives. I also shared my Aubergine & Mozzarella Bake recipe with the group and we are hoping to swap recipes each month.

Marianne made a delicious Polenta and Aniseed cake. Aniseed is said to be especially good for improving the milk supply of nursing/breastfeeding mothers, so breastfeeding mothers are actually encouraged to eat this cake - can't be bad! 

The recipe is from a recipe book called The Vegeterranean Cookbook - an Italian vegetarian cookbook which won the Gourmand 2008 World Cookbook Awards.

Be warned, this cake does take about an hour and a half to make, but its worth it as the cake tastes delicious. I am not a massive aniseed lover and was worried that the aniseed flavour would overpower the rest of the ingredients, but the balance is just right. A sweet, fragrant taste of aniseed, without being too overbearing. 

The next meeting of the St Albans vegetarian parents support group is on the 16th of August. You don't have to live solely in St Albans, as the group is also for parents who live in the surrounding areas, but most of the meetings will be St Albans based. Do feel free to contact me if you would like to come along as we would love to have some new members.

To all my friends and fellow practitioners involved in teaching about birth and breastfeeding, do encourage any breast feeding/nursing mothers you meet to make this cake, or make it for them, as it really is delicious.

Torta di Mais

When visiting new babies in the neighbourhood, Malu's mother would bake the new mother this delightful corn and aniseed cake. The corn gives a healthy boost of energy while the aniseed provides essential nutrients that the mother can pass along to her infant. Aside from the health benefits, the subtle sweetness and the appealing texture of corn blend deliciously, especially when complemented by tea or a cappuccino. 

Serves 12.  35 Minutes Preparation & 45 minutes baking & cooling time

300g Cornmeal
400g Sugar
500ml Milk
100ml Vegetable Oil
1tbsp Butter
4 Eggs separated
1 tbsp Aniseed
1tbsp Baking Powder
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt
Icing sugar, for dusting 

  1. Butter a 10 x 15" baking tin. Flour the sides and line the bottom with baking paper
  2. Combine the cornmeal, sugar, milk, oil and butter in a saucepan and whisk continuously over a medium heat
  3. After around 10 minutes, the mixture should begin to pull away from the pot.
  4. Continue to coo.k for an additional 3 minutes, the remove from the heat and cool completely
  5. Beat the egg yolks lightly and add the cooled batter, aniseed, sifted baking powder and vanilla. Beat well to incorporate air.
  6. Beat the egg whites and salt to stiff peaks in a separate bowl. Gently fold a third of the egg white into the batter until fully incorporated, before adding the rest of the remaining egg whites.
  7. Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake at gas mark 4/180 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick, when inserted, comes out clean.
  8. Cook in the pan, before removing.
  9. Dust the surface with icing sugar and serve. 

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