Bacon from heaven with port-poached pears

Bacon from heaven with port-poached pears

Toucinho do ceu

By
From
Lisbon
Serves
8
Photographer
Steven Joyce

This is a dense, squidgy, gluten-free almond dessert that I first tried at Pap Acorda, a lovely restaurant above the Mercado de Ribeira in central Lisbon. They served it with pears poached in port, which is not part of the traditional recipe but works beautifully.

My version involves a bit less lard and a lot less than the 20-or-so eggs that some traditional recipes call for. There’s a small chance that the very oldest versions of the recipe actually contained bacon, but it is most likely to be named after the pork fat used in the batter. The heavenly bit is easy to understand once you’ve tasted the cake…

If you don’t want to waste the pear poaching liquor, once the pears are done, remove them, turn the heat up and simmer the liquor for about 20 minutes to reduce it to a thin syrup – it will thicken as it cools. This will keep in the fridge and makes a gorgeous topping for grown-up ice cream sundaes or poured over chocolate desserts, as port wine is one of the few wines that pairs well with chocolate.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

Cake

Quantity Ingredient
150ml water
1 tablespoon lard, plus extra to grease
300g caster sugar
pinch salt
250g ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 unwaxed lemon, grated zested
1/4 orange, grated zested
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
icing sugar, to serve

Pears

Quantity Ingredient
200ml water
500ml port wine
100g caster sugar
1/2 cinnamon stick
6cm orange zest
6cm unwaxed lemon zest
2 pears
vanilla ice cream, or crème fraîche, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. First, make the cake. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease and line the base and sides of a 20 cm round cake tin, ideally one with a loose base.
  2. Place the water, lard, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and cook until all the ingredients have melted or dissolved in the water. Reduce the heat to low, add the ground almonds and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, to allow the almonds to absorb some of the liquid and for the almond paste to thicken. Remove from the heat, stir in the cinnamon and citrus zests, and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Once the mix has cooled a little, beat the eggs and yolks in a bowl, then add them to the almond paste, stirring well to incorporate.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven. Bake for 30–35 minutes, until golden brown on top. Leave to cool in the tin and, once lukewarm, invert the cake. Dust with a little icing sugar.
  5. While the cake is cooking or cooling, prepare the pears. Place the water, port, sugar, cinnamon stick and strips of zest in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Peel, quarter and core the pears, then cut each pear into 8 chunks. Turn down the heat under the pan so the port is simmering, then add the pear pieces and poach for 15–20 minutes (don’t stir, as the fruit will become quite fragile).
  6. When cooked, the pears will be soft but holding their shape and will have turned a deep garnet colour. Lift them out of the poaching liquor, drain and leave to cool. Serve the pears with the cake, and perhaps a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some crème fraîche.
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