Spice poached Portuguese Rocha pear with Nisa cheese

"Because no good story starts with....when I was having a salad..."
The response I received from one of our dinner guests when I served this particular salad however might well prompt a good story on his return home,and I quote his response "that was one of the best dishes I have tasted this year." Thank you for that Mr "O"
Many cuisines have long traditions of combining fruit with cheese. The Italians for instance flaunt the combination of juicy pears with a salty ewe's milk pecorino.Since living in Portugal I have been wanting to find a savoury way of poaching the beautiful Rocha pears we get here.I have cooked them in red wines,white wines,with all kinds of combinations of spices.I even have a much referred to Peter Gordon recipe for spice roasted pears with goats cheese but it is yet another dessert recipe.In the Casa Rosada fridge you will always find a semi-hard sheeps cheese called Queijo de Nisa.It is from the Alentejo and is created from raw milk, which is coagulated, then curdled using an infusion of thistle. It is yellowish white, with a robust flavor and a somewhat acidic finish.It has been honoured as one of the 100 great cheeses in the world.Its resemblance in flavour but not texture is not dissimilar to Pecorino,in my opinion.It suddenly dawned on me that this was the perfect pairing for my spiced Rocha pear salad.I read through several dessert recipes before I came up with the formula for a savoury spice roasted pear.I removed the allspice and cinnamon that was predominant in all these recipes and put in some more savoury flavours.

Spiced roasted Rocha pear salad with Nisa cheese 

you can cook the pears in advance if you need to save time -they will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days
1 red chilli, stalk removed,finely chopped
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
thumb sized piece of root ginger peeled and cut into slithers
1 large clove of garlic peeled and sliced
2 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
30ml cider vinegar
120g light muscovado sugar
150ml water
4 large sweet (but firm) Rocha pears,cored and cut in half lengthways
400g Nisa cheese roughly crumbled
Chinese five spice for dusting
Salad leaves of your choice
1/3 cup walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 
Halve the pears, and carefully remove the seeds and core.
Mix together the first 8 ingredients and then pour over the water.Place the pears in an oven proof dish just large enough to hold them.Pour the mixture over them and cook for approximately 45 minutes to one hour or until they are just receptive to the tip of a sharp knife.You want to retain a bit of crunch.remove them from the oven and allow them to cool in their poaching liqid.Remove the pears when cool and keep them refrigerated until you are ready to use them.
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic minced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Flor de sal and freshly ground pepper
In small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup (75 ml) strained poaching liquid, mustard and garlic. Slowly whisk in oil; season with salt and pepper.
When ready to serve scatter mixed leaves of your choice on the plate.Cut one half of the pear into six segments almost to the stalk of the pear but still allowing the pear half to remain in one piece.Carefully rest the pear half on the centre of the salad and fan the segments apart.Crumble Nisa cheese over the salad then drizzle over the dressing.Scatter the salad with a smidgeon of halved walnuts. Dust the pear with chinese five spice as you would use pepper.Serve immediately.
*If you are not in Portugal please try to source this unique cheese otherwise pecorino would make a fine substitute  


  1. This salad looks so fresh and delicious. I never tried Nisa cheese before, hope I can find it in my local cheese store to try it. Thanks for sharing the recipe.


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