This week, a return to the sweet side of things.

And when I say sweet, I mean it – this dessert is about as sugary as it gets, with perhaps the exception of baklava or some of the puddings from the Indian subcontinent.

It’s another discovery from my recent Portuguese trip.

Portugal isn’t hugely famous for its variety of desserts, though they do make up for this oversight in spades by having invented the incredible Pastel de Nata, the ubiquitous custard tart.

I’ll be honest, they are a severe weakness of mine, so much so that merely mentioning them here is making me want to whip up a batch. We’ve cooked them before, and if you want to be reminded of their sweet, smooth custardy goodness, here’s the link – they’re well worth revisiting.

So, with decent desserts thin on the ground, the end of many meals can grind to a rather disappointing halt before the coffee comes out.

At one such dinner, I was definitely in the mood for something a little sweet to round things off, and as everyone else was choosing a dessert, I thought I’d join in and plump for something I’d not tried before.

Fortunately, the dessert fridge was close to our table, and over the evening I’d seen the waitresses slicing into a big white fluffy ‘cake’ over and over again. What they were serving was Molotoff, a real favourite in Portugal, I’m told.

Essentially it’s a big sweet meringue, baked until just set in the oven, with a topping of caramelised sugar and, often, garnished with almond slivers.

The name is a corruption of the name ‘Malakoff’, a word used to describe a number of meringue-y, almond-y puddings from Russia. How it made its way with such popularity to the western fringes of Europe is a bit of a mystery.

Molotoff is like a cross between a classic crème caramel and the light-as-air meringue dessert, Île Flottante.

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With that dish, big dollops of meringue are poached gently in milk before being set adrift on a shallow pool of crème Anglaise, and garnished with caramelised sugar strands and flaked almonds.

This dish comprises many of those elements, but gives a lighter, airy result.

The caramel, when the dessert is upturned for serving, douses the set meringue and makes a lovely clear sauce to spoon over the pudding. It’s easy to make, and will last for many days, so it’s a good one to have ready in the notebook.

It’d be an excellent choice going into summer, as a post-barbecue treat.

After all that deep savouriness, this pudding, perhaps served with a few fresh strawberries, would tick all the boxes.

The baking tin is important here – you need a round, oven-proof tin in which you can pour hot caramel, and which can fit inside a larger baking tray filled with water.

We need this bain-marie in order to cook the meringue as gently as possible, so as to maintain its smooth texture.

I used a non-stick Savarin-type mould, but a plainer tin would do, or perhaps a nice bundt cake tin. Similarly, you could make individual Molotoffs in smaller tins or dariole moulds.

I normally advocate the use of unrefined sugar, and whilst that would work here, the refined nature of white caster sugar is preferable here, for its stability and colour. It makes a better caramel, and the Molotoff stays ice-white when sliced.

So, give your teeth plenty of advance warning, and get stuck in to this sweet Portuguese treat.

For the pudding:

9 medium free-range egg whites

270g white caster sugar

The seeds of a vanilla pod

For the caramel:

100g white caster sugar

3 tablespoons boiling water

Garnish:

150g flaked almonds

Extras:

A suitable round baking dish or tin, about 24cm diameter

A larger steep-sided baking dish to fit the tin comfortably

Method:

Pre-heat the oven 180˚C / Gas 6. Now for the caramel. Set your clean baking tin on a tea-towel, ready for the caramel. Tip the sugar into a clean, heavy-based pan and add the boiling water. Gently swirl the pan until all the sugar is soaked, then set over a gentle heat.

When the sugar is all dissolved, turn up the heat and, with as little movement as possible, begin to bubble the syrup.

As soon as the first signs of light colour appear, gently swirl the pan and set back on the heat and repeat. You’re looking for a good, deep caramel colour, but not too dark, as this can taste bitter.

Just as the caramel is getting to the correct colour, remove the pan from the heat, give a final swirl and tip it into the baking tin, spreading it around evenly.

You may need to swirl the caramel around the tin, so be careful as it will heat dramatically once the caramel is in there. Set aside to cool, and prepare the meringue.

In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the egg whites at medium speed until they reach the soft peak stage.

Still whisking, add the white caster sugar a little at a time, until all of the sugar is incorporated and the meringue is shiny and fairly stiff but not dry. Turn up the speed and whisk in the vanilla seeds to spread them evenly through the mixture.

Spoon the meringue into the tin on top of the cooled caramel, avoiding air pockets as much as possible.

Place a teatowel or an old newspaper in the larger baking tin, and gently lower in the meringue tin. Place in the oven. Boil a kettle, and carefully pour in enough water to come about three-quarters of the way up the meringue tin.

Close the oven door, and bake the Molotoff for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, leaving the door closed, and allow the pudding to cool and firm up for 2 hours.

As the pudding cools, toast the almonds under a grill or in the oven, turning frequently to give an even, deep golden shade.

To serve, remove the tin, and cover with an upturned plate or bowl with raised sides.

Quickly invert the whole lot (you’re advised to do this over a sink, as the caramel can leak out) and allow the pudding to settle for 5 minutes before unmoulding.

Wipe the plate to make it clean and neat, then sprinkle with the almonds and serve.