This is my last post before I leave on vacation. After a very busy year trying to handle the many roles being a working mum involves, it’s now that very much expected time to get away with the family and spend the long summer days lounging by the seaside, strolling in the nature and dining under the stars.
This means I will be putting this blog on stand by until summer is over and I’ll be – hopefully – back with the batteries topped up with all the energy of the sunshine.
I would like to thank you all for following me during these months. I hope I was able to share with you my passion for Manchego cheese and explain all the tradition, history, care and craftsmanship its wonderful taste conveys. I hope I gave you some ideas on how to enjoy it and, most importantly, hints on how to recognize the authentic Manchego cheese vs. the industrial lookalikes.
I wish you all a superb summer, filled with joy and laughter, and also, why not, with a touch of Manchego. Enjoy!
Did you think that last week’s list was absolutely delicious? Did you have the opportunity to try all the veggie “tapas” I recommended? Then get ready for more to come! Who said Spanish food was just about paella & meat?
6. Salmorejo – Vegetarian cold soup
This is similar to gazpacho but even tastier. Ensure it comes “sin jamón” (without ham), as many versions come with Serrano ham sprinkled on top.
7. Huevos rotos – Fried eggs with potatoes
Simple food at its best. Again ask for “sin jamón, por favor”.
8. Pimientos de padrón – Spicy bell peppers
If you’re the kind of person who likes surprises, this will surely be your tapa of choice. As some peppers are sweet and others spicy, you’re in for a fun ride!
9. Croquetas de espinacas – Spinach croquettes
Croquettes are a must have “tapa”. For veggie enjoyment, as for croquettes “de espinacas” or “de setas” (mushrooms). Yum!
10. Queso Manchego frito – Fried Manchego Cheese
Fried cheese is a commonly found “tapa” in the La Mancha region, home of the Manchego cheese. Try it with some marmalade on the side to maximize the enjoyment. Surely, the perfect end for a veggie “tapas” feast.
1. Choose wisely
It’s hard to imagine a picnic without cheese, but when you’re going to be out all day in the sun, you should choose wisely. I’m sure you don’t want your painstakingly selected cheese to end up as a runny mess!
Taking into account how long the cheese will be away from refrigeration, how hot the weather is and how the cheeses will be transported are key. Of course, choosing top quality tasty cheeses are crucial too!
Firm cheeses like Manchego do well in the wilderness. They’re quite resistant to the heat, easy to eat and combine well with a wide variety of simple foods.
2. Pack it well
Make sure to pack your cheeses correctly. My favorite way of doing so is using individual airtight containers, just a little bigger than the cheese. Separating each cheese will prevent you from mixing the flavors so I’ll rather use separate containers than mixing all the cheeses in one.
3. Keep it simple
Forget complex dishes and reach for simple yet tasty foods. Manchego cheese, a selection of sliced meats such as Serrano ham, “chorizo” or “salchichón”, some sturdy fruit such as apples or, better yet, a small container of jam or “dulce de membrillo”, and a fresh loafer of bread with raisins, nuts and seeds, are almost all you need for the perfect picnic lunch.
4. Take the essentials
Now you have the food sorted, let’s look at the other essentials. Here’s a basic list:
- Cooler fully stocked with ice
- Small cutting board and knife to cut and serve cheese
- Picnic basket to carry supplies
- Small storage containers for leftovers
- Soft picnic blanket or tablecloth to lay on ground
- Napkins/paper towels
- Trash bags
- Music player
5. Don’t forget the wine
Last but not least, make sure not to forget the wine. After all, is there a better way to relax than savoring a glass of wine with your picnic cheese menu?
Spring has sprung and so we’re kick starting barbecue season. Hooray!
If you, like me, love to add vegetables to any BBQ, here’s a fantastic recipe that has become an all time favorite in my family. This is so simple yet healthy and yummy that I’m sure your gang will love it too.
What you need:
- 1 bunch of asparagus (about 1 pound), trimmed
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ounce of Manchego, shaved with a vegetable peeler
- 2 walnuts
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- Salt & pepper
- Heat grill to medium-high.
- In a big bowl, toss the asparagus with the extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper.
- Grill until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Pour the soy sauce on it
- Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with the Manchego and walnuts.
Last week I talked about enjoying Manchego with nuts as a fantastic way to boost your health and energy levels. Manchego & walnuts are my favorite combination. Almonds and pecan nuts are excellent options too.
Today I’ll dedicate the post to pairing Manchego with almonds. This is an all time classic snack in Spain, popular as a small “tapa” for the “aperitivo” and also great to eat while watching TV.
Manchego goes well with both raw and roasted almonds. Spaniards normally enjoy Manchego with the Marcona type of almond. This nut – native to Spain – has also become a very popular item in specialty cheese stores in the US too. This tells a lot already about its versatility as a cheese partner!
Try and find Marcona almonds roasted in oil and salted – I prefer them without skin but, since you can also eat their skin, with and without skin are perfectly fine options.
Here are two suggestions to savour this fantastic pair:
- Almonds + Manchego + Apple slices = The perfect mid-morning snack. Not only tasty and healthy, also easy to prepare and carry to the office.
- Almonds + Manchego + Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) = A sophisticated appetizer that will surprise your dinner guests.
Just two great ways to enjoy Manchego & almonds. What would your suggestions be?
As I’m really into wine & cheese, I’m always on the lookout for new exciting pairings. I’ve already talked here about some of the possibilities Manchego offers in this respect – Pairing it with wines from La Mancha, red Tempranillos or white Verdejos are all fine options.
Today I want to explore a different kind of pairing involving what is regarded by many writers as a “neglected wine treasure”: Sherry.
Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes, primarily Palomino grapes, that are grown near the town of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, a region that neighbors La Mancha from the South.
Sherry is produced in a variety of dry styles ranging from light versions similar to white table wines, such as Manzanilla and Fino, to darker and heavier ones that have been allowed to oxidize as they age in barrel, such as Amontillado and Oloroso.
My favorite is Manchego & Fino Sherry but – since this is a very personal choice – you might want to try the other combinations too. All spectacular, believe me!
Why do Sherry and Manchego go so well together? As Manchego, Sherry is layered and complex. It has rich flavors that “make you think”, if you know what I mean. Also, both Sherry and Manchego have protected designation of origin status and are in fact two of the oldest PDO councils in Europe. There’s plenty of history and tradition in this pair!
This combination makes for a perfect tapa before lunch or a great post-dinner treat, next to dessert. Just remember: Sherry needs to be served chilled and drunk fresh so it’s better to buy it from a shop or online retailer that has a good turnover of bottles.
Are you enjoying our cheese tasting class? I hope you are.
After getting the basics straight and admiring the visual appearance of the cheese, we now move on to the final part of the tasting, my absolute favorite part, as now it’s time to let your imagination run wild and I can tell you: for good or bad, my imagination has no limits.
What we’re looking for is a description of the flavor of the cheese. In wine tastings, we sniff and savor to come to such a description. With cheese, we can use the following techniques:
- Smell vs. flavor: Like wine, sometimes the scent and flavor are synonymous. Other times, they are complete opposites. Before tasting the Manchego, give it a good whiff and compare the scent to the taste. Are they similar?
- Use basic adjectives: Start with basic flavors to describe the cheese. Is it salty, sweet, sour, or acidic? Manchego cheeses have complex tasting profiles and so you might want to use a combination of these adjectives to describe them.
- What the animals ate: As I said on the first part of these series of articles, the flavor of the milk often shines through and tastes like whatever the Manchega sheep ate, whether it was grass, hay, or wild flowers. Can you appreciate those notes?
- Similes: Does your Manchego smell as a sweaty pair of socks? Does the flavor remind you of a stick of butter or even walnuts? The fun of tasting is to link the cheese to memories of foods or strong smells you’ve experienced. That’s why tasting is such a personal experience.
So how about you? How would you describe your favorite Manchego cheese?