Queso Manchego – La Mancha Cheese – is named after the region that produces it. La Mancha is the dry, high plains of central Spain, the land of Don Quixote, of wind mills, of olive groves and cheese! Easily found outside Spain nowdays, you will find queso manchego in bars and restaurants all around Spain. The most flavorful cheese comes from sheep’s milk (oveja) or goat (cabra). They come in a variety of styles, semi-cured (semi-curado) or the harder, cured (curado). The other day I was in a big supermarket, Carrefour, and in queso overload I managed to choose a nice cured, goats milk manchego cheese from the isle dedicated to nothing else but queso manchego. Unfortunately my camera was at home, but imagine, an American-sized isle, about 35 feet (10 meters) long, only of cheese! Regardless to say, you must come to Spain to sample the variety of Manchego and other cheeses. However, I fortunately don’t normally shop in those giant supermarkets, being that I live in the center of Madrid. My favorite gourmet cheese shop in Madrid is Poncelet. They have a great selection of Spanish and French artesian cheeses.
Normally the manchego is enjoyed as-is, but a wonderful combination is topping the cheese with “membrillo” which is a jelly made out of the quince fruit. It’s light sweetness and firm grainy texture mixes perfectly with the cured and semi-cured cheeses. In the USA, membrillo and manchego cheese can be bought online from Tienda.com and in the UK from Paxton & Whitfield and The Tapas Lunch Company.