Manchego cheeses pair extraordinarily well with a wide variety of foods and drinks.
In these series of posts I will share my discoveries about these delightful combos.
Let’s get started with a marriage made in heaven: Manchego & Figs
Not familiar with figs? Although not juicy, the fig is an incredibly luscious fruit, with a delicate aroma and sweet flavour. Figs have an oval or squat pear shape, and thin skin that encloses hundreds of seeds (actually miniature fruits themselves) held in a succulent, softly fibrous red or purple flesh.
If you have never tried figs with Manchego, get yourself to the nearest Whole Foods or other specialty market and buy some. Since fresh figs are only available from August through to early October now it’s the time!
Tomorrow I will be sharing with you a super easy recipe that will make you love this absolute delicacy. So go pick up a fine Manchego cheese and get your figs ready!
#2 – MANCHEGO & MEMBRILLO
Once you’ve tried this combination, you’ll see what all the fuss is about, and you may even want to try your hand at making some.
Quince is a hard fruit that looks like a cross between an apple and a pear. Most varieties can’t be eaten raw, only cooked. They cook up pink and have a wonderful sweet floral aroma so and extra benefit of preparing “dulce de membrillo” is that your home would smell amazing afterwards.
Besides being a great appetizer and a wonderful dessert, Manchego & membrillo also make for a perfect school sandwich. The little ones love the sweetness of the quince paste and we feel good knowing they’re eating all the vitamins and protein they need.
Like apples and pears, quince is in season during fall. Yes, it’s season time!
So go and buy some. Soon I’ll be sharing my grandma’s “dulce de membrillo” recipe and I can tell you won’t regret giving it a go!
#3 – MANCHEGO & GRAPES
The truth is that Manchego cheese and grapes make for a perfect snack. They not only taste fantastic when served together, more importantly they are a super healthy combo that will boost your energy levels.
On the one hand, grapes – black ones, specially – are a rich source of resveratrol, a potent antioxidant that may help ward off cancer and heart disease. On the other hand, the protein and calcium of the Manchego cheese round up the snack to perfection.
A simple, classic combination, easy to put together, yet tasty and refreshing.
Who doesn’t want to feel the Manchego kiss in autumn days like today?
#4 – MANCHEGO & DATES
Believe it or not, this delightful pair was already common in Medieval Spain. Tasteful and exquisite, some foods never go out of fashion.
The sweetness of the date mixes perfectly with the sharp, peppery taste of the Manchego. And it all goes deliciously well with a glass of red wine. Yum.
You can try this as chic finger food just stuffing the dates with the manchego pieces. It sounds so fancy…but really all you have to do is cut the cheese in pieces to fit inside the dates. Don’t you love recipes like that?
Want to make the snack even more nutritious? Add some pistachio nuts on the side. Pistachios are tiny, but pack a powerful nutritional punch. They will also extend the exotic tone and add more color to your plate.
You can serve these platters up at your next party. Or you can just sit back, relax and nibble on them. I love them just like that. Make me feel like a Moorish queen.
#4 – MANCHEGO & CHOCOLATE
Are you as addicted to chocolate as you are to cheese? Can’t you decide between these two treats? Then you’ll be glad to hear that perhaps you won’t need to choose anymore, as many studies have shown, chocolate & cheese are a perfect pairing. Great news! Isn’t it?
Of course, as both flavors have very intense and complex tasting profiles, not all the cheese and chocolate pairings will be a success.
For a hard cheese as Manchego, experts recommend sticking to high quality dark chocolates (+60%). As dark chocolate doesn’t have a lot of sugar, it’s easier to taste all the true flavors. Of course, milk chocolate and white chocolate could work as well. The best, as always, is to experiment and have fun. Take your time and invite your friends to join you on this delicious journey.
Here are two creative ideas for doing so:
- Combine Manchego cheese and chocolate in small grilled cheese sandwiches. You can serve them as part of your next Sunday brunch. Everyone will love them
- On a dessert plate serve some Manchego slices, a bit of honey, some dark chocolate sprinkles and few pine nuts. Ask your guests to slip and slide the Manchego cheese through the honey and finish off with a dip into the chocolate and the pine nuts. Delicious!
Just a final recommendation: Be sure both the chocolate and the Manchego are room temperature before tasting. That’ll maximize the flavors and aromas.
#5 – LET’S WINE TOGETHER! – La Mancha
This is especially true when it comes to Manchego.
As the concept of “terroir” (or origin) is equally relevant for cheese as it is for wine, you may want to do a “La Mancha” themed tasting, pairing your favorite Manchego cheese with wines from the region.
Did you know that Castilla – La Mancha produces more wine that the rest of Spain together? Whites, reds and rosées, the region gathers no less than 9 wine PDOs! That’s a lot of quality wine!
Try, for instance, pairing a semi-cured Manchego with a light & crisp white from Valdepeñas or a very well cured Manchego with a medium-bodied red from La Mancha. Mix, match and have fun.
Finally, as many Manchego cheese mongers also produce their own fine wines, you can go a step further matching wines & cheeses from the same makers.
As you see, the possibilities are endless in the land of Don Quixote.
#6 – LET’S WINE TOGETHER – TEMPRANILLO
I’m sure most of you will reach for a fine bottle of Spanish red wine. And you know what? Probably that would be an excellent choice.
As a hard, slightly oily and robust cheese, Manchego pairs brilliantly well with Spanish red wines, from medium-bodied to giant reds.
It’s specially a perfect match with another fine export of Spain, Tempranillo.
Tempranillo, a vibrant and aromatic varietal, is arguably the most famous of Spain’s native grapes. Grown all over the country, also in La Mancha but most famously in the Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero regions, Tempranillo’s lively red fruit and noted dryness offer the perfect background to the prominent flavors of our beloved cheese.
Did you know that Tempranillo translates to “little early one”? Yes, apparently this varietal has a tendency for early ripening as thrives even with a short growing season.
When you think about it, all of it makes sense. A cheese that requires up to two years to mature and a grape that ripens “too quickly”. Patience and passion hand in hand. No wonder they make a perfect marriage!
#7 – LET’S WINE TOGETHER! – VERDEJO
What most people don’t know is that young Manchegos are an equally great match with crisp and grassy whites such as Verdejo.
Verdejo wines are aromatic, often soft and light-bodied. They smell like a big bowl of citrus and green apples. Lovely, isn’t it? And it’s actually this fruitiness what makes for a great combination with Manchego – As you probably know by now, fruity flavors make a perfect contrast with our beloved cheese.
Although Verdejo is produced in other regions, the most well known are from Rueda, a small region North of La Mancha and the city of Madrid, just West of the Ribera del Duero.
Rueda wines are nowadays widely available across the US. So if you are a Manchego fan and love the zing of your usual Sauvignon Blanc but are ready to branch out, then you should try your favorite cheese with a glass of Verdejo.
#8 – ON BEER: MANCHEGO’S SECRET AFFAIR?
However, I’ve recently come across many articles about the excellence of pairing Manchego and beer. Just a new hype or a truly great combination?
As experts say, a nutty aged Manchego finds a good complement in malty beers like nut-brown ales, stouts and porters. The reason, they argue, is that the nut and caramel aromas of the beers harmonize well with those you find in aged Manchegos.
As Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of New York’s Brooklyn Brewery and author of “The Brewmaster’s Table” explains, “with wine, you’re almost always working just with contrasts. That’s not as satisfying as also working in some harmonies.”
Personally, I like pairings that work with the idea of contrast.
Also I have to admit that pairing Manchego with beer is a very nice combination too. As beer helps to clean the palate making the mouth ready for another taste, this pair can work at so many levels.
Now how about you: how would you pair your Manchego?