MELBOURNE | When I think about countries that produce cheese, Spain does not come to mind. I automatically think of blue cheese and washed rinds from France, Mozzarella and Parmesan from Italy, bold cheddar from the United States and Australian feta and goats cheeses. I spent a little time thinking about whether I was familiar with any Spanish cheese and all I could think of was Manchego. I’m not the only one who is ignorant when it comes to Spanish cheeses, which is why the Trade Commission of Spain is currently taking part in a campaign to introduce people to cheeses that are made and imported from Spain. The City Lane was invited to an event to try around 30 different Spanish cheeses. Let’s just say it was our kind of event.
Recently, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand lifted the ban on raw milk cheeses which has allowed the introduction of unpasteurised cheeses into Australia. This regulatory change has had a huge impact upon the imported cheeses on offer in the country. I tried some astounding raw milk cheeses such as the Torta de Canarejal and the Picon Bejes-Tresviso.
Torta de Canarejal is a sheep’s milk cheese from northern Spain which is aged for 2 months. In this time the centre of the cheese becomes gooey, creamy and mellow in flavour thanks to the use of thistle based rennet. Part of appeal with this cheese is the theatrical way in which it is served. The entire top of the cheese is sliced off and you either scoop out the runny centre with a spoon or dunk in your bread/bread stick to soak up the delicious goodness.
The second raw cheese I really appreciated was the Picon Bejes-Tresviso. Picon Bejes-Tresviso is a blue cheese originating from Cantabria in Northern Spain. The variety on offer was from a producer called Casa Campo who make the cheese using raw ewe milk from three particular breeds of ewes; Tudanca, Laxta and Pyrenees. This gives Picon Bejes-Tresviso a slightly spicy flavour with an intense aroma.
I have to admit that all the attendees were huddled around the raw cheese table out of sheer interest, however the pasteurised cheeses did not disappoint.
Queso de oveja en aceite de oliva (Entrepinares) was one of my highlights from the evening. This pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese is cured in olive oil for 10 months producing a hard cheese which is creamy with a delicate buttery taste. Perfect served as part of a cheese board with a full bodies red wine.
I also have to give Manchego an honourable mention, It’s one of the most well known Spanish cheeses and for good reason. Mancehgo is a delicious ewe’s milk hard cheese from the La Macha region in Spain which has a sweet nutty flavour. It’s one of those cheese that is perfect when served with some crusty bread and a glass of robust red wine.
Another noteworthy cheese was the Valdeon D.O.P, a delicious blue-vein made in Posada de Valdeon. This gorgeous cheese is classically a combination of goat and goat” milk curds wrapped and matured in sycamore leaves for two months. This result is a strong, aromatic cheese which is buttery on the palate and has an earthy after taste.
This event certainly opened my eyes up to the world of Spanish cheeses and thankfully, there are quite a few places you can find them in Melbourne now – check out Harper & Blohm, Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder, The Cheese Shop Deli and Quality World Food for a start.