Manchego is undoubtedly the best-known Spanish cheese and is quite easy to find in the UK. It is a staple in Spanish cooking, but is also enjoyed on its own, perhaps with some quince paste (membrillo) or bread, olives and ham.
It comes from La Mancha in central Spain, land of Don Quijote and windmills, and is made from the milk of the Manchega sheep. Whilst there is large-scale production, there are still many artisans making unpasteurised cheese near to the pasture.
It has an inedible rind ranging from yellow to brown with a herringbone pattern originally made by esparto grass baskets, but now usually by the mould. It has tiny pores and the texture and colour develop with age, becoming harder and darker as the flavour also matures and becomes more rounded and nuttier.
Fresh cheese, fresco, may be only two weeks old, whereas the more commonly-found semicurado is up to four months old and the fully-cured curado, up to six months. The oldest, viejo, may be up to two years old.