Did you know they produced cheese in the Canary Islands? No? Well, as a matter of fact I did but only because I was involved in the judging for the World Cheese Awards last year when a Canary Island cheese Queso Arico from the Sociedad Canaria de Formento won the top prize.
I recently had the chance to taste a whole lot more thanks to Signe Johansen, one of the students who contributed to my new student cookbook, whose family has a holiday home on Lanzarote and who was studying the island’s cheeses for her MA. She brought back a selection from a producer called Finca de Uga which I thought were really impressive. Full flavoured and tangy despite looking deceptively smooth and mild. Most, interestingly, seemed to have a washed or rubbed rind.
I have to confess my Spanish is almost non-existent so I don’t know if I’ve made sense of the labels and descriptions but here’s what I thought of them and a couple of suggested wine pairings
Washed rind goat. Crumbly white centre - quite strong, salty, tangy - almost Roquefortish without the blue. It went particularly well with a delicious honeysuckle-sweet wine Signe also brought back: Diego Semi-Dulce from Bodega Stratus (10.5%)
Provenzal (Silver in the 2008 World Cheese Awards in Dublin)
Washed rind cows cheese - between semi-soft and semi- hard in texture. Full, fruity, coated in herbs: rosemar and wild oregano?. Tangy. Good with an Argentine Malbec (Dona Paula), Can imagine would work with Spanish reds like Rioja too.
Raw Jersey cows milk. Won a Gold in last year’s World Cheese Awards. Semi-soft, supple paste. Mild, mellow but far from bland. Very nice supple texture. Again Malbec worked well as did amontillado sherry.
Semi-hard goats cheese rubbed with quite smoky pimenton. Very white. Tangy. Gorgeous with the Stratus Diego
Raw cows milk cheese - almost cheddar-like taste and consistency, only slightly paler. More crumbly than the other cheeses though looked from the exterior like a Gouda. Again good match with the Malbec
Panuela de Uga
Gold in 2008 World Cheese Awards: very tangy, slightly smoky, Very good texture - firm, smooth, semi-hard. Very good with Stratus Diego
A small ball of what tasted like sheeps cheese but was probably goat - very salty and tangy. Rubbed in black pepper. Quite hard. Overwhelmed the sweet wine but great with cream sherry
Unfortunately none of these cheeses is yet available in the UK but it can only be a matter of time. There are plenty of Spanish and Portuguese cheeses on the shelves of good cheese shops now.
Signe's photo of one of the very appealing Finca de Uga goats!