Queso frito is a snack to be eaten hot, straight from the pan. It is made from Manchego, a sheep's cheese from La Mancha, which is either semi-cured, ripe or aged with a basket-weave-patterned rind in shades from the palest ochre to deep dark brown and black. Queso frito is one of the most popular tapas, perfect with manzanilla or fino sherry, or with Valdepenas, a red wine from La Mancha. Sometimes, it is served with membrillo, Spanish quince paste.
275 - 300 g semi-cured Manchego cheese, 3 months old
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 egg, beaten
150 g lightly dried fine fresh white breadcrumbs
150 ml olive oil
a pinch of smoked sweet paprika (smoked pimenton dulce), to serve
To serve (optional)
membrillo (quince paste)
1. Cut all the rind off the Manchego and cut the cheese into 1 cm wedges.
2. Put the flour on a small plate and, working in batches of 6, dip each wedge in the flour, then in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs.
3. Heat half the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, then fry the wedges in batches until golden - about 45 seconds each side. Drain on kitchen paper.
4. Wipe out the pan (to get rid of burnt breadcrumbs) and fry the remaining batches in the same way.
5. Sprinkle with a pinch of paprika and serve with membrillo or olives, if using.
Note Membrillo is a thick paste made from quinces, a golden fruit related to the apple and pear, available in autumn. Quinces are cooked into puddings, jellies or jams, and into this sweetly smoky paste. Membrillo is also served with a good Manchego cheese instead of pudding.