These unusual little croquetas contain artichoke in the rice mixture, and they break open to reveal a melting cheese centre. Manchego is made from sheep's milk and has a tart flavor that goes wonderfully with the delicate taste of the rice cakes.
Remove the stalks, leaves and choke to leave just the heart of the artichoke; chop the heart finely.
Melt the butter in a pan and gently fry the chopped artichoke heart, onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the rice and cook for about 1 minute.
Keeping the heat fairly high, gradually add the stock, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked - this should take about 20 minutes. Season well, then stir in the Parmesan cheese. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Leave to cool, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the palm of one hand, flatten slightly, and place a few pieces of diced cheese in the centre. Shape the rice around the cheese to make a small ball. Flatten slightly, then roll in the corn meal, shaking off any excess. Repeat with the remaining mixture to make about 12 cakes.
Shallow fry the rice cakes in hot olive oil for 4-5 minutes until they are crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot, garnished with flat leaf parsley.
This Villajos aged Manchego is in our opinion the best Manchego you can buy, anywhere. There are many cheeses called Manchego, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. Placed in a wooden box in the village, it makes a tasteful gift.
It is truly an artisan, hand-made, raw sheep's milk cheese. This 9-month aged Manchego has a richer flavor than more aged cheese from industrial producers. It has a full flavor with a hint of sharpness. It will be very firm due to its extended aging. Slice and serve with olives and sliced Serrano ham for the authentic flavor of Spain.
Since 1996, three brothers have fashioned this exquisite Manchego. Despite its relatively recent arrival in the cheese marketplace, the beautifully crafted Villajos "curado" earned First Prize for Manchego in 2002 and one Accésit in 2003 at the Gran Selección de Castilla La Mancha contest.
This extraordinary product has been awarded four Gran Selección prizes in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006, a recognition to the work done through all these years and an encouragement to go on the same standards of quality and excellence.
The Gran Selección is an annual agri-food contest held by the regional Government of Castilla-La Mancha, where the company is based. Products such as wine, Manchego cheese, saffron, extra virgin olive oil, etc. run for a prize in their own categories for 'best of the year'. It is not an easy achievement to win so many of these prestigious awards during such a short term.
The cheese is made with raw milk from the Manchega breed of sheep, which are tended by shepherds in the hills surrounding the village. The family collects the fresh milk from the ewes in milking pails and immediately refrigerate it in order preserve its natural aroma and taste.
Although producing cheese with raw milk is more complicated, the Villajos brothers know that this extra effort will be amply rewarded -- yielding an insuperable taste -- full of subtle tones -- far superior to that of the industrial cheeses that are made with pasteurized milk. The entire production process is supervised by the Council of the Denomination of Origin of Manchego Cheese