The British Challenge to Manchego – Corra Linn and Lord of the Hundreds

When I lived in Spain many years ago I fell in love – in love with Manchego cheese.

I liked to nibble at a stick of it with a drink. It was always good with membrillo (quince paste) but it could hold its own on its own.

Later I discovered it was also good cut into small chunks and taken on long car journeys along with a few sandwiches or the odd wrap.

Then I bought some in the UK from my local supermarket and I’ve never been so disappointed. It was soapy… quite nasty altogether really.

So I embarked on a quest for a local British alternative, and I came up with two.

Corra Linn

corra linn cheese
corra linn cheese

Corra Linn was nominated by Patrick McGuigan, writing in The Telegraph, as one of ‘ten incredible British cheeses to try before you die’. It’s a manchego-style raw sheep’s milk cheese made by Errington Cheese, a small family-run cheesemaker in the lowlands of Scotland.

Traditionally blue cheesemakers, Selina Errington and Andrew Cairns, of Errington Cheese, faced a glut of sheeps’ milk in spring and early summer. They took the brave decision to try their hand at making a hard unpasteurised ewes’ milk cheese, and although a steep learning curve, the experiment has more than paid off.

The Corra Linn herd in Lanarkshire
The Corra Linn herd in Lanarkshire

Once the cheese is made it’s rubbed with locally sourced rapeseed oil, wrapped in cheesecloth and left to mature for 6-18 months.

This is a mild cheese which tastes nutty and a little sweet – slightly of apples, and it looks gorgeous – see the featured image at the top of this page. This cheese melts well, good on toast or over gratins. Especially good over cauliflower cheese.

Poetically, it’s named after a local waterfall.

Corra Linn pairs especially well with a single malt whisky.

Corra Linn is available from Neal’s Yard Dairy.

Lord of the Hundreds

Lord of the Hundreds also has a poetic name, reminiscent of something Tolkein might have written.

Where did the name come from? Perhaps it’s not as poetic as it seems because it’s derived from a medieval legal and tax collection system, one hundred covering approximately a hundred hides, a hide being the amount of land necessary to support a household. Hundred courts reported to shire courts…. But I digress.

Lord of the Hundreds... an attractive white knobbly rind.
Lord of the Hundreds… an attractive white knobbly rind.

This cheese is made by Cliff and Julie Dyball, right down at the other end of the British Isles in East Sussex.

The Traditional Cheese Dairy is situated on the very site that the poor medieval wretches went to pay their taxes and a variety of cheeses are made there including the unpasteurised ewes’ milk Manchego-like Lord of the Hundreds. This is also sweet and nutty, but it’s slightly crystelline and also has a slightly darker flavour – more smoky and caramel, slightly sour and grassy, perhaps because it’s aged two to four months longer than Corra Linn. It has a rather attractive dusty, bumpy white rind.

Lord of the Hundreds melts to a lovely white cream becoming a little lemony. In fact, in my view, when it’s melted it really comes into its element. It’s great on toast or gratins.

Lord of the Hundreds is obtainable from The Traditional Cheese Dairy.

Corra Linn cheese on the left; Lord of the Hundreds on the right
Corra Linn cheese on the left; Lord of the Hundreds on the right – it melts beautifully

How to keep them

Both cheeses would go well with membrillo and a good hearty red wine. Vineyard Direct’s very reasonably priced Altos D’Oliva Gran Reserva 2005 £8.65/bottle (Spain) might go well.

Once opened they keep well in cling film, but I made the mistake of forgetting to cover my Corra Linn and it dried out a little. I rehydrated using a little apple balsamic vinegar and it was wonderful.

If the cheese dried out, moisten with a little apple balsamic vinegar.... heaven!
If the cheese dries out, moisten with a little apple balsamic vinegar…. heaven!
For a list of other British cheeses to try instead of well-known continental ones, follow this link.
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