This past summer, I visited the island of Sifnos, located in the Cyclades chain of islands in the Aegean. The first time I visited Sifnos was back in 2008 and the although the island was busy, it was full of tourists who were more low key, looking to relax – have real vacation.
Eight years later and the same holds true, it’s popularity has risen but Sifnos attracts the same crowd – a mix of families, singles and couples just looking to get away from the city and escape for R & R on this beautiful island.
Sifnos is where Nikos Tselementes (father of modern Greek cuisine) is from and the local cuisine is rich, boasting of its chickpea stew baked in terra cotta vessels, lamb cooked in mastelo, another terra cotta vessel, chickpea fritters, melopita (honey cakes) and the subject of this post (finally), manoura cheese.
Manoura can be made of sheep or and it is formed and aged in round moulds. This cheese comes in two varieties…white and black. The latter is more interesting in that it is rubbed with grape must and herbs then it is aged.
It’s a semi-firm cheese, made from anthotyro (a combo of fresh cheese and whey) which is salted then allowed to age. When I bought my manoura from a deli in Apollonia (main town of Sifnos), the shopkeeper told me to never place it in the fridge, not even after it is cut!
Again, the aging and salt preserve the cheese and after it is cut, she insisted I resist the temptation to place in the fridge. To do so would dry out the cheese. Instead, one should merely place in a tupperware, closed and stored in a cool spot in the kitchen.
Manoura is made Sifnos and Folegandros and now some of the neighboring islands in the Cyclades carry it and I have seen it sold in some delis in both Athens and Thessaloniki. This cheese is slightly tangy, it’s salty, gritty, chaulky mouth feel and the wheel of cheese I have, looks dry inside but with moist spots in it – likely fats from the milk. It’s delicious!
This cheese is best served on its own with rusks/paximadia, it’s wonderful dredged in flour and fried saganaki style, drizzled with honey and certainly goes well with a red wine like Paros Moraitis Meltemi Red or a VinSanto by Santo Wines.
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