La Mancha is renowned for its simple, down-to-earth cuisine based on local ingredients and traditional recipes made famous in Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote. Dishes such as gazpacho manchego (a stew usually made from rabbit mixed with pieces of unleavened bread), atascaburras (puréed potato with salted cod and garlic) and pisto manchego (a selection of fried vegetables in a tomato sauce and often topped with a fried egg) are among the staples. The region is famed for its garlic and saffron, but perhaps the most celebrated of all foods from the region is Manchego cheese of which there is a bewildering array, though it can be divided into two main types: semi-curado (semi-cured) and curado (cured) – both must come from the local Manchegan breed of sheep, though the latter is stronger and more expensive. To accompany the cheese, there is nothing better than a glass of wine: the Valdepeñas vineyards which have traditionally been known more for the quantity than the quality of their product have improved significantly in recent years.

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