This article is a paid partnership with Džiugas. All opinions and recipe in this post are mine.
I love cheese, and am always looking for new ones to try. So when Džiugas approached me to review their award winning cheese, and to come up with a recipe for it, I was beyond excited!
I had so many ideas running through my head, that it was soon pretty apparent that the problem was going to be which recipe to use! But more of that later, let’s talk cheese, people. Or more appropriately, let’s talk Džiugas, starting with how to pronounce it!
Džiugas = jʊ – gɑs, (as in put and bus), emphasis on the first syllable.
What is Džiugas?
Džiugas is a legendary, award winning, hard, continental cheese from Lithuania. Slightly crumbly, incredibly rich, it is full of umami flavours with a touch of sweet balancing its savoury constitution.
Lithuanian legend says this delicious cheese was made by the giant Džiugas to celebrate marrying the love of his life. The cheese was gifted to local villagers in honour of his wife with the giant’s promise that it would give ‘strength and joy’ to all who ate it!
It has a Parmesan like texture but is so much more complex in its flavour and aroma. There is spicy, there is fruity and most definitely, a hint of nuttiness, making it a very versatile cheese in your cheese collection.
The 12-month old Džiugas has a creamier flavour and a lighter colour. As the cheese matures, it takes on a darker, more golden hue, and its flavour also heightens and you get an obvious crystalline crunch as you bite into the cheese.
On top of all that, it is also suitable for vegetarians and is lactose free.
Unlike many other hard cheeses, Džiugas has a very thin rind, which means you don’t have to waste any part of this delicious cheese!
How is this Lithuanian Cheese Made?
Džiugas is made from the milk of cows that enjoy a chilled out existence, feeding on grass free from chemicals and pesticides. For those of you who love the science and the details, let’s talk about the process of making this award winning Lithuanian cheese:
- The vegetarian rennet and starter is added to the cow’s milk collected in the spring and summer.
- This mix is stirred, creating the usual curds and whey.
- The curd is then collected, heated and stored in moulds and left to its own devices for a few weeks.
- This cheese wheel is then bathed in brine, then wrapped and stored in specialist cheese cellars.
- It is stored for 12-36 months, and with a whole lot of TLC from expert cheese makers, who regularly turn the cheese wheels to ensure they mature evenly.
How to enjoy Džiugas?
Džiugas is a cheese for all seasons and reasons!
Given its punchy and complex flavour, it can be used as an ingredient, a topping, a snack, a flavour enhancer and most definitely, will add sophisticated presence on your cheeseboard!
- Like in today’s recipe, Džiugas will deepen the flavour of any risotto you are cooking.
- Next time you’re making some soup, whether it’s French Onion Soup or anything you love, sprinkle some grated Džiugas all over and your soup and taste buds will thank you for it!
- Cheese on Toast? Oh man, this Lithuanian cheese is going to amp up that toast to levels not previously enjoyed!
- Džiugas loves fruit, so next time you’re setting up a cheeseboard, pick up a wedge of this legendary Lithuanian cheese for it.
So as it says on their webiste,
Time to Taste, Time to Appreciate!
Where to buy Džiugas?
It is available in the UK and the US. Here in the UK, you’ll find it in Sainsburys, Selfridges, Budgens and specialist cheese suppliers. If you’re in the US, just do a search online to source out a supplier.
Our Risotto Recipe Today
So I had a lot of trouble deciding on the recipe itself, because it is so versatile, I’ve used it in so many ways since I received it a week ago.
In the end, I went with an easy, lightly flavoured risotto bianco, to allow one to fully appreciate the quality of Džiugas. And because we’re not all that far away from asparagus season, I decided to top the risotto with melted Džiugas on asparagus.
Instead of the traditional parmesan, we finish our risotto with this Lithuanian cheese. But that’s not all! Because I just couldn’t help myself, I sprinkled the asparagus with some grated 12-month old Džiugas, then grilled it.
Result? Simply phenomenal!
Before we go on to the recipe, let me just talk to you about the ready grated version of this Lithuanian cheese. I don’t buy ready grated cheese because it never ever holds its aroma, texture or flavour too well.
I was extremely surprised at how Džiugas put holes in that theory of mine. A week after opening the 12-month old grated cheese packaging, it is still as potent as it was on day one.
So for all you ready-grated cheese lovers, you want to get your hands on grated Džiugas, you’ll never buy anything else again!
If you are new or fairly new to the art of cooking risotto, I suggest you head on over to the Basic Risotto article here on LinsFood. It’s full of everything you need, to master the art of cooking risotto.
On the basic risotto post, we talk about:
- the history of risotto
- risotto rice
- risotto stock
- risotto science (!)
- fat for risotto
- stirring or no stirring
- mantecatura – the art of creaming with the addition of fat (butter, olive oil, cheese), how we finish cooking risotto
In other words, everything you ever wanted to know about risotto. But were too afraid to ask!
And now, shall we put our aprons on, cook us some risotto, and enjoy the exquisite Džiugas?
More Risotto Recipes on LinsFood
And if you fancy more risotto recipes, both traditional and contemporary, head on over to the Risotto Masterclass page, for a delicious experience, with gems like:
♥ If you like the recipe and article, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! 😉 Ačiū! (that’s thank you, in Lithuanian) ♥
And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood
Asparagus on Risotto with Džiugas (award winning Lithuanian Cheese)
- 1.5 litres (6 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
- 400 g (2 cups) carnaroli rice (or any risotto rice you can get)
- 1 medium onion
- 2 Tbsp salted butter
- 2 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 125 ml (1/2) cup dry white wine (skip if you don’t do alcohol)
- salt, if needed
- freshly ground black pepper
For Finishing the Risotto
- 60 g (2 oz) grated Džiugas
- 2 Tbsp cold, salted butter
- juice of 1 lemon
- 18-20 asparagus spears (depending on serving)
- ½ tsp sodium bicarbonate
- pot of boiling water
- 60 g (2 oz) grated Džiugas
- large bowl of ice water
- Place your stock, or water plus stockpots (or stock cubes) on high heat. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat down and leave it to simmer happily.
- At the same time, bring another medium-sized pot of water to boil for the asparagus, with the ½ tsp of sodium bicarbonate. You can read up on the use of the sodium bicarb on the Asparagus Risotto post.
- While waiting for the stock, chop the onion up finely.
- Next, let's prepare the asparagus. Rinse them, then holding each stalk in your hands, towards the thicker end, just bend the asparagus. It will naturally break at the point where woody meets fleshy.
- Drop the asparagus into the boiling pot of water (NOT THE RISOTTO STOCK) and cook for 2 minutes.
- Drain, reserve the cooking water, and rinse in cold water or drop into a bowl of ice water, until later.
Cooking the Risotto
- Heat the butter and olive oil on low heat and sauté the onions for 3 minutes, stirring.
- Add the rice and coat with all that fat, stirring well. Toast the rice for 3 more minutes, until the edges turn translucent.
- Increase the heat to medium and pour in the wine, stir, and leave to evaporate, stirring a little. Skip this step, if you don’t do alcohol.
- Add 1 cup of the simmering stock and stir gently. You can take a break, it doesn’t need to be round and round constantly, just regular stirring while the stock evaporates.
- When the stock has evaporated, add half a cup more of the stock, stir, and repeat this process for 13 minutes. Yes, watch the clock or put your kitchen timer on.
- Check the rice at the 13-minute mark. It should be just about done, depending on your rice, and the heat. Is it cooked – soft on the outside with just a bite in the middle? Is the risotto looking creamy, like a thick version of rice pudding? If it is, it’s done. If it’s not, add 1/4 cup stock, and stir. When that stock has been absorbed, check again. You shouldn’t really need to cook more than 15-17 minutes.
- Then check the seasoning – does it need salt? Add some if you think it does, and stir it in.
- Take off the heat. Stir in the butter and the grated Džiugas and stir it all in thoroughly and vigorously for a whole 30 seconds. The mantecatura, remember?
Let's finish off with the grilled, Cheesy Asparagus
- Dish up the risotto into serving plates.
- Drain the asparagus (they are in the ice water) and dab dry slightly with kitchen paper. Divide the asparagus amongst the risotto plates, laying them on top.
- Sprinkle the Džiugas generously all over the asparagus. Place under a hot grill for a few minutes until the cheese melts and browns slightly. You could also use a kitchen torch to brown the cheese. Serve immediately.