Each festive season there is some new and exotic gift option on offer as people are forever on the lookout for something different and exclusive to choose from. Among edible items while gifting of traditional Indian sweets is more or less passé, each year sees a new craze ranging from handmade designer chocolates, cupcakes, macaroons and now the latest entrant, gourmet marzipan.
These authentic gourmet marzipan pops are being crafted and retailed in India by a sixth generation Estonian marzipan maker Thea Tammeleht, who uses her family’s precious recipes passed down over generations, to craft this niche artisanal product, Nordic Kandie Magic, for the Indian and international market. Thea’s husband Thomas Abraham has an equal and significant role in Nordic Kandie as it was he who suggested that their delightful family delicacy should be shared with the world. While their flagship store is in Mumbai, they have recently made their debut in the capital, selling out of a little kiosk at the Neel Sutra bridal lounge in Khan Market.
Marzipan, as most of us know, is a confection of almond meal and sugar which is made into sweets, very often as imitations of fruits and vegetables, covered with chocolate or most commonly used as glazing for icing Christmas and wedding cakes. Although it was believed to have originated in Persia and introduced to Europe through the Turks, it became a speciality of the Baltic Sea region. Estonia, the country where Thea comes from, has a long tradition of marzipan making which is discussed in a wonderful book by Jaan Kross titled “Mart’s Bread”. It talks about the legend of marzipan, how a pharmacist’s apprentice named Mart decided to improve the taste of medicine by adding powdered almonds and sugar, since he had to taste it first given the custom of medieval Europe where pharmacists were required to taste medicines before their royal patrons just in case the potions were poisoned. The flavour of the medicine called Mart’s Bread or Mardlieb in Estonian became so popular that the dish spread all over Europe and became a much loved delicacy in countries like Italy (where it is called marzapane) France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Austria and Hungary
Many confectionary items sold as marzipan are made from less expensive material such as soy paste and almond essence. In fact almonds are often replaced by apricot and peach kernels and in India by cashew nuts. This is where the marzipan from Nordic Kandy Magic are different as they use pure Mamra almonds imported from Iran and also keep the ratio of sugar down to 25% unlike the regular 50% ratio used in most marzipan recipes. They seem to follow the dictum “as many almonds as possible and as little sugar as necessary”. The sugar is sourced locally and is organic while the chocolate is Belgian. The edible gold and silver covering is provided by Giusto Manetti Battiloro, one of Florence’s 25 oldest companies specializing in making gold leaves and a major force in the restoration of historical monuments. All these factors go into making the cost of a single Kandie pop slightly high, at Rs 205 for the chocolate, Rs 300 for those covered with Silver foil and Rs 350 for ones with the gold foil. But then gourmet luxury does come at a cost.
There are 16 flavours of marzipan available, eleven of which are from the original European brand, Almond, Chocolate, Orange, Strawberry, Raspberry-lemon, Mint, Cherry, Blackcurrant, Green apple, Peanut butter and Lychee. Five new flavours like Anjeer, Chilli-mango, Nutmeg, Cardamom-rose and Cinnanon have been created especially for the Indian market with the help of Chef Vicky Ratnani. They come in very attractive electric blue boxes of 2, 4, 6, 12 and 18 pieces which one can customize according to one’s taste and budget. These can be ordered on their website NordicKandieMagic.com or on Whats App +91 9699641112.
It is said that almonds are good for the brain as they contain lecithin which according to modern chemistry stimulates nerve cells. So go ahead and pop one of these handcrafted luxuries into your mouth. But be warned of excessive consumption because of the calories it contains.