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You’ve probably noticed that the supermarket shelves around Spain are already bending under the weight of packets of traditional Spanish Christmas sweets. As in many countries, the festive period here is a time to indulge in calorie-rich treats.

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Many of the Christmas goodies can trace their origins back to when the Moors ruled large tracts of Spain. When you see ingredients such as almonds and honey listed on the box you can be pretty sure that what you are eating has its roots in Arab cuisine. Turrón, marzipan, polvorones and mantecados all use these delicious ingredients and are mainstays on the Christmas sweets’ tray in most homes.

On the coast of eastern Spain near Alicante, the small town of Jijona is where most of the turrón is produced. Made using just two basic ingredients – almonds and honey – it’s the wild flowers that the bees in the area feed on which gives the honey, and ultimately the turrón, its distinctive flavour. Turrón comes in two distinctive varieties, soft and hard. Soft turrón just melts in your mouth, while hard turrón has chunky pieces of almond and is brittle and crunchy.

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The recipe for polvorones is simple. Ground almonds, sugar, flour and lard are blended together to make these soft shortbread. Orange, lemon, chocolate and cinnamon are sometimes added for an extra flavour boost. Once baked they are extremely crumbly, and most people find it easier to give them a good squeeze while still in their protective paper to convert them into a more manageable consistency before attempting to eat them.

Marzipan is another sweet of undisputable Moorish origin. Known as mahsaban in the Arab world, the ingredients are limited to sweet almonds and sugar. Once ground together the paste is formed into small bird and animal shapes and baked to achieve a soft but slightly chewy consistency. Toledo, with its strong Arab roots, is Spain’s most famous city for marzipan. The rules governing the recipe are very clear. The almond to sugar ratio must be one to one, and almonds must represent 50 percent of the final product.

Although similar to polvorones, mantecados are firmer in consistency. Once again the basic ingredients are almonds, sugar and flour, but what is essential to a mantecado is the use of manteca – lard. Many regions have their own variations of these small shortbread. In La Mancha they add a glass of sweet red wine to the dough, while in Andalucía, orange or lemon essence provides a fragrant touch.

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Stock-up on all these Spanish sweets in any shop or supermarket across Spain. For an exclusive range of the best brands try El Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience   http://www.gourmetexperienceelcorteingles.es  Look out for the new gourmet food space on the ninth floor of El Corte Inglés in Callao, Madrid.