My sister and I were definitely Blue Peter girls.
We loved making the many craft projects shown on the programme. I remember spending weeks making a cardboard dolls house with lots of furniture inside: instructions for additional items taught across a series of episodes; one week a chest of drawers made from matchboxes with split pins for handles; another week a table lamb using the fancy lid from a common brand of shampoo or bubble bath bottle. We made 3D greeting cards, witches’ hats and face masks from empty cereal boxes. There was a large castle made from a cardboard box, with toilet-roll holder turrets. And I can no longer recall whether it was an empty jam jar or washing up liquid bottle inside the cotton wool-covered snowman. Oh and I thought my home-made personal organiser was the epitome of sophistication! There were hundreds more I’ve forgotten, of course, as we were pretty prolific. We improvised, of course – to this day I don’t think I’ve ever even seen sticky backed plastic and how many times was there an empty box or bottle just when you needed one?
We also loved to make a mess in the kitchen. We did enjoy proper cooking but it was also fun to make simple things we could do on our own like peppermint creams, coconut ice and marzipan fruits. Making marzipan fruits kept us occupied for hours, so I suspect it was a favourite with our parents too!
As well as a block or two of shop-bought marzipan we assembled our tools – various items of cutlery to make indents and marks of different shapes, such as teaspoons, toothpicks, tiny crab forks and a large grater to help pattern citrus peel; food colouring and some water to dilute it as needed and water colour paintbrushes with which we carefully blushed red over green for apples and orange over yellow for apricots. We usually kneaded the base food colouring into the actual marzipan and then painted the secondary colours over the top. We used cloves as stalks, stuck in one way for citrus fruits and the other for apples and pears. Leaves were too complicated so we either skipped them or used real ones from the garden.
Oddly, I have no memories of eating our finished creations – just of sitting in the kitchen sculpting away!
When I spotted some large marzipan fruits in Carluccio’s Christmas range, they bought those childhood memories straight back. For comparison purposes, I also picked up boxes from Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. I had hoped to include Niederegger marzipan fruits, as I love the quality of their marzipan, but discovered that these are no longer available. I was not able to pick up products from other supermarkets.
Carluccio’s hand painted Sicilian Frutta di Marzapane (£16.95 for 400 grams) were certainly visually impressive and would be the prettiest of the three sets if you want to make a table display, although I wasn’t convinced by the plastic stalks and greenery. The fruits were very large – especially the tomato, lemon, fig and orange – which would also make them harder to share and hard to eat a whole one at once. Sadly, I was disappointed by the taste and dry mealy texture of the marzipan itself.
Waitrose marzipan fruits (£4.99 for 170 grams) were a much better match for the ones my sister and I used to make and less heavily coloured too. All the fruits were about the same size, just right for enjoying in one or two bites. But I was disappointed by the flat bottoms – the fruits were shaped only on the top, rather than all the way around. On the plus side, the taste and texture of the marzipan was, surprisingly, far better than Carluccio’s.
At just £3 (for 150 grams), Sainsbury’s marzipan fruits were the most keenly priced. Like the Waitrose box, each fruit was evenly sized and this time they were shaped all the way around. That said, the moulding was poorly aligned and the colouring and detail far less attractive than the others. The texture was pleasantly soft and smooth, but the flavour wasn’t as good as the Waitrose ones.
My pick of the three are the Waitrose marzipan fruits which provide the best combination of good looks, great taste and a reasonable price.
Kavey Eats received a sample box from Carluccio’s and purchased the other two samples directly from local supermarkets.