The mantecados of the Koran
That mantecados are eaten in Spain, by tradition, in the heat of the Christmas holidays, is just a circumstance. That the flavor of cinnamon, toasted almonds and sesame are reminiscent of the Mediterranean and the Orient and that enjoying them is a universal pleasure is a reality that transcends borders, cultures and religions.
You don't have to leave Estepa to check it out. Twenty years ago, one of the 23 ice cream factories that still sweeten Christian Christmas today decided to take a leap and open up to new markets. The fact that Muslims do not eat pork or animal fats that have not been slaughtered according to the rites of Islamic tradition does not mean that they do not like the taste of traditional Estepeño sweets.
Productos Gamito is the only Spanish company dedicated to the manufacture of sweets that has the certification of the Halal Institute, the entity that guarantees people of Muslim faith that the foods that carry their official seal comply with the precepts of this religion regarding food. .
"The idea was proposed to us about twenty years ago by a salesperson we had for the Melilla area," explains José María Gamito, manager of Productos Gamito, a family business founded more than 40 years ago in Estepa. The salesperson who came up with the possibility of manufacturing and selling products made according to the Islamic tradition was Muslim, recalls Gamito, "and he himself told us that mantecados were liked, but that many people in Melilla did not buy them because they were made with lard".
The experience was very positive from the beginning. Gamito began to manufacture this type of shortbread, substituting lard for a fat of vegetable origin. At first, they incorporated a seal on the packaging of these products explaining that their elaboration respected the norms of the Muslim creed, but six years ago they managed to get the Halal Institute, based in Córdoba, to guarantee with its seal that these mantecados could be consumed by the faithful of the Koranic religion.
The Halal Institute conducts annual audits of the production of these mantecados to certify that they do not contain elements prohibited by the Islamic creed. The Muslim community in Spain is still small, but with each day that passes a little less. These mantecados with the 'halal' seal are made, primarily, for export 'not only to Melilla and Ceuta, cities with an important Muslim community, but especially to Central European countries, such as Germany, in which Muslims represent a group very important population in terms of number.
"This product line - which represents around 10% of the company's current production - is opening the doors to new markets," explains José María Gamito, who says that the company is in talks with Arab countries and of an Islamic majority, like Morocco, to introduce their products to them.
The great advantage of these new markets, says the Gamito Products manager, is that they will break the seasonality of a product whose consumption is unequivocally linked to specific dates. "Muslims consume these types of products throughout the year, including on their own religious festivals," such as the feast of the lamb or those celebrated before or after Ramadan.
Since the company began to manufacture these 'halal' mantecados, their production has "always increased" 'says Gamito. It is a product that is manufactured throughout the year, yes, on demand, for the moment. "In these years of crisis we have lowered traditional production, but we have increased that of products for export," including shortbreads for Muslims.
IGNACIO DÍAZ PÉREZ - SEVILLA - 06/12/2013