Lemons and limes are ripening slowly. My lemon tree keeps on producing old fashioned thick skinned lemons. They don’t give a lot of juice, but the flavour is sweet and delicate, and they make a lovely tangy citrus marmalade. Last winter heavy rains have done wonders for the garden. My neighbour’s lime tree ,that also survived the drought years is heavy with fruits . A few branches lean over our adjoining wall, dangling small bright green orbs, ready to be picked. And pick, I will very soon (with my neighbour’s understanding).
I have my cooking books open, and there is nothing better than to read through recipes and imagine a few dishes for the weeks to come. I am thinking, fresh curried fish with lime quarters, nestled between plump hake bites, or chicken breasts, stuffed with ricotta and braised with garlic, honey and lime, poached salmon on a bed of couscous with a chili and lime vinaigrette. A fragrant and colourful winter fennel salad with oranges and limes, basil, and a dusting of dark chocolate and chili powder is a lovely option for a Christmas lunch. As a side dish, baked or roasted small beetroots with shallots, garlic and the juice of a lime, served with a salty chocolate and olive biscuit. Close your eyes and leave your taste buds roll and do the rest. .
And of course there are desserts. Besides the Key lime pie, coconut cookies, loaves, sorbets, cheesecakes, the delicate lime juice does go very well with dark chocolate, a different option to the usual chocolate and orange pairing.
‘’ Bright green
A colour usually associated with jealousy.
But you, little one
Are more envied than envying.
Exotic in origin
Nothing commonplace about you.
Divorce yourself from your family
Take your own name and the equatorial beach house.
Beautiful, perfect fruit
Bewitch your victims into biting your bitter flesh.
They can’t stop drinking till your body is drained.
Prima donna of flora
Grace us with your presence!
We eagerly await your renaissance all year,
Only to have to part after so few months.
Pies, juices, garnishes
Tart though you may be,
We find a way to glorify you;
For you deserve the honour of kings.’’
Ode to a Key Lime
By Amanda K. Fowler
Cooks have been using citrus fruits for centuries. ‘’ Romans liked sweet and sour dishes.’’ Fruits were used in main courses, combined with garum and vinegar. They knew’’ citron ‘’ (Citrus medica) a large bitter fragrant citrus fruit with a thick rind. ‘’
In the middle ages, bitter oranges were used as condiment in Arab and Jewish cooking, as well as lemon and pomegranate for sauces and seasoning. Around the 13th century, to respond to the growing demand, Italian farmers started to develop citrus and orange groves. From the 15th century, orchards begin to appear in the south of France. For centuries, those fruits were linked to the aristocratic upper society, mainly due to cost and difficulties of transport.
Pierre de Lune in 1656 gives a recipe using ‘’ citron vert ‘’ in a mushroom casserole.
‘’ Make a stuffing with sorrel, herbs, white bread soaked in milk ,salt and pepper. Fill the mushrooms with the mix, dot with butter, and bake in an oven dish. When cooked, thicken the sauce with a little four and lime juice. Season with white pepper’’.
‘’ Wild limes probably originated in the Indonesian archipelago or the nearby mainland of Asia. Arabian traders may have taken limes, as well as lemons, from India to the eastern Mediterranean countries and Africa about 1000 CE. Limes were introduced to the western Mediterranean countries by returning Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. Christopher Columbus took citrus seeds, probably including limes, to the West Indies on his second voyage in 1493, and the trees soon became widely distributed in the West Indies, Mexico, and Florida. Limes are grown to a limited extent in practically all citrus-growing areas. Limes contain vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and were formerly used in the British navy to prevent scurvy—hence the nickname “limey.”
Back to baking.
For the French speaking, there is a lovely chocolate and lime tart that you can find here: https://www.undejeunerdesoleil.com/2015/03/tarte-chocolat-citron-vert.html
When making the ganache, make sure that you have a mixer in hand when you add the butter.
Below my version which is simpler, with a fool proof chocolate and lime cream, that will also keep a few days in the fridge and that you can also use to fill small ( or big ) choux buns.
- 110g butter at room temperature (soft but not melted)
- 100 castor sugar
- 1 extra large egg+ 1 extra large egg yolk
- 225 gms cake flour
- 25 gms good quality pure cocoa
In the bowl of a food processor (or in a bowl with a hand mixer), mix the butter and sugar, then add the whole egg and the egg yolk. Add the flour and cocoa and blend into a dough. Wrap in cling film and chill until needed. Try to make it the day before.
Preheat the oven to 180. Press the pastry in a 24cm round tart tin or 6 x 8cm small tartlets tins. Refrigerate for an hour. Blind bake for 15mn.
Chocolate and lime cream
- 250ml full cream milk
- 80gr dark chocolate 70%
- 2 Tbsp castor sugar
- ½ Tsps vanilla extract
- 2 egg yolks ( extra large)
- ½ Tbsp maizena
- ½ Tbsp custard powder
- Zest of two limes
- 1Tsp lime juice
In a saucepan mix the milk (except for 2 tablespoons) , sugar, chocolate , vanilla, lemon zests and lime juice. Bring slowly to the boil. Whilst the milk is heating, in a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the maizena ,the custard powder and the reserved cold milk.
Slowly add the boiled chocolate milk to the egg yolk mix, and beat softly
Pour the whole mix back into the saucepan and beat slowly with a wooden spoon or a whisk until the cream thickens.
At boiling point, take the pan off the stove. Let it cool down. When the cream is completely cold, taste and add some lime juice if you like a sharper taste.
When completely cooled down, put the cream into the cold pastry shells.