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I know it is lime season when my housekeeper tells me that the pushcart vendor is selling mountains of them at just one rupee each. That is as good as life doling out free limes. Another reason I know it is citrus season is because the lime bush in my garden, usually a bit of an Uncle Scrooge in terms of fruiting, is being bountiful these days.

In an attempt to introduce some healthy competition in my kitchen garden, I have brought home another variety of lime, called gaja. This was a result of a weekend excursion to Teja nursery, about 45km drive from where I live in Bengaluru. This fruit nursery, close to Nandi Hills in Devanahalli, sells over 200 varieties of fruit saplings. It has 20 varieties of citrus plants alone, including lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges and pomelos. As the plant we got home is a grafted one, I cannot wait to see what kind of fruit it yields in the next few months.

Differentiating between a lemon and a lime is always a bit confusing, given that we end up putting everything in the lemon/nimbu basket in India. In reality, most of what is available here is lime, which is more acidic than lemon. The green versus yellow colour does not offer much of a clue. The limes sold in our markets are all yellow in colour or a mix of green and yellow, given that they are sold after ripening. The one lime of note in India, characterized by its unique shape and aroma, is the gondhoraj lebu, revered by Bengalis. A simple dal-rice meal with a squeeze of the gondhoraj gets elevated to an aromatherapy experience.

While lemon or lime juice is used all across Indian cuisine, the zest remains neglected, unless of course the entire fruit is chopped up for pickles. I love using the zest over the juice. If happiness was an aroma, it would be this uplifting, energizing scent of freshly grated lemon zest. Citrus zest in a salad dressing, or rubbed into sugar to make a citrus sugar or added to a body scrub, are all ways to experience the effect of the essential oils in the peel. Choose limes with thicker skin to get more zest out of them.

Lime curd
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Lime curd (Photo: Nandita Iyer)

Lime curd or lemon curd is sunshine in a jar. Super quick to make as compared to any other preserve or condiment, with a minimal list of ingredients and intense citrus flavour: I want you to try this during the lime season. It also makes a wonderful gift for family and friends with very little effort. This curd can be prepared with passion fruit or lemons too. There are many recipes for lemon curd, but I like the simplicity of the recipe from the food blog Joy of Baking. I have combined with the technique of using citrus sugar by blending the zest into the sugar, as given by author and talkshow host Ina Garten in her Food Network (a TV channel) recipe. Some recipes use only yolks, while some use the whole egg. I have used the whole egg in the recipe below.

What can you do with lime curd apart from licking up spoonfuls? It’s excellent on toast or with crackers as a part of a cheeseboard. Stir into a cup of yogurt, mix with cream cheese and use as a cupcake topping, serve with crepes, scones, waffles or pancakes. It is just the ingredient you need to “fancify" your brunch party.

Lime Curd

Makes around 350ml

¾ cup sugar

3-5 limes ~⅓ cup juice

3 eggs (135g)

Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)

3 tbsp butter (45g), at room temperature

Peel the lime zest with a sharp peeler. Pulse the zest along with the sugar in a mixer jar.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar (one with the zest) and lime juice. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (double boiler arrangement) and keep whisking continuously. Initially, the mixture will be watery but resist the temptation to add any external thickening agents like cornstarch. After around 10 minutes, the mixture will thicken. Once it coats the back of the spoon like a custard, remove from heat and stir in the butter, until well incorporated.

Place a cling film directly over the top of the curd to prevent the formation of a “skin". Once cooled, remove the cling film, spoon into a bottle and refrigerate. It stays for up to 10 days.

LIME SUGAR CREPES

Makes 7-8

For crepe batter:

1 cup all purpose flour (maida)

1 cup milk

¼ cup water

¼ cup melted butter

2 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)

For sprinkling:

3-4 limes

3-4 tbsp granulated sugar

In a blender, combine all the ingredients for the crepe batter. Remove to a bowl, cover and rest for 30 minutes. This can be kept overnight in the refrigerator.

Lightly grease a flat pan (tava) with butter. In a moderately hot pan, pour around N cup batter and swirl pan with the handle so the batter spreads all over the surface. Allow to cook on one side for up to 2 minutes until golden. Flip over and cook the second side for around 30 seconds. Use up all the batter to make crepes similarly. Stack up on a platter and serve with lime wedges and sugar. Squeeze lime and sprinkle sugar and lime zest over the crepes before serving.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.

Twitter - @saffrontrail

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