When life gives you blood limes… make brûlée.
In our little neck of suburbia, growing your own food isn’t as easy as I’d like it to be. Dreams of a country property on the south coast of New South Wales have been permeating my daily life for some time now.
While it is a long time before we might be able to find a little corner of the country to call our own, we rely on the kindness of friends to help up discover new things and experiment with an abundance of home grown produce. One such friend is Tass who runs and resides on a property in Jamberoo aptly named Jamberoo Valley Farm.
If you find yourself in NSW and wishing for a farm stay, I couldn’t recommend Jamberro Valley Farm enough. We were introduced to Tass through mutual friends and after our first meeting, I knew we would be friends. Her joie de vivre is infectious and her generosity on that first meeting was unparalleled as she sent me home with oodles of produce to cook with.
A recent visit from Tass here in Sydney left me with an abundance of fresh lemons for Scott to use in his homemade limoncello and a large bucket of blood limes for me to experiment with.
I’d been wanting to get my hands on some blood limes for a while now, and with an orchard of 200 blood lime trees at Jamberoo Valley Farm, I certainly had my hands on a lot of them. After tasting them fresh, frozen, grilled, zested and every which way I could think of, I decided to start sweet and infuse the incredible flavour into a creme brûlée.
But first, a bit about blood limes.
We must start at finger limes if we are going to demystify blood limes. Finger limes are an Australian native lime originating in the rainforests of Queensland that are long and thin – finger-like to be precise. The way the fruit is constructed means the juice is housed in little tiny caviar shaped sacs. When one end of the finger lime is cut and the fruit is squeezed, the little caviar “pearls” can be pushed out and used in a myriad of ways – its like molecular gastronomy… but occurs naturally.
The blood lime is actually an Australian creation and is a cross between a finger lime and an ellendale mandarin. It was created by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia in an effort to develop lime crops that will produce fruit more regularly as native finger limes can be incredibly inconsistent in their yield.
Approximately 4cm long by 2cm wide, the blood lime does share the finger lime’s caviar like texture, but it isn’t as circular as a finger lime. It is acidic like a lime, but with a sweeter undertone that I can only guess comes from the mandarin.
After deciding the creme brûlée would be the perfect vehicle for the blood lime, I looked to close friend and Australian native enthusiast he needs food, to find the best way to get the most out of this tiny delicious fruit. As a grower of finger limes, John came up with this wonderful method not that long ago to enhance the flavour of his finger limes… he grills them. The pulp yield is much higher and was just what I needed to infuse the brûlée with the blood lime flavour.
If you find yourself with blood limes, finger limes, or indeed just limes, why not take the usual creme brûlée and elevate it to another level. The acidity pairs perfectly with the creamy custard to give you something very delicious indeed.
Blood Lime Crème Brûlée
- 25 blood limes
- Zest of 10 blood limes
- 1 1/3 cup thickened cream
- 1 1/3 cup whipping cream
- 75g caster sugar
- 7 egg yolks
- Extra caster sugar for brûlée, about 1/4 cup
Preheat oven to 170° Celsius (330° Fahrenheit)
Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium high heat, then grill the 25 blood limes for 5 minutes turning constantly until softened and starting to blacken. Remove from the heat, cut the ends off the limes and squeeze the pulp and the juice out into a bowl. You should be left with roughly 1/3 cup pulp and juice.
Combine the cream in a heavy based saucepan with the lime pulp, juice and zest, and slowly bring to the boil over medium heat. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
In a bowl combine the sugar and egg yolks and and whisk until pale in colour then whisk in the cooled cream mixture. Strain the entire mixture through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Divide the mixture between six small ramekins or bowls (about 1/2 cup in each) and place all 6 dishes in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the dishes.
Cover the entire roasting pan loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes the custard should have a slight wobble when moved. Remove the dishes from the oven and roasting pan and set aside for 30 minutes. Then cool completely in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Just before you are ready to serve (and no sooner), sprinkle the extra caster sugar evenly over the surface of the custards and using a chef's torch working in circles and moving constantly to caramelise the sugar. Allow the surface of the brûlée to cool for a few minutes before serving.