Limes were important to sailors in colonial times as a preventative for scurvy. Lemons, though four times higher in Vitamin C than limes, were not always easy to find in the far flung colonies of the Caribbean and the Pacific. West Indian limes grew prolifically on the Caribbean islands and it was easy for the sailors to take on a cargo of these while dropping off another cargo of supplies (or slaves to work on the sugar plantations). In the Pacific Tahitian limes or their juice were also loaded onto ships to prevent scurvy.
In the last thirty years, due to the emergence of Asian cooking styles like Thai and Vietnamese, limes have also become an everyday ingredient in Australia. Curries with Kaffir lime leaves, fish dishes ‘cooked’ in lime juice, satay sauce finished with a squeeze of lime juice. Even indigenous finger limes are beginning to appear in fruit shops.
The lime tree that grows in a sheltered spot beneath the eaves of my parents’ house has done remarkably well. Better than the poor lemon tree that gave up the fight some time ago. The last time I was there my parents had more limes than they could use so I took home a bag. I’m not used to having limes in such profusion and I had to look for new ways to use them. Here’s one recipe I found credited to Donna Lee.
Lime Curd Tart
2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
180 g cold unsalted butter
2 tbs iced water
275 ml pure cream
275 g caster sugar
200 ml lime juice
zest of 4 limes
8 free range eggs
Grease a 22cm flan tin with a removable base
For the pastry:
Sift dry ingredients together. Add chopped butter and rub until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 2 tbs iced water to form a dough. Flatten into a disk about 1 inch thick, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate 20 mins.
For the filling:
Whisk all ingredients together. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
Roll out dough and use it to line your flan tin. Make sure there are no holes. Blind bake 20 mins at 180 c. Cool.
Strain filling into the flan crust. Reduce oven to 150 c and place carefully in the oven. Cook 40 mins. or until filling has set. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.