We interrupt your regularly scheduled programme of fibre related crafts and natural dyeing for a dessert special. Not interested? You are, of course, allowed to leave the kitchen and I hope to see you back soon!
We have a little finger lime tree (Citrus australasica syn. Microcitrus australasica). This is a native plant but it certainly isn’t native to any place near me: it’s a tropical plant. A friend was growing it in a pot in a seaside location that is windy and cold in winter and it was judged to need rescue by her horticulturally knowledgeable friends, who proposed me as a suitable new host. Colour me flattered by this! We’ve struggled to find it a spot in which it can manage through winter, and this year it behaved less like a deciduous plant through the colder months and we have had a bumper harvest.
We have dozens of fruit this year instead of the three or four of the last two years. In the past, we would share the small harvest in a single special dish with the tree’s previous host.
There aren’t a lot of cookbooks with recipes for finger lime on my shelf, so I made some up. We had ten people for dinner and a very interesting and complex conversation one night and these dishes were so well reviewed I decided to share despite the absence of wool or eucalyptus. If you have traumatic English boarding school memories of sago (tapioca), avert your eyes now! If, on the other hand, you love bubble tea, I am cooking with the baby sister of those bubbles. These dishes are gluten and dairy free and vegan as well as delicious….
Finger lime sago jelly for 10
Cook 1 cup of sago (seed tapioca, tapioca pearls) in 5 cups of water with 3-4 cardamom pods (to be removed when the cooking part is over). Cook until the sago is clear. I prefer to do this by bringing to a boil, stirring vigorously while the heat is on, then turning off the heat and putting the lid on for about 10 minutes. Repeat 3-4 times. The sago will absorb a lot of liquid this way with little energy being used and little attention from you. Then, add the zest and flesh of 8-10 finger limes, juice of 2 lemons, 1 cup of sugar, vanilla and some ground cardamom if you didn’t use the pods. Now is the time to take them out if you did use them. Cool, refrigerate.
The flesh of a finger lime is like a mass of tiny spheres of tangy, sour, almost resinous flavour. I cut the fruit lengthways in quarters to extract the contents with my fingers. Mixing this with sago is like having the textural experience of sago (which I find sublime) paired with tiny explosions of intense flavour.
Coconut custard for 10
Heat three 400 ml (13.5 fl oz) cans of light coconut milk–that makes a total of 1200ml (40.5 fl oz) coconut milk–in a saucepan. Reserve a little to use in the next step. In a separate bowl, blend the reserved coconut milk, 3 tablespoons of sugar (or stevia), 4 tablespoons of cornflour, ginger and vanilla until smooth. When the coconut milk is warm but not boiling, remove from the heat. Stirring vigorously, add the thickening mixture in a stream. When it is mixed in, return the saucepan to the heat and continue to heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble. Cool. Serve with your finger lime sago jelly.
I hope some of you are lucky enough to be able to try finger limes!