I get to spend a lot of time looking around shops, supermarkets and markets, I know it would seem like hell to some people – but I love it, especially when I come across new things. That exact thing happened to me last week when I saw some Dried Limes (or Lumis as they’re also called) in a small shop. Normally you can only buy them in Middle Eastern shops/supermarkets, but let’s face it, unless you live in London you’re lucky to find a shelf with Middle Eastern ingredients on it, let alone a whole shop full of them!
There were two bags left, which I hastily put into my basket and smugly bought.
When I got them back, we had a quick ‘Dried Lime Show and Tell’ time before ripping open the bag. The smell from them was amazing – like the most powerful lime sherbet that you’ve ever experienced. They’re about the same size as ping pong balls or smaller and are as light as a feather, sounding hollow when you tap them.
They are made by being boiled briefly in brine and then drained and left to dry in the desert sun, until all of the juice has dehydrated and concentrated inside the now dried out lime. They are called the ‘power ingredient’ and it’s said that once you’ve started to use them in your cookery, you’ll never look back and will always want some close to hand.
We cut one open so that we could see what it looked like. the remnants of the lime segments are flimsy and dark brown/black in colour and rubbery while the membrane is brittle.
I took some home and set to work. They’re very simple to use – just give them a wash, pierce them a couple of times with a skewer and drop them into your soup or stew. This is where the alchemy happens. As long as you’re cooking your stew or soup for an hour or more, the outer skin starts to soften and the cooking juices in the dish start to work their way into the lime, creating a lovely bomb of flavour. After about 30 minutes, you can gently press the lime against the side of the saucepan to release some of the delicious juices that have accumulated inside.
I’ve heard that it’s considered good manners, at the end of cooking, not to give the lime a final squeeze, but to put it un-squeezed into your guest’s bowl so that they can squeeze the gorgeous juice out into their meal. But I think that is completely unfair to everyone else at the table! I made sure that I got a lime in my portion of dinner of course, but I had the decency to give it a good last squeeze before I put the food onto the dishes! I cut open the cooked lime and the flavour is completely addictive – I found myself eating the now luscious flesh inside, along with my meal.
The taste wasn’t overpowering as I was expecting it to be, it just ‘lifted’ the whole dish, a little like adding a squeeze of lemon but with far more flavour. It very much completed both dishes that I tried them in and even though I’ve eaten both dishes before without dried lime, I will definitely be adding a couple of lumis to them when I cook them in the future.
I made a Persian Chicken Stew with Chickpeas and dried limes. The dish was heavy with cinnamon, paprika and nutmeg which went very well with the sweet tang of lime, but I also added one into an Indian Dahl which was amazing – the taste perked up the Indian spices and lentils very well too.
They’re said to work very well with Lamb or Fish too, which I will selflessly test very soon.
Did I think they were as delicious as they were supposed to be? Yes! Have I become a convert to always having some at home? Yes, I’ll buy some whenever I see them!
Have you ever tried using Dried Limes? Let me know what you used them in, if you have!