Hartley Magazine

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Kaffir Lime

nov 2015There has been a rather delicate new addition to my greenhouse this year. Not only delicate, but expensive. My new kaffir lime tree cost £30, and ‘tree’ is really stretching the trades descriptions act to its limit. It’s a stick with a few branches coming off of it, but it doesn’t need to be big, the point of it being the possibility of plucking the odd, lime-scented, spicy leaf and using it in curry paste, stir fries and in cocktails such as kaffir lime leaf caiprinhia, which I will tell you more about later. The ‘tree’ can stay small then, but i do want it alive, and as the temperature has dropped I have started to think about how best to nurse it through winter. I usually put other exotic leaves such as ginger and turmeric into a mini greenhouse heated very lightly over winter with a propagation matt, but I don’t think such a spot will cut it. And so I have decided to move it indoors as the weather cools: it will be a houseplant for winter, a patio plant in summer.

I always put my houseplants outside for the summer, so this fits in nicely with my regime, and I have spent a happy morning picking over it and checking for any pests before finding it a spot on the kitchen windowsill. I also moved the houseplants in too, a job that most probably should have been done a month ago, but I have been lucky with the weather. After their summer holiday on my deck the houseplants always look a bit like my kids do after a week’s camping: healthy and happy but grubby and bedraggled. So they need careful cleaning and picking over. Less like my kids after a week camping (I hope) they may also be harbouring a few pests, and these need to be sought out. I have come to know that one in particular is beloved of earwigs, and must be held upside down and shaken in order to dislodge them, others are prone to scale that can be picked off, and everything is likely to have a baby slug or two hiding in the drainage holes. Out they all go, and in come the plants. In addition i have brought in those turmeric plants too, as an experiment. They survive well out of doors but die down, then taking an age to get going again come spring. I am hoping that if I treat them as houseplants they will keep on growing, and never need extended coaxing out of dormancy.

Should the kaffir lime like it on my windowsill, I will be making these all winter long: kaffir lime leaf caiprinhias. If you can’t find cachaca (a clear, Brazilian spirit) use vodka. Still very good.

Kaffir lime leaf caiprinha

Makes two glasses

  • 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 large measures (35ml) cachaca or vodka
  • Crushed ice

Roll the lime on a board, pressing hard to help release the juices within, then slice in half and cut each half into four pieces. Put four pieces into each glass, a teaspoon of sugar, and a kaffir lime leaf, tearing up the kaffir lime leaf first. Using a wooden pestle or the end of a rolling pin, smash these together for several minutes, the aim being to release the lime juice and zest, crush up the leaves, and partially dissolve the sugar. Bash and grind. Add a little crushed ice and bash again. Pour on the cachaca or vodka and stir, then top up with more crushed ice. Decorate with a jaunty kaffir lime leaf and serve with a straw.