If you are a fan of Thai or Indonesian cuisine, no doubt you are familiar with the fragrant, lemon-lime perfume of the Kaffir lime leaf. Also known as the makrut lime, the shiny, deep green leaves, similar in size to bay leaves, but distinguished by a unique, hourglass shape, add a distinctive, South Asian flavour and appeal to soups, stews, curries and even desserts. And once you get used to cooking with them, you just may find yourself going out of your way to use them at every opportunity.
Kaffir lime leaves are often more readily available dried, but if you are lucky enough to obtain them when they are fresh, definitely give them a try. Any unused fresh lime leaves can be frozen and used for later use. We always have a package of dried lime leaves in the pantry, and anytime we’re cooking with coconut milk, whether it is for a Thai curry or butter chicken, we like to add a few dried kaffir lime-leaves to the pot and leave it on a low simmer for an hour or so. The soft, slightly tangy lime-essence is released from the leaves as the sauce cooks, adding a fresh and aromatic counter-point to the more pungent flavours of ginger, garlic or chili, and an invigorating “wake-up” call to the rich, dreamy, velvety quality of coconut milk.
Fresh kaffir lime leaves are also great in a marinade for fish, pork or chicken too. Basically most dishes that have cardamom, cilantro, cumin and curry as components will benefit from the presence of a few leaves. Just remember to discard them after cooking or marinating, as you would a bay leaf.
Since it is now officially fall, and pumpkins are sure to be popping up all over at any moment, we thought we’d have a go at making a big pot of creamy, delicious pumpkin soup –with a twist! This soup is given a Thai makeover with the addition of coconut milk, tom yum paste and kaffir lime. Familiar and exotic, this delightful vegan soup is a perfect marriage of old world and new. Maybe something you’d like to try this thanksgiving.
Thai Pumpkin Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups pumpkin, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons tom yum paste
5 or 6 dried kaffir lime leaves
3 cups water
1 can coconut milk
salt and pepper
In a large saucepan sauteé onion in oil until soft. Add pumpkin, tom yum paste, lime leaves and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer about half an hour. Remove from heat and remove leaves. Using an immersion blender or blender, pureé soup until smooth. Add coconut milk and return to low heat. Serve with chopped cilantro and a small swirl of yogurt.