Dried limes, also known as "black limes," are a typical ingredient in stews and sauces in Iran, Iraq, the Gulf States, and is also occasionally found in North India, where they may be added to the cooking water of basmati rice.
You may purchase dried whole limes or dried lime powder in Middle Eastern or Indian groceries. You can use dried limes to flavour stews, grilled meats, sauces and even make a tangy tea out of them.
You can use dried limes the way that cooks in the Middle East do: place whole into stews, soups and other mixed dishes. They are also good in bean and lentil dishes, since the pungent and intense flavour coincides well with the earthy taste of the legumes. Before you cook with dried limes, though, make sure you wash them well. Then take a fork and pierce them right through to the centre, so that the cooking liquid can run through the dried lime and take up its pungent flavour.
Dried lime powder makes an interesting rub for grilled meats and seafood. Either purchase the powder or make it yourself from whole dried limes. To do this, cut the limes in half and take out the seeds. Then place the lime halves in a coffee grinder and pulverise them. Rub the dried lime powder on steak, chops or seafood just before you put them on the grill. Use the powder alone or mix it with a bit of oil to make a paste.
Add dried limes to sauces for extra pungency and flavour; dried limes work especially well in herb sauces such as Khoresht-e Ghormeh Sabzi, which is a favourite in Iran. It is made with scallions, parsley, cilantro, dill, fenugreek and dried limes; pieces of meat are added near the end of cooking, and it is served over rice.
You can make a zesty tea out of dried limes.Take two dried limes and break them into pieces by placing them in a zip-top bag, sealing it shut and then hitting the limes with a mallet. Take the lime pieces out of the bag and put them into a saucepan with 4 cups of water. Bring the water and lime pieces to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer the lime and water mixture for about 4 minutes. Strain the tea through cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter. Sweeten to taste with sugar and serve hot or cold.
If you want more intense lime flavour, add the dried limes near the beginning of your cooking. If you want a more subtle flavour, add them just before you finish cooking the dish. Whole dried limes and dried lime powder can be kept for up to a year, if stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place.
- "Middle Eastern Kitchen"; Ghillie Basan; 2007
- "New Persian Cooking..."; Jila Dana-Haeri et al; 2011
- New York Times; "Two Dried Lime Recipes..."; John Willoughby; June 2010
- New York Times; "Dried Limes, A Middle Eastern Secret..."; John Willoughby; 2010;
- "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food"; Claudia Roden; 2000