I have somewhat of a love affair going on with kaffir lime leaves. Ever since our trip to Thailand back in December, I have made sure to always have a stash of these guys in our freezer. For those who may not know, kaffir limes are a type of lime with a bumpy exterior which are native to Southeast Asia as well as the Indian Ocean islands of La Réunion and Madagascar. Also known as combava (this is the standard French translation as well), the rind of these limes as well as their leaves are commonly used in the cuisine of these parts of the world. They lend a pungent, astringent note that is unmistakable.
Kaffir lime leaves are most commonly known as an ingredient in many Thai soups (such as tom kha phak) and curries as well in the famous rum punches of the Indian Ocean countries. Available in Asian supermarkets as well as some specialty food stores, they have an oval shape and can be stored for months in the freezer. In addition to their culinary virtues, they are used in traditional Indonesian medicine as well as in shampoos and hair products in Thailand and Laos (the juice of kaffir limes apparently makes your hair shiny and bright - good to know!).
While I've been happily making Thai soups and curries to my heart's content with my stash of kaffir lime leaves, I've been meaning to experiment with them in sweet preparations as well. Looking at the lone can of coconut milk sitting in our pantry, I decided that a coconut kaffir lime ice cream would make for a worthy experiment. To this ice cream, I added a teaspoon of a very interesting product called super neutrose, which is a stabilizing agent in powder form made up of several natural ingredients (agar-agar, glucose syrup, carob flour). We picked up a box of this stuff at the cooks' paradise G. Detou in Montorgueil in the hopes of churning out softer, creamier ice creams and sorbets.
I was happy with this ice cream, but it should be noted that the kaffir lime is a very strong flavor. A couple of leaves should be more than enough, and be sure not to infuse them too long into the coconut milk/condensed milk mixture. Otherwise you may end up with simply a sweet version of tom kha phak. With just a smidgeon of the kaffir lime flavor though, this is a delicious ice cream. Lime zest and/or some toasted coconut would make for lovely toppings. And the super neutrose, by the way, did indeed do the trick. This was the softest, creamiest ice cream that I've ever made! A great ending to a Thai or other Asian meal!
COCONUT KAFFIR LIME ICE CREAM
Makes 4 cups / 1 liter
1 can (400 milliters or 14.5 ounces) coconut milk
3/4 cup condensed milk (sweetened)
1 teaspoon super neutrose or other ice cream stabilizer (optional)
2-3 kaffir lime leaves, julienned
1. In a large bowl, stir together the coconut milk and condensed milk.
2. If you are using it, add the super neutrose or other softener and mix well. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes in order for the softening agents to start working.
3. Pour the mixture in a large saucepan. Add the kaffir lime leaves. Warm over low heat just until heated through (no longer!).
4. Remove the mixture from heat and strain out the kaffir lime leaves. Cool.
5. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manfacturer's directions.