In the first of our wonderful new collaborations with Taste Australian Bush Food Shop, our main ingredient of choice is the Australian Native Desert Lime. It was given this name because settlers continuously compared fruit found in Australia with those back home and in order to distinguish the two, they would preface the Australian version with the word “native”. The desert lime is the fruit from a tree species belonging to a true citrus native to Australia , Citrus glauca. This tree has evolved and adapted to the challenges faced by many plants in the Australian Outback, namely that it has developed characteristics uniquely suited to desert conditions.
The tree is tolerant of heat, frost, drought and salinity and is the fastest citrus in the world to produce fruit after the tree has flowered. In addition, these trees have sharp thorns to discourage grazing animals but once they have grown too tall to be marauded by the tallest of kangaroos, the thorns stop growing.
Traditionally, desert lime fruit has been wild-harvested as a highly prized bush food from surviving bushland areas, where it is relatively common and grows quite profusely. However, C. glauca has also been cleared quite aggressively from some areas due to agriculture. However, commercial cultivation of this fruit is beginning to reduce the reliance on wild-harvested product. Cultivation of desert lime trees was pioneered in Australia by the Douglas family in Roma, Queensland, where they have propagated and planted a plantation of over 7,000 trees. Under the trading name of Australian Desert Limes they have marketed frozen whole limes, a range of garnishes, jams, preserves, chutneys and beverages made from the fruit and also their range of desert lime trees for domestic purposes, either for the home gardener or more commercial growers. Sadly, The Douglas family only produce desert lime powder these days. Sadly the very prolonged drought killed every one of their trees so currently they sell only the desert lime powder.
Desert limes do not need to be peeled or prepared. They can be frozen without losing their flavour or when they are thawed later for use in cooking .The fruit has been analysed as a very healthy food source, having three times the amount of Vitamin C compared to oranges.
The Australian Desert Lime’s main differences to other fruits is that whilst it can be used in exactly the same way as a lemon or lime, it is far smaller in size, it has no peel and it has an intensity/piquancy of flavour. In early New South Wales, British colonists made the best of this fruit when it came into season in November by making jams, tarts and jellies from the wild fruits. In many places, particularly in New South Wales and South East Queensland, it has been known as the desert kumquat. According to the Australian National University the name native cumquat appeared in 1880.
There are a number of cookbooks featuring native lime recipes, including the Australian Enquiry Book (Lawson, 1898), the Coronation Cookery Book (1933), the Longreach Red Cross Cookbook (1946) and the Schauer Australian Cookers Book (1952). The recipe that Malynka Williams, of Taste Australian Bush Food Shop has provided us with today is one which brings a smile to my face as a pudding lover because it is for a Native Desert Lime Cheesecake!
Native Lime Cheesecake
For the crumb
- Bowl of boiling water
- 250gm packet digestive biscuits
- 1 cup dry roasted macadamias
- A few dates, chopped
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 100gm butter.
For the Cheesecake
- 6 tbsp Boiling Water
- 3 tsp gelatine or 1 leaf
- 250gm cream or curd cheese
- 3/4 cup icing sugar
- 1 cup natural yoghurt
- 250gm ricotta cheese
- 3 tsp wattleseed extract
- 2 tsp Desert Lime Powder
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Place dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Stand for 5 mins.Drain.
- Blend the digestive biscuits and dry roasted macadamias, to a fine crumb.
- Add the dates, cinnamon, ground cloves and butter.
- Blend to an even consistency.
- Line the base of a 28cm flan with clingfilm, then press the crumb mixture firmly and evenly over the prepared tin and chill.
- For filling place 6 tbsp boiling water in a bowl and add the gelatin, stir to dissolve until clear smooth liquid with no lumpy bits.
- Blend the cream cheese, icing sugar, natural yoghurt, ricotta or curd cheese, wattleseed extract, Desert Lime Powder and lemon juice.
- Add dissolved gelatin and process until smooth.
- Pour into the base, smooth the top and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours.