I bet most of you have eaten more Thai food than Bengali food, and are thus better acquainted with Kafir or makrut lime than the Gondhoraj. The oblong and a bit hard Gondhoraj lime is astonishingly fragrant and can add instant flavour to even the most bland plate of dal chawal. The Gondhoraj is a Rangpur variety of lime, writes Sohini Das Gupta in an article for DNA, which is often touted as a lovechild of the mandarin orange and common lime. Its flavour evokes a very strong reaction from all Bengalis in a room, who will instantly wax lyrical about the nostalgia attached to it, and rightfully so, because in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, so far away from the East coast, it’s practically impossible to grow it. You’d have to find someone nice enough to want to carry a dozen limes for you all the way from Calcutta to try it, or you could ask to try some at Toast & Tonic in Bangalore and Mumbai.
A close friend of mine who is as Bengali as they come got me so addicted to the Gondhoraj that I’ve been sourcing it for myself for a few years now, juicing and zesting it over fish, chicken, dal, dessert, you name it. I associate the juice of this lime with a time gone by, of hastily cooked Sunday meals with Chingri malai curry, Begun bhaaja, rice and booze from last night’s party. For all of its wondrous properties, the Gondhoraj is either surprisingly bad at marketing itself, or the Bengalis don’t wish to share its secret with the rest of the world, which is also totally understandable. If I had a Gondhoraj tree in my backyard, I’d put up walls too.
Since the lebu hasn’t been fiddled with enough, it was the perfect contender for my tryst with the classic lemon posset. A posset is so simple to make, you’ll beat yourself up for not having tried it sooner. It consists of just three ingredients- cream, sugar and juice of a citrus. What’s great is just how quickly you can transform these into nothing short of a revelation.
A chilled, set dessert with a texture of mousse, the posset doesn’t require a setting agent like cornflour or gelatin, but instead depends on the citrus’ juice and simple science to explain the wonderful thickening of the cream and velvety texture. When you add acid to milk it splits and curdles to become paneer, but if you add acid to cream with a high fat content, due to the viscosity of the cream being much higher, the effect is different. A smooth, creamy consistency is achieved instead of a grainy, clumped one. This happens because the dissolved sugar in the dessert helps bind the structure better, so the more sugar it has, the thicker it will be.
More recently I discovered that a posset made just by simmering the cream and sugar together is not enough. If you boil it though, you break down the fat content of the whole mixture. Since cream has a bit of water, that evaporates, and leaves behind more fat in the mixture, which when you add lemon juice, helps the now off-balance fat and water in the mixture come together and thicken very well. Adding the zest of the gondhoraj gives the possets a slight greenish hue and more gondhoraj flavour.
Note: I use cream from a dairy because of its higher fat content. If you’re in Mumbai, Parsi Dairy Cream or cream from Pakeezah Dairy in Bandra is perfect.
Gondhoraj Lime Possets
Yield 6-8 portions, depending on the ramekins
A posset is a miraculous feat of just three simple ingredients- cream, sugar and lemon juice. Make this simple recipe using either the indigenous Gondhoraj lemons from Calcutta or swap it for imported lemons.
Gondhoraj Limes 2-3, juiced and zested (you'll need a little under 6 tablespoons juice and 1 tbsp zest) or 2 Imported lemons, plus extra to garnish
Sugar 2/3 cup, (plus 2-3 tbsp extra, optional if you want to make your dessert a bit more sweet)
Dairy cream 2 cups
In a saucepan, bring to boil the sugar, cream and lime zest. Stir frequently to let the sugar dissolve and for the mixture to reduce by at least 30%, that's almost 10-12 minutes. You can use a ruler or a chopstick to tell how much it has reduced as well.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 6 tbsp lime juice. Set it aside for almost 20 minutes till a skin forms on top.
Strain the mixture into six to eight individual ramekins and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight till it has set well.
Garnish with a few more slices of gondhoraj.