Lime leaves

Spice market: lime leaves

Susan Jung

When people use citrus to cook with, they rarely consider using the fragrant leaves as well. Most are too tough to eat but they can still be useful, as long as they haven't been sprayed with pesticides.

When I was a pastry chef we used fresh lemon leaves to make decorative chocolate versions: we'd paint tempered chocolate on the shiny side of the leaf and then chill it. The leaf was tough but flexible enough to peel away, leaving its imprint on the hardened chocolate. You can use other types of citrus leaves but the ones from the lemon tree are easily available.

One type of citrus leaf that's commonly used in this part of the world is that of the kaffir lime tree. Used whole in Thai cuisine, the small leaves give a delicate citrus flavour and fragrance to stir-fries, soups and curries. The only time the leaves are tender enough to be eaten is when they're cut into very fine chiffonade - if you've eaten snake soup, lime leaf is one of the traditional accompaniments, along with chrysanthemum petals and fried dough.

To chiffonade the leaves, cut out the large "vein" that runs down the centre of each lime leaf. Stack several leaves then use a very sharp, fine-bladed knife to cut them into thin strips - they should be less than 1mm thick.