All about black lime (loomi): a big favorite of Ottolenghi

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Are you a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine? Then you must have spotted black lime in one of your favorite recipes. We can hear you thinking: black lime, should I add that to my ever-expanding spice stash? The answer is yes. With black lime, also known as loomi, you can transform your everyday creations into culinary delights.

You might remember the day you found out that a little lime or lemon zest, fresh from the MicroPlane, will give your dish an extra boost in no time . But there is a tougher brother on the market: black lime, also called loomi or limoo omani (literally: lime from Oman). This spicy seasoning has come over from the area around the Persian Gulf and we are very happy with that. 

What is black lime? 

The loomi is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine (hello, Ottolenghi ), but if you’re unfamiliar with it, these brown, dusty ping-pong balls—aka the black lime—can seem intimidating. Because: what is it? 

The black limes (sometimes also lemons) are boiled in brined water after picking. This ensures that the fruit does not mold. After this they are dried in the (desert) sun, but because the sun phenomenon is not often and strongly present everywhere in the world, the limes are nowadays also dried in modern machines. The drying process draws all the moisture out of the fruit, leaving a hard, black-brown ball. 

Where does the black lime come from? 

We go back to the time when nomadic peoples in Oman plodded through the deserts. Of course they did not survive these months of journeys on brown bread with cheese. For the outward journey, but especially for the return journey, food had to be brought along that would remain good. The to-go food had to be preserved and able to withstand long dry and sunny periods. 

The lime was and is ideally suited for this. It was dried in the desert sun and then, as hard black fruit, taken home. Back then, people already knew that culinary souvenirs are simply the best souvenirs.

Today, the black lime is still an important spice in the cuisines around the Persian Gulf and can be found in almost every recipe. We don’t know whether the limes are still dried in the desert sun in the traditional way, but it makes the story behind it even more beautiful. 

Nice and nice, but how does the loomi taste? 

Imagine this: you are in a perfumery looking for a gift for your father, friend, brother or distant uncle. The employee gives you dozens of scent sticks, until she arrives at a perfume with notes of cedar and citrus. ah! Now you are on the right path. 

Don’t expect a clean, fresh taste like a fresh lime or lemon. While the black lime certainly has the fresh and sourness of the citrus fruit, there is also something almost mysterious and masculine about it. The hard skin is bitter just like the seeds, but if we taste the dried flesh inside, we understand why the black lime gives such a taste explosion to your dish. It has an earthy, almost smoked and umami taste that – we think – also works well in a cocktail or with a ceviche

Can we rename the black lime the Middle Eastern truffle? That may be going a bit far, but there are certainly similarities. 

What can you do with the black lime? 

In other words, what not? The black lime goes well with (almost) everything. Soups, stews, risottos and biryanis , but even by boiling the loomi in water and then adding some mint and/or honey you already have a delicious cup of tea. 

It may sound crazy, but the black lime is often used in a way that makes the taste slightly milder. After all, not everyone loves an explosion of citrus. For example, add the lime to the rice cooking liquid, as in this recipe for a rice salad with broad beans and pistachios 

You can also pulverize the lime into powder with a mortar or coffee grinder. The powder that’s left is a smoky citrus flavor bomb that you can use over and in your dishes super quickly for an instant pick-me-up. Love barbecuing? Mix the black lime powder into your favorite marinade or rub for fish, chicken or meat and the showpiece of the evening is born. 

Where do you buy it? 

You can find the black lime at Middle Eastern or Turkish supermarkets or market stalls. Not found? They can also be found online. Order them from Pimenton or the Herbal King and stock up in your kitchen cupboard so that you can cope with any Ottolenghi. 

Another advantage of the black lime: it stays good for a long time. Ideal right?

Source: Culy by
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