Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Forever Winter

This winter has been an endless onslaught of snow and fiercely cold temperatures.  Spring will be officially starting this week, but judging by the snow and freezing rain in tomorrow's forecast, warm weather seems a lot farther off than that.  And yet there are places that are colder than Toronto.  Colder, and for longer.  Imagine that.  Egad.

About two years ago in November, I went trekking along the Annapurna circuit in Nepal.  At higher altitude levels, it was bone-chilling cold.  Cold like if you forgot to pee before you went to bed, you just held it until the next morning, because you would rather your bladder explode than make the trip to the outhouse and be exposed to a cold that would pierce your skin with a thousand needles.  It was in the cold that I learned the kindness of a bowl of warm garlic soup served with fried Tibetan bread.

Fried Tibetan Bread
Adapted from Food from the Road and Yowandu.  Makes four medium-sized rounds of flatbread, enough for 2 people.

This recipe, if made with white flour, whole milk and baking powder, will turn out a light, fluffy, rich-tasting bread.  Alternately, if made with half spelt, half white flour, water, and no baking powder, a flat, chewier bread will result.  Both breads were excellent, but the former was truer to the Nepalese version (pictured above).

2 cups (270 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of kosher salt
Oil for frying

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.  Add water, and stir until it comes together.  Dump the dough out onto a clean surface that has been dusted with flour.  It will be slightly sticky.  Knead for a few minutes, until dough is uniform and smooth.  Form the dough into a ball and place onto a lightly dusted surface.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel, and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

After dough has rested, cut it into 4 equal pieces.  On a dusted surface, form each piece into a ball and roll out to a 1/8" thick round with a rolling pin.  Score each round 2 or 3 times, cutting all the way through.

Add a generous amount of oil to a skillet, making sure the bottom is covered.  Heat the skillet on medium.  When it has become sufficiently hot (as in, when a drop of water will sizzle if added), add one round of dough to the skillet.  Fry for about 3 minutes, until it is golden brown all over.  Flip and brown the other side in the same manner.  Remove the fried bread from the skillet, and repeat with the 3 remaining rounds.  Serve the bread immediately while still warm.

Garlic Soup
Makes 2 small servings.

In a head-to-head competition against good ol' chicken soup for fighting off seasonal sickness, my bets are on garlic soup.  Better yet, this soup is easily made vegetarian or vegan by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth, and the butter for olive oil.

2 cups homemade chicken broth
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 a head of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp finely chopped chives (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic, and stir for 30 seconds, being careful not to brown the garlic.  Sprinkle in flour, and stir constantly for a few minutes, until the roux is homogenous and smooth.  Slowly add in broth, and stir well to minimize lumps.  Heat until bubbling and thick.  Add salt and pepper to taste, ladle into bowls, and top with chives if desired.

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