It’s cold. Is that snow? I’m starving and can’t catch my breath. I’m determined to get up this damn hill. I just want to get back to our guesthouse of choice which, for some reason, is at the very top of the hill in Darjeeling near the radio tower.
Dealing with altitude is one thing, but why did we choose the highest guesthouse in town. Maybe we thought it would be closer to the sun to help us deal with the temperature change from the plains where it was 45C. Maybe we thought the cold wouldn’t matter since we’d have steaming bucket showers heated with dodgy electric elements to slosh over our frozen bodies and warm us up. Actually I think it was because we’d heard they had good tomato soup. That sounds more like our methodology for choosing accommodation. Whatever we were thinking then, now I need some serious energy or we’ll have to set up camp halfway up this hill.
“How about that Tibetan place we saw on the way down?” My husband is a genius.
Inside the door instant warmth, calm music, the scent of incense and burning wood, wool everywhere. It’s like being nestled into the side of a cuddly sheep only there are colourful ribbons, prayer flags and thankas dotted about. A woman who manages to look sturdy, strong and gentle at the same time asks us what we’d like telling us that she has just made some fresh bread and relaying the fact that it is good with yak-milk cheese. As if we could refuse.
Although I remember this story like it was yesterday, I can’t remember what we ate with the bread. It was probably tomato soup. Tibetans seem very good at making homemade tomato soup. Perhaps it was dhal. At any rate, the fluffiness of the inside of the bread with the slight crispiness of the outside really suited a sideways slicing so that we could stuff it full of cheese.
The cheese itself was not a far cry from a nice sheep-milk feta. Slightly creamy and crumbly, but probably a wee bit gamier. If you make this bread and stuff it with feta you will not be disappointed. The recipe itself is very basic and you could probably use any mix of flours that you have in the house.
Basic Tibetan Bread
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup white flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup of slightly warm water
Oil such as canola or soya
Mix up by adding water slowly and kneading lightly for a couple of minutes. You may need a bit of extra flour if the dough is sticky.
Leave the dough to sit, covered, in a warm place for 20-30 minutes.
Roll out four loaves to about 1.5 centimetres thick. They should look like big, thick*, flat circles.
Cook on a hot, covered pan with a little oil (more oil makes for crispier outsides). Turn once or twice while cooking.Eat immediately.
*These are not thin like chapattis/rotis but when cooked on a hot enough pan will be slightly flexible and a little bubbly.