Updated: Feb 18
This New Years holiday is unusually challenging for many. The country was hit by a quick spreading Coronavirus, and Tibetan regions were placed under quarantine. We found a rare chance of staying in the village for weeks. A dangerous disease, breaking news, curfews, tragedies coming from the infected areas, bad businesses, but a good time for family reunion. All of sudden we had plenty of time to try old and new recipes.
Today I tried to make pizza using the old technique of stone cooking. It's supposed to be very simple. A quick and handy fix for the nomads and peasants who had limited utensils. I went out to the riverside and collected some small stones. Pebbles would be better but we do with what we have.
The stones were washed and heated in the pan. It took about forty minutes to heat them thoroughly. The stones preserve the heat, and are excellent for cooking bread, grilling meat and of course baking pizza.
My pizza dough was (quite needlessly to say), a mixture of flour, melted butter, yeast, baking soda and a pinch of sugar. It had been sitting on my parents' warm earthy bed-stove for two hours. I shredded some mozzarella, I’d gotten from the Muslim import store in the eastern district of Xining. It was quite plain, so I added some Dutch Goudse Boerenkaas, brought back by a sister from the US as a gift. It was so hard that I had to heat it and melt about a quarter of it. It had a nice smell and great taste. We used slices of mushroom, zucchini and ham for toppings.
I flattened a piece of dough that was smaller than my usual dough size for pizza, afraid that I wouldn't be able to get it out of the pan. In two minutes, the bottom side was turning nicely brown. A good thing about stone cooking is the temperature can be very high but it won't burn your dough. Instead of adding the sauce and toppings at the very beginning, I flipped the dough when it was nicely done on one side, and only then brushed a thin layer of sauce. I let the kids put on the toppings carefully. This was the first try, we left the edge open so no sauce or toppings might drop on the stones.
Covered the pan, and waited for another three to four minutes, voila! The pizza was cooked!