California, Here We Come.

2 May

My flatmate and I, under the pressures of paying the rent and paying uni fees, rarely go out. Who has the money to pay for entry fees at clubs and overpriced drinks? Not us, that’s for sure.

Instead we often spend our Saturday nights watching television. Our latest obsession? Seasons one to four of The OC.

It’s a fabulous show, full of teen angst of the best kind and ridiculously outlandish plotlines. We don’t engage in real teen life, so we live vicariously through Orange County’s finest.

I never expected the show to be a source of inspiration for my culinary adventures but, lo and behold, episode 101 proved a fantastic muse for my next special occasion.

For those of you who clearly aren’t as fanatically obsessed with the show as I, episode 101 contains a scene where Taylor Townsend brings Ryan a peach torte. You don’t really need to know who these characters are. The peach torte (although not really an intrinsic part of the show’s plotline) is the real star here.

I had been thinking of how we could celebrate the impending end of season four and the creation of a peach torte seemed perfect.

Together we reminisced throughout the seasons about the various foods starring in The OC and compiled a sizeable list of edible options for our two-person party.

Shrimp tacos? Too expensive.

Bagels with shmear? Besides not knowing what exactly ‘shmear’ was (or whether it was even a noun), we knew bagels were rather costly and despite constant promises to do so, I was too lazy to make them.

Moo Shoo? Yeah, exactly.

We figured we’d just make the peach torte and eat some sort of American fast food to compensate.

But yet more inspiration came in the form of leftover steaks from a previous dinner party. It was steak of the cheapest kind and consequently tough enough to choke you. I figured it was probably better off being slow cooked to create…

MOO STEW! I know, you must be spewing at this kind of creative genius.

Slow-cooked beef is possibly one of the easiest things to make. It uses the cheapest cuts of meat and often involves throwing whatever vegetables you have left over into the pot. It’s therefore pretty cheap to make as well.

I used fillet steak but admittedly cuts actually intended for slow-cooking would be better. If you have one, ask your local butcher or look at this article on the best cuts to use:

http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/articles/the-best-beef-cuts-for-slow-cooking

For the peach torte I made up recipes for my own pastry and custard (which, admittedly, makes the whole thing a bit more costly) but you can make do with frozen shortcrust pastry and bottled custard instead. Using fresh peaches would have been better, obviously, but when times are tough, tinned fruit is the best thing evah.

Moo Stew

1 TBSP olive oil

1 brown onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped finely

500g fillet steak, diced

2 TBSP mixed herbs

1 400g tin of tomatoes

375ml chicken stock

2 TBSP tomato paste

2 carrots, chopped into thick slices

2 potatoes, cubed

1 stick celery, chopped into thick slices

½ cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

½ cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot (I mean large, like one of those big soup pots)
  2. Add onions and garlic and fry until soft and glassy
  3. Add steak and stir over heat until browned
  4. Add herbs and stir through
  5. Add tomatoes, chicken stock and tomato paste to the pot and stir to combine
  6. Add vegetables and bring to the boil
  7. Add half the parsley and basil and season with salt and pepper
  8. Once boiling, lower temperature to a simmer and leave for two to three hours. You may occasionally need to add ½ cup of water every hour as it reduces quite a bit. Also check the salt and pepper levels and add more if needed
  9. Before serving, stir through left over parsley and basil
  10. You can serve this with pasta, rice or bread. Or, if you’re really strapped for cash and even the thought of spending 70c on a packet of spaghetti leaves you feeling ill, eat it on its own

Peach Torte

For the pastry:

1 ⅔ cup plain flour

½ cup caster sugar

125g cold butter, chopped

1 egg yolk

1 TBSP water, approximately

For the custard:

2 eggs

½ cup caster sugar

1 cup milk

1 cup cream

1 tsp vanilla essence

½ cup corn flour

50g butter

Plus you’ll need either a 825g tin of peaches – or, indeed, any other fruit such as pears, nectarines or apples.

Pastry

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced
  2. Place flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl and combine
  3. Rub in butter with your fingers until the mixture is like crumbly sand
  4. Add the egg yolk and mix in with your fingers
  5. Add enough water so that the pastry comes together but isn’t too wet. You want it to be kind of like the consistency of play dough. If you add too much, add a tiny bit more plain flour to balance it
  6. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  8. Then roll it out until it’s big enough to line a 24cm round loose-based flan tin. I admittedly don’t have one so used a cake tin with removable sides (there’s probably a technical name. God knows what it is). It seemed to work OK. BUT! Make sure the sides are removable, because you need to be able to get the thing out
  9. If you’re using store-bought pastry, simply cut to fit the tin and follow the next few steps
  10. Line the bottom with baking paper and on top of that, put rice or dried beans. This is to make sure the pastry doesn’t rise when you bake it
  11. Put it in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and take off the rice/beans and paper. Bake another 10 minutes and remove from oven again
  12. Leave to cool

Custard

  1. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a metal bowl
  2. Add the milk, cream and vanilla and whisk to combine
  3. Place this bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t actually touch the water. If you’re lucky enough to have a double-boiler, use this by all means. It’ll make life much easier
  4. Keep stirring so the eggs don’t scramble until the mixture starts to thicken
  5. Once it’s a little thicker, put the mixture into a medium-sized saucepan and put on the direct heat. In simpler terms, put it on the stove
  6. Add the corn flour and keep stirring until the mixture is custardy
  7. Take off the heat and add the butter, whisking until it’s mixed in
  8. Leave to cool

Now it’s time to assemble.

  1. Pour the custard into the tart (make sure everything’s room temperature). If you’re using bottled custard, simply pour it in straight from the bottle
  2. Arrange the slices of fruit on top in an aesthetically pleasing manner
  3. Serve

This was gone from our apartment within 24 hours. It’s especially good the next day, cold straight from the fridge.

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