It’s been a while since I talked food on the blog. And by that I mean real food, food which doesn’t always look pretty and isn’t formed in miniature pastry cases. Food which isn’t of the sweet variety and which can satisfy those lazy Sunday hunger pangs like nothing else.
Because as much as I love baking, I’m always extra chuffed with myself when I pull off a ‘proper’ meal from scratch, especially (as in this case) when it’s something I’ve never attempted before.
I have to admit that I’m not a total carnivore when it comes to food. I mean, of course, I enjoy meat but I wouldn’t cite a huge hunk of steak as my ideal meal, and if someone told me that as of tomorrow I needed to be a vegetarian it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I’d crave a bacon sarnie every once in a while no doubt, and Christmas dinner probably wouldn’t be as enjoyable but most of my day to day meals could quite easily have the meat omitted without too much drama.
My husband on the other hand, is the opposite. He loves red meat, probably would cite a hunk of steak as his ideal dinner and would probably find himself very sad every Sunday if he had to become a vegetarian. Once a year, on his birthday I book a table at a steak restaurant and try desperately to navigate my way through the sea of cuts and cooking options in the hope of finding something I enjoy, while he barely glances at the menu before sitting back looking pleased with himself.
A little while back I was commissioned by Scotch Beef to create a recipe for their website, and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Husband as excited about a blog project in my whole six years of blogging (and I’ve let him in on some pretty awesome adventures over the years).
At the time, we’d both been working pretty solidly (and often totally opposing schedules) so hadn’t had the chance to sit down and eat dinner together in what felt like forever. So, with a bit of date night ahead, I asked him to choose the beef dish he’d like most like to eat (something other than a steak or a roast of course as there aint much ‘recipe’ to those) and I’d do my best to create it for us.
The dish he chose was a beef wellington; something I’d only ever eaten once at a wedding, had never cooked and wasn’t at all sure I could make look pretty enough for a recipe feature. Plus, it involved something entitled a mushroom duxelle – which no-one (not even Jamie Oliver) seemed to be able to explain to me in full.
It was certainly a challenge.
But, although slightly fiddly in places, I was surprised to find that the adventurous Beef Wellington was not actually so difficult to make. It requires a bit of time (probably a weekend kind of dish) and there’s a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing while you wait for meat to rest, pastry to chill, gravy to reduce and so on, but you can also do a lot of the prep in advance, and the ‘final’ cooking time is actually only around 20-30 minutes (depending on preference) so it could be a good shout for a dinner party or your ‘Come Dine with Me’ winning meal.
The best part? Provided you get a good cut of meat (fillet is the best), there’s very little that can really go wrong and you’ll be serving up something that tastes delicious, even when it falls apart like a messy bundle on the plate.
Even I, as someone who isn’t a total red meat carnivore, had to admit defeat on this one, and accept just how darn tasty the beef was. Teamed with mushrooms, pastry, gravy and greens, it was a dinner I was pretty happy to eat for three evenings on the trot. As there was only the two of of us, I separated our 800g fillet of beef into two and made two miniature wellingtons instead. Because, as tasty as it was, there was no way we could have got through a full size one by ourselves and it would have been such a shame to throw such good quality meat away. This way we could freeze one half for a later date and enjoy this delicious Sunday dinner again a few weeks later.
So my particular recipe is designed as a ‘date night dinner’ – just enough for two to enjoy (with some left over for the following day). Double it if you’re feeding a bigger group. I also made a red wine gravy (as suggested by Gordon Ramsay) using beef bones (ask the butcher for these when you buy your fillet).
What you’ll need
For the Wellington
400g Scotch Beef Fillet
250g (1 pack) of wild or chestnut mushrooms
250g of puff pastry (I’m usually an advocate for making your own pastry but puff is so fiddly it’s hardly worth it)
A few springs of thyme
5 slices of parma ham
2 egg yolks beaten
salt and pepper
For the gravy
1 beef stock cube
1 bottle of red wine
a few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
How it’s done
1. The night before, wrap your beef fillet tightly in clingfilm to create the rounded shape you want for your wellington and then chill in the fridge overnight.
2. On the day you’re ready to cook, roll out your puff pastry into a large square and chill in the fridge while you work on the other sections (you could also do this the night before if you wanted).
3. Remove your beef fillet from the clingfilm and sear on all sides in a pan of olive oil for a minute or two, but keep the inside rare. Remove from the pan and place on a chopping board to cool.
4. In the meantime make your mushroom duxelle (I’m still a little unsure as to what a duxelle actually is but I gather you need to create a mushy mushroom paste). Chop up your mushrooms as finely as possible and fry with the leaves of one thyme sprig and some salt and pepper. Continue to cook over a high heat until the juices from the mushrooms have disappeared and you begin to get more of a soft paste (if using chestnut mushrooms like I did which are naturally firmer, they might not go completely paste like). Leave to cool.
“BB’s top tip – the smaller you cut the mushrooms, the easier they are to reduce into a paste. If you can cut them super finely and almost squash them a little before they go in the pan.”
5. Preheat your oven to around 180C. Roll out a sheet of clingfilm and place your parma ham slices in a row, overlapping slightly to create a square.
6. Place the mushroom duxelle on top of the Parma ham and spread evenly, keeping a space free around the edge of the Parma ham square
7. Place your seared beef fillet in the centre of the square and then using the clingfilm carefully wrap the Parma ham and mushroom duxelle around the beef. Use spare ham to cover up any holes.
“BB’s top tip – don’t worry if it looks a little messy at this stage (Parma ham is naturally thin and breaks easily) as once you add the pastry it will lock it all in”
8. Wrap the clingfilm around the beef tightly and tie at the ends and then chill in the fridge for around 30 minutes.
9. In the meantime begin your red wine gravy. Boil the beef bones along with the thyme and bay leaf in 750ml of beef stock. Bring to the boil then add a bottle of red wine. Reduce heat and simmer for around 1 hour or until the sauce has reduced and thickened to your liking.
10. Remove your rolled out puff pastry from the fridge and brush with egg wash
11. Once the beef has chilled, remove the clingfilm and lay in the centre of your puff pastry square. Fold the pastry around the beef and press together to seal. Pull the sides in like a parcel and press to seal. Flip the wrapped beef over so the fold is underneath and score lightly.
12. Place on a baking tray and cook in the middle of your oven for around 20 mins (for rare), 30 mins (for medium) and until the pastry has turned golden brown.
13. Remove beef bones from your gravy and drain through a sieve. Pour into a gravy boat ready to serve.
14. Remove the Wellington from the oven, cut into slices and serve with the gravy and some greens.