Yee Haa – This year I finally mastered the Beef Wellington that has become the ‘Xmas Tradition’ in this Mancunian Household. Most of my family aren’t very keen on Turkey so although I do cook a Turkey Breast as Xmas is Xmas for me without the taste of Turkey and stuffing, our ‘main dish’ is the traditional British Beef Wellington.
History of Beef Wellington
“A national hero for defeating Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, Arthur Wellesley was made the first Duke of Wellington. He loved a dish of beef, mushrooms, truffles, Madeira wine, and pâtécooked in pastry, which has been named in his honor.
HISTORY OF BEEF WELLINGTON The Duke of Wellington, who won the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, was quite indifferent to food, so much so that his cooks often gave notice, despairing of using their culinary talents in his household. In spite of this, his name has been given to a fillet of beef, wrapped in puff pasty, so called perhaps because in its larger version the finished product looks like a highly polished riding or Wellington boot.”
As this dish is steeped in British History, it feels like an appropriate replacement to eat on Xmas Day although it’s not a ‘cheap’ replacement as it’s made with prime fillet steak!
It’s always ‘touch and go’ whether or not I succeed in cooking the beef to my families ‘varied tastes’.. Some like it quite rare and others don’t like the sight of ‘blood’! This year I think I mastered the art of pleasing everyone (well nearly.. ).
I did most of the preparation on Xmas Eve which meant everything just had to have a final ‘put together’ on Xmas Day and left me lots of time to enjoy the festivities with my family and particularly my adorable granddaughters!
This is also a great dish to serve for the New Year’s Day or on New Year’s Eve if you’re ‘partying at home’ rather than ‘painting the town red’ (where does that saying come from? I dread to think haha)!
Fillet of Beef (the middle section of the fillet which is more evenly sized) – I used the whole middle section which was enough to feed a greedy family of 7 adults… with a bit to spare ..
- 1 Large Fillet of Beef
- 2 packets of ready rolled puff pastry (much easier) – I used Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Puff Pastry and it did work really well! (for UK shoppers)..
- 1 egg (beaten lightly for brushing over the pastry)
- 750 grammes mushrooms – (I used a mixture of chestnut and flat – chopped very finely in the blender to a ‘breadcrumb’ size)
- 1 red onion – fried off and then chopped very finely in blender
- Clove of garlic or garlic paste (to taste – not too much)
- Red wine (you can also use white wine/sherry/madeira)
- Salt & Pepper to season the mushroom and the beef
- Olive (or alternative) vegetable oil for the mushroom duxelle
- Goose fat (or vegetable oil) to sear the beef
Prosciutto (this kind)… – I used Aldi’s selection but if you have a good fresh deli counter that would be fine. I’ve also made this with streaky bacon which I’ve fried/grilled off and then patted dry between paper towels.
You will also need a large frying pan, a large baking tray, cling film and a rolling pin..
First prepare the mushroom duxelle (this can be done the day before and refrigerated) as follows:
- On a low-medium heat, fry off the finely chopped onion, mushrooms, in olive or vegetable oil and toward the end of cooking add the garlic. The mixture should be cooked slowly so that it cooks down to a mushy consistency and after the first few minutes of cooking add some red wine (or alternative sherry etc.) – I add about a small wine glass full (possibly a drop more.. ). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook down the mixture until the liquid has been absorbed and you are left with a mushy mixture of flavoured mushrooms which can be put to one side to cool.
- Once the mushroom duxelle has cooled, cover a large baking tray with a layer of cling film then place a layer of the prosciutto onto the cling film and then cover this with a layer of the mushroom mix. Cover this with another layer of cling film and then using a rolling pin, roll over the mushroom mixture so that it spreads in a thin layer over the prosciutto. This doesn’t look particularly nice at this stage but tastes lovely!
- Keeping the cling film ‘in situ’ to hold the mixture in place, put this in the fridge to cool and this can remain refrigerated overnight or until you are ready to wrap the fillet of beef for cooking.
Prepare the Fillet of Beef: This is better done in advance as it needs time to thoroughly cool and can be partially prepared the night before or early in the morning as follows:
- Season the fillet of beef with salt & pepper (I like to put plenty on and ensure that all the main surface has some seasoning on it). You can add mustard onto the beef if you fancy some added flavour (I don’t..)
- Heat some goose fat (or alternatively oil/butter) in a frying pan on a high heat until the oil starts to smoke (slightly)
- Place the fillet into the heated oil in the frying pan and allow the surface to sear and after a minute or so, turn the fillet over and repeat. Do this for all the surface area of the fillet of beef including both ends. This is to hold in the juices of the meat when you cook in the pastry later. It’s important to cook this on a high heat so that the exterior is ‘seared’ whilst leaving the interior of the beef uncooked at this stage.
- Now you have a choice, depending on how you like the beef to be cooked. If you like the beef very rare, leave out this next stage but if you like the beef to retain a pink middle but to have ends that aren’t pink to suit varied tastes then place the seared beef in the oven on a medium heat (gas mark 4 or 180 degrees) for around 20 minutes then take out of the oven.
- Cool the fillet of beef and once cool, tightly wrap it in a piece of cling film so that it’s shaped like a sausage and place in the fridge to cool (overnight is fine or for a couple of hours in the morning).
- 1 hour before you are going to cook the beef, remove from the fridge so that the beef comes back to room temperature and during this time also take the puff pastry out of the fridge so that it isn’t too cold – about 15 mins at room temperature is fine as it makes it slightly easier to work with than if it comes straight out of the fridge. (You don’t want it too warm though)
- Take the mushroom/prosciutto out of the fridge and remove from the baking tray onto a flat surface.
- Put greaseproof paper onto the baking tray (cut to size so that it just covers the base of the tray.
- Take one sheet of the ready rolled puff pastry and place onto the grease proof paper on the baking tray.
- Peel off the top layer of cling film off the mushroom/prosciutto and place the beef onto it and use the bottom layer of cling film to wrap the mushroom and prociutto around the beef.
- Place the covered beef onto the sheet of puff pastry. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg yolk around the edge of the puff pastry. Take the 2nd sheet of puff pastry and spread over the top of the beef to cover it. Use a sharp knife to trim off the excess pastry and then use a fork to seal the top and bottom layer of pastry together.
- Score lightly over the surface of the pastry without piercing it.
- Brush over the pastry with egg yolk, cover with cling film and place back in the fridge for minimum 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6 (200 degrees celsius)
- Remove Beef Wellington from the fridge and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Rest for at least 10 minutes before serving…