Despite popular belief, the Beef Wellington has no known association with the Duke of that name other than sharing a common name. In fact, the first appearance of the name was in the Los Angeles Times just over one hundred years ago when there was a recipe for “Fillet of beef, a la Wellington” however this wasn’t anything like the beef wellington we know and love today. The modern form seems to have only existed for around forty years, however it is very similar to other dishes such as Salmon en Croûte so it could have been around for longer.
Traditionally made with fillet steak, pate de foie gras, mushroom duxelle and puff pastry, the Beef Wellington is rich and filling. It is often wrapped in a crepe before the pastry is added as this prevents the juices turning the pastry soggy! I have found that making a good mushroom duxelle prevents this, so you don’t need to worry about making a fiddly crepe for my recipe below. If you sear the meat properly and make sure all the liquid is absorbed or evaporated off when you make the mushroom mix, there will be a good seal to prevent any juices from leaking out! Although I don’t do it myself, it is not uncommon for people to wrap the duxelle covered wellington in parma ham instead of a crepe.
No single part of Beef Wellington takes more than 10 minutes at most (excluding the cooking) however after each step, the ingredients must be cooled. This is an absolute must as if the beef or the mushroom is warm, the butter in the pastry will melt resulting in the pastry sliding straight off the meat in the oven!
In my recipe, I do not use foie gras or the crepe as I don’t have time to make them and I am trying to do all of this on a student budget. Personally I don’t feel like the flavour of the dish was inhibited by this however if you want to add them, the foie gras is spread over the meat before the duxelle, and then the crepe is wrapped around everything before the pastry is added!
Serves 2 or 4 (makes 2 large portions or 4 smaller half wellingtons)
Prep time: 20 minutes Rest time: 1 hour Cook time: 30 minutes
Price per portions – £3.10 if you make two or £1.55 if you make four
2 fillet steaks (about 340g meat)
One large packet of puff pastry (I use prerolled for this)
250g chestnut mushrooms
4 spring onions or one shallot
Butter (or oil) for frying
Salt and Pepper
1 egg – beaten
Sprig of thyme (small)
60ml sherry, madeira or white wine
One small clove of garlic
First prepare the mushroom duxelle.
Finely chop the mushrooms and spring onions (or shallot).
Melt the butter in a pan and once it starts bubbling, add the mushrooms and shallots.
Fry for a minute stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Add in 60ml water (or the wine) along with the salt and pepper (and the thyme and garlic if you are using it – normally I would never condone the use of only one clove or garlic however this is such a small recipe for duxelle that any more garlic would overpower everything!)
Keep stirring the mixture until all the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated – this should take about 5-10 minutes.
Once the liquid has evaporated, you should be left with a paste which holds its shape when stirred. Remove this from the heat and let cool.
While the duxelle is cooling, heat up a frying pan with some olive oil or butter.
Add the beef and fry for 1-2 minutes on one side to sear the meat. Then sear the edges but not the other side. You want the pan to be very hot so you can caramelise the outside of the beef but not cook the inside.
Once the beef is seared, remove it from the pan and let it cool for 10 minutes. Cut in half width wise and place the unseared sides together to get smaller but taller pieces of meat.
Once the beef and duxelle have cooled, it’s time to assemble the wellingtons!
Cut your pastry in half as you will be making two wellingtons. If you are using prerolled pastry, place it on a surface and roll it out a little bit more to add another inch or two so it will definitely cover the meat. Cut this piece in half again for the top and bottom pieces of pastry.
Spread a small amount of duxelle onto the lower piece leaving room around the edges and place one of the pieces of meat on top of it.
Add more duxelle around the sides and on the top of the meat sealing it in to prevent the juices escaping and the pasty going soggy.
Top with the other half of the pastry using a small amount of beaten egg around the outside to seal the pastry together – try not to have any air bubbles.
Using a fork, press down around the edge of the wellington to make sure the pastry has sealed together.
Repeat this with the remaining meat, pastry and duxelle and place the wellingtons in the fridge for at least half an hour – they can be left like this for several hours if you prepare in advance.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C)
Remove the wellingtons from the fridge and lightly brush them with the remaining beaten egg.
Bake for half an hour turning at around 20 minutes for medium rare beef.
Let the wellingtons sit for 5-10 minutes before serving so the meat isn’t tough (cover them with some silver foil to prevent them getting too cold!)
I hope you enjoyed this recipe, let me know what you think in the comments below! If you fancy making something a little Christmassy for next week, check out my Gingerbread House recipe or for another yummy dinner, try my sticky salmon, it’s not to be missed!
Join me next week on Christmas Day for an incredibly festive Yule Log – it’s quick and easy and can be made up in no more than two hours so is perfect for a last minute dessert!