So, how was your Christmas? Mine was absolutely brilliant – filled with good wine, good food, good presents and extremely good company. Even the bit where I accidentally chopped the tip of my engagement-ring finger off whilst slicing potatoes was OK, if only because I ensured that I drank enough afterwards to distract my brain from the fact I was dripping blood all over the kitchen floor. It’s at this point that I should probably give thanks to every God I’ve ever prayed to for the presence of my almost husband. Thanks to him, we managed to get Christmas Dinner on the table. This was achieved via a very clever method of me shouting instructions at him from the living room whilst he prepped potatoes and sauteed sprouts. He now knows the secret to a good roast potato, so at least he won’t starve if I somehow one-up myself by chopping my arm off next Christmas or some such.
Oh well, at least I managed to complete my piéce de resistance prior to my little accident, it being a rather impressive Beef Wellington. Beef Wellington is one of those things that I’d always wanted to make, but had been slightly terrified of in a totally irrational way. So many components to get right! So much faffing! What if I tried to combine the whole lot and it just fell apart in one huge horrible flabby mess? Could I really cope with that level of pressure in the kitchen? Wouldn’t it be easier to just call out for a takeaway instead?
As it was, it turned out to be all right on the night. Being a cheaty-cheaty-Mc-Cheater, I opted to use ready made Puff Pastry instead of making my own (somehow I thought that attempting that for the first time on top of making the Beef Wellington might turn out to be a feat too far), and whilst there was one point where I fretted that the whole lot was going to tear apart on me, I managed to cover up all the wonky bits with some little hearts I cut out of leftover bits of pastry. The end result was delicious – rich with paté and mushrooms, and a deliciously salty bite from the parma ham I’d wrapped around the beef fillet. We ate huge slices of it whilst watching terrible Christmas television, and the leftovers for breakfast the next day. Washed down with Pinot Noir, it was a centrepiece fit to serve to Santa. Although he’d have had to wrestle his portion out of the hands of my very greedy self first.
You Will Need:
- a good beef fillet of around 1kg/2lb 4oz
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 250g chestnut mushrooms
- 50g butter
- 1 large sprig fresh thyme
- 100ml dry white wine
- 12 slices prosciutto
- 125g good quality paté (I used some really good Chicken Liver paté I got from Abel & Cole, and I know some people recommend Foie Gras as well)
- 500g/1lb 2oz puff pastry (obviously, it’s better to make your own, but I used the stuff from a pack and it turned out perfectly)
- a little flour, for dusting
- 2 egg yolks beaten with 1 tsp water
- Season the beef with the oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large frying pan until very hot, then add the beef and cook briefly, turning occasionally, until golden-brown on all sides
- Remove the beef and allow to cool for 20 minutes or so. Whilst you’re doing this, chop the mushrooms as finely as possible. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil and all the butter in a large pan and fry the mushrooms on a medium heat, with the thyme sprig, for about 10 mins, until you have a softened mixture. Season the mushroom mixture, pour over the wine and cook for about 10 mins until all the wine has been absorbed. Then, add the tub of paté to the mushrooms. The mixture should hold its shape when stirred. Remove the mushroom duxelle from the pan to cool and discard the thyme. If there’s any wine left over, you might want to have a glass of it at this point.
- Roll out a piece of cling film over a large chopping board. Lay the prosciutto on the cling film, slightly overlapping, in a row. Spread half of the mushrooms over the prosciutto, then sit the fillet on it and spread the remaining duxelles over. Use the cling film’s edges to draw the prosciutto around the fillet, then roll it into a sausage shape, twisting the ends of cling film to tighten it as you go. Chill the fillet while you roll out the pastry. Drink some more wine. You’re going to need it for the next bit.
- Roll out a third of the pastry to a 18 x 30cm strip and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Roll out the remaining pastry to about 28 x 36cm. Unravel the fillet from the cling film and sit it in the centre of the smaller strip of pastry and brush the pastry’s edges, the top and sides of the wrapped fillet, with beaten egg yolk. Using a rolling pin (or a wine bottle if there’s no rolling pins handy), carefully lift and drape the larger piece of pastry over the fillet, pressing well into the sides. Trim the joins to about a 4cm rim. Seal the rim with the edge of a fork or spoon handle. Glaze all over with more egg yolk and, using the back of a knife, mark the beef Wellington with long diagonal lines taking care not to cut into the pastry. If the pastry is looking a bit thin in some areas, patch it up with some leftover bits of dough – cut it into nice shapes if you want, you just want to make sure that the whole package is sealed tightly, and 100% air-free. Chill for at least 30 mins and up to 24 hrs. (You can prepare this the night before if you’re more prepared than I am – if you want to make it on the same day you intend to eat it, just make sure you’ve left yourself with plenty of time)
- Heat your oven to 200C/gas 6. Brush the Wellington with a little more egg yolk and cook until golden and crisp – 20-25 mins for medium-rare beef, 30 mins for medium. Allow to stand for 10 mins before serving in thick slices with roasted potatoes and lots of gravy.