Beef Wellington is a very traditional dish of beef wrapped in pastry. The origin of the name cannot be confirmed, and it is by no means certain that the dish originated in England as the name suggests. Rather, Wikipedia offers the notion that the dish is a patriotic response to the earlier French meal, Boeuf en Croute. I favour this over any other reason, mainly because the ingredients are perhaps more French than English.
This is a great meal to impress friends at a dinner party, especially since it can be prepared the day before, then baked and served for the event.
The following recipe comes from The Butcher written by the appropriately named Leanne Kitchen.
- 180g butter (softened)
- 3 shallots, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 360g chicken livers, trimmed
- 1 tablespoon of Brandy or Cognac
- 1 kg piece of thick beef fillet
- 30g dripping or clarified butter
- 600g ready made puff pastry
- 1 egg lightly beaten
To make the pate melt half the butter in a frying pan and add the shallot and garlic. Cook over a low to medium heat until softened but not browned.
Rinse the chicken livers and pat dry with paper towels. Increase the heat in the pan to medium-high and add the livers. Saute for 4-5 minutes or until cooked. They should still be a little pink in the middle. Allow to cool everything completely then tip into a food processor with the remaining butter and brandy. Blend until smooth, then season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Using kitchen string tie the beef fillet up so that it is an even thickness along it’s length. Alternatively ask your butcher for a fillet of equal thickness (likely to be shorter). Heat the dripping in a flameproof roasting tin, add the beef and sear at a medium-high heat until brown all over. Transfer to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. If you used string now is a good time to remove it. The meat will hold its shape.
Meanwhile reduce the oven to 200ºC. Roll the pastry into a rectangle shape big enough to fully enclose the beef. Spread the pate you prepared earlier (you could of course use a commercially available pate) leaving a 1cm border around the edge. Brush the border with beaten egg.
Lay the beef fillet on the party. Ensure that there are no residual juices as you don’t want it leaking through the pastry. Wrap the beef up like a parcel, pressing all seams together and folding the ends under. Put the parcel, seam side down, on a baking tray and brush all over with beaten egg. Use excess pastry to decorate the parcel, and also brush with egg.
Bake for 25-30 minutes for rare beef, or 35-40 minutes for medium, based on a 1 kg fillet. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before carving.
It’s vitally important that you sear the outside of the beef well as this will help retain the meat juices inside and prevent spoiling of the pastry. You can prepare the dish well in advance of your meal and then simply bake once your guests have arrived.
Some recipes suggest wrapping the beef in a crepe, perhaps further evidence of it’s French origins. This will also help to retain juice and stop the pastry from spoiling.
One thing is for sure, if you do this right you’ll be the toast of the dinner party!
Photographs courtesy of David Blaine on Flickr