Beef Wellington – with Scotch Beef from Alex Mitchell:
There are certain recipes I’ve always hesitated to try. Beef Wellington is one such dish – if I’m honest I’m still not brave enough to try the real thing. A proper beef Wellington is made with a whole or half fillet of beef (depending on how many people you are cooking for). If like me, you choose to eat good quality, grass fed beef, that’s something that simply doesn’t come cheap. At Alex Mitchell, the online Scotch Beef suppliers who sent me my fillet steaks, a whole fillet is over £100! Once you have encased your beef in pastry it’s impossible to see the end result. Normally when I am cooking an expensive cut of meat I rely on a meat thermometer to test the temperature. Maybe I’m mistaken, but sticking a thermometer through the pastry case of a beef Wellington would spoil the end result – and without my thermometer, I am lost.
On the other hand, in many ways, a beef Wellington is the perfect dish to cook when you are entertaining. While you can’t completely pre-cook it, it’s quite acceptable to make up the pastry case ahead of time. And, to finish the dish, you just bake in a pre-heated oven. So, there’s no last minute frying or grilling. How to compromise between a possible costly disaster if you overcook the beef and the convenience of serving up a show-stopping steak dish? Individual beef Wellingtons of course!
I’ve been experimenting a bit with how to make a perfect individual beef Wellington. I’ve checked out Felicity Cloake’s feature on cooking the perfect beef Wellington – but her version is the scary ‘whole piece of fillet’. I’ve tried with and without chicken liver pate. I’ve tried with and without pre-sealing the meat. And, I’ve based my duxelles on a recipe I found on The Food Network but added a little fresh parsley and thyme. I’m not a pastry expert and I don’t have the time or energy (usually) to make my own puff or flaky pastry. When I DO make my own, it’s to freeze and since there’s none in the freezer right now, I’ve used bought, all butter puff pastry (I’ve tried Tesco’s finest and Dorset Pastry premium puff pastry both of which worked fine).
What is essential for this dish is excellent fillet steak. Using Scotch Beef PGI is a good way to make sure that will always be the case their beef is sourced from selected Scottish farms that have to follow a stringent set of criteria right the way through the whole life of the animal. Their assurance scheme even controls how the meat is butchered, classified and then chilled. All their beef is grass fed, it has a sweetness and texture which is completely different to corn fed beef. And, all their meat is from cattle that are only treated with antibiotics if they are unwell – not to make them grow faster! Like all food and drink, the ‘terroir’ of Scotland is important. It is the lush grassland and abundance of fresh water that helps to give Scotch Beef a unique flavour.
Now, I think this is the perfect dish for Valentine’s day. As I mentioned, you can make most of it up ahead of time (and actually should do so, because the mushroom duxelles needs to cool). Individual beef Wellingtons take around 12 minutes to cook and then a further 5 minutes resting (for a medium rare steak). It is probably the easiest way I’ve found to cook a perfect steak. And, that time when your beef Wellingtons are in the oven or resting can be put to much better use on Valentine’s day don’t you think?
Disclaimer: I was sent samples of Scotch Beef and a selection of ingredients in order to make a dish for Valentine’s Day.