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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. So the solution for me is to make individual Beef Wellingtons.
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 – and they also have the advantage that you can adjust the way the steak is cooked to suit every guest
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.
- 2 Fillet Steaks The size will, of course, depend on who you are cooking for. Mine were 125g each
- 400 g Chestnut Mushrooms Finely chopped
- 2 Banana Shallots Finely chopped
- 3 Cloves Garlic Finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 100 ml Dry White Wine
- 1 Small Egg Beaten
- 1 packet All Butter Puff Pastry or home made!
- 1 handful Fresh Soft Herbs I used parsley and thyme
- Salt and Pepper
- 100 g Chicken Liver Pate
- Step 1 Make the mushroom duxelles by gently frying the shallots and garlic in butter for a minute
- Step 2 Add the chopped mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and continue to cook until most of the liquid has gone (about 10 minutes)
- Step 3 Add the white wine and reduce down till almost dry. Stir through the finely chopped soft herbs and allow the mixture to cool
- Step 4 Roll out the pastry on a floured board. It should be no more than 1/4cm thick and rolled into an oblong large enough to take both steaks along the 'long' middle and to fold up the pastry over the meat
- Step 5 Heat a skillet till very hot. Seal the steak on all sides as quickly as possible. It shouldn't be allowed to cook - this should take about a minute in total
- Step 6 Allow the meat to cool. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220c or 220c for a fan oven
- Step 7 Spread the steaks with pate (if you are using it) and lay pate side down so that each steak has one edge running along the centre of the rolled out pastry and there will be sufficient space to allow you to cut along the middle of the pastry leaving space to seal.
- Step 8 Top the steaks with the mushroom duxelles.
- Step 9 Cut down the middle of the pastry, between the two steaks. Using a pastry brush, paint around all the edges with egg.
- Step 10 Fold the pastry over the steak to make a neat parcel. Crimp the edges. Now paint the top of each parcel with egg, right down to the crimped edges and roll the edges over again to seal completely
- Step 11 Put the steaks on a baking tray and place in the oven for 12 minutes (rare) to 15 minutes (medium rare) 18 minutes (medium) or 20 minutes (well done)
- Step 12 Remove the steaks and allow to rest on a warm plate for 5 minutes. Garnish with watercress or steamed spinach and serve. You can use any remaining mushroom duxelles warmed up with a tablespoon of double cream as a sauce.
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? If you want to really relax, why not try my Spiced Beef and Guinness Casserole with Orange – that can be made in advance!
Disclaimer: I was sent samples of Scotch Beef and a selection of ingredients in order to make a dish for Valentine’s Day.