There are a few dishes I have been scared of trying because of the potential for disaster. This is one of them. Beef Wellington has always struck me as putting a blindfold on, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
There is no way of knowing whether the beef within the pastry case is done to your liking or not because you can hardly break open the parcel to give the meat a squeeze.
But then serendipity happened: For Christmas, I was given a chateaubriand– that’s a hunk of beef fillet, cut from the middle – and Jamie Oliver’s ‘Comfort Food’ cookbook, which happened to fall open at page 134. And so, it was time to put my anxieties to bed and get cracking on one of the most spectacular Sunday lunches I’ve ever made.
If I can do it, so can you, so crack your knuckles and give it a whirl.
700g centre fillet of beef, trimmed
2 large knobs unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves
400g mixed mushrooms
100g chicken livers, cleaned
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
40g fresh breadcrumbs
Block of puff pastry, around 300g in weight
For the gravy
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp blackcurrant jam
100ml Madeira wine
1 tsp English mustard
2 tbsp plain flour
400ml beef stock
1. Preheat a large frying pan on a high heat. Rub the beef all over with salt and pepper. Pour a glug of oil into the pan, then add the beef, 1 knob of butter and 1 sprig of rosemary.
2. Sear the beef for 4 minutes in total, turning regularly with tongs, then remove to a plate.
3. Wipe out the pan and return to a medium heat. Peel the onion and garlic, then very finely chop with the mushrooms and put into the pan with the remaining knob of butter and another glug of oil.
4. Strip in the rest of the rosemary leaves and cook for 15 minutes or until soft and starting to caramelise, stirring regularly.
5. Toss the livers and Worcestershire sauce into the pan and cook for another few minutes, then tip the contents onto a large board and finely chop it all by hand with a big knife to a spreadable consistency. Taste and season, then stir in the breadcrumbs.
6. Preheat the oven to 210C/Gas 7. On a flour-dusted surface, roll out pastry to 30cm x 40cm.
7. Spread the pate over the pastry, then lay the seared beef on top of the pate, in the middle, so that you have a lot of pastry border to wrap around the beef.
8. Egg wash the edges of the pastry, then carefully lift the edge of the pastry furthest away from you and bring it over the beef to create a parcel. Press both sides of the pastry together to seal, then seal it even more securely by pressing a fork all around the edges of the pastry. Your Wellington will now look like a giant Cornish pasty or a calzone pizza.
(NOTE: Jamie recommends rolling it into a log which, on reflection, would have made for a tighter seal as mine ended up a bit loose when I cut into it, with the beef rattling around in the pastry case. A snugger fit would be ideal.)
9. Transfer the Wellington to a large baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Brush over with egg wash.
10. When you’re ready to cook, heat the tray on the hob for a couple of minutes to start crisping the base, then transfer to the oven and cook for 40 minutes for juicy ‘blushing’ beef.
11. Meanwhile, for the gravy peel and roughly chop the onions and put into a large pan on a medium heat with a glug of oil and the thyme leaves. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in the jam and simmer until shiny and quite dark.
12. Add the Madeira, flame with a match, cook away and stir in the mustard and flour, gradually followed by the stock. Simmer until you have the consistency you like, then bled with a stick blender and pass through a sieve (or leave chunky).
13. Once cooked, rest the Wellington for 5 minutes and carve into 2cm-thick slices and serve with gravy and steamed Brussels sprouts.