There are few dishes as quintessentially English as the Beef Wellington, which has been a stalwart of traditional British cuisine for decades. Theories are abound as to the origins of the name - many say the dish was created in honour of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, acknowledging his fondness for beef, pate and Madeira wine, while some attribute the name to the cooked dish's resemblance to a Wellington boot.
In any case, the Beef Wellington makes for a superb, classically English family meal - perfect with a glass of good red wine for a St. George's Day feast. Try serving with creamed potatoes and roasted parsnips.
1kg beef fillet
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for greasing
5 - 6 thin slices prosciutto
Plain flour, for dusting
500g pack all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
For the mushroom
20g dried porcini mushrooms
400g chestnut or button mushrooms, roughly sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaf
1 large shallot, finely chopped
splash of Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
For the gravy
1 shallot, finely chopped
Sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp plain flour
Splash of brandy (optional)
Glass of red wine
1 beef stock cube
1. First soak the dried porcini in 400ml in hot water and
set aside. Pat the beef fillet with kitchen paper to dry it of any blood then
season with salt and then with black pepper.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large
frying pan until very hot - it will take about 8-10 minutes to completely sear the
fillet with tongs until its well browned on all sides. Set the beef aside.
3. Drain and squeeze out the dried porcini but reserve the
juice and tip the porcini into a food processor with the other mushrooms and thyme.
Season everything with salt and pepper and pulse until finely chopped but not
4. Place the beef pan back on the heat with the butter and when
it starts to sizzle add the shallot and cook for 2 minutes until softened. Turn
the heat up and tip in the mushrooms, add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and
cook everything for 10-12 minutes until you have a paste. Tip into a bowl to
cool,( stir through the parmesan if using )and set aside. The beef can be
seared and the mushroom mixture can be made several hours in advance.
5. For the first stage of assembly get a large sheet of
cling film and overlap the prosciutto slices on it in a row, tip the mushroom
mix on top then cover with another sheet of cling film, pat it down or roll it
out to a thin layer that just covers the prosciutto.
6. Remove the top sheet of
cling film and sit the fillet down the centre of the mushrooms. Using the edge
of the cling film lift and roll the prosciutto and mushrooms to encase the beef
then use the cling film to roll everything into a tight sausage. For the best
results now place the sausage in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up – do not leave for longer.
7. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry to a
rectangle & trim the edges to neaten and save the trimmings. Lightly brush
the pastry all over with beaten egg. Carefully unwrap the prosciutto parcel and
lay in the middle of the pastry. Like wrapping a parcel or making a spring roll
fold the shorter edges over the fillet then roll the whole thing around the
fillet to encase.
8. For a really neat finish get another clean sheet of cling
film and roll the Wellington into a sausage tight sausage again. Place in the
fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to a day.
9. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 with a sturdy, lightly
oiled baking tray in it. Re-roll the pastry trimmings and use to make 6 leaves.
Unwrap the Wellington, brush all over with egg then decorate with the leaves.
Brush the leaves with more egg.
10. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and transfer,
sealed side down to the heated baking tray.
Bake the for 10 minutes then reduce the heat of the oven to
200C/180C fan/gas 6 and continue to bake for 25 minutes for rare meat, 30
minutes for medium rare, 35 minutes for medium and about 45 minutes for
well-done, making sure the pastry doesn’t burn. Remove from the oven and leave
for 10 minutes to relax.
11. To make the gravy, heat the butter in the mushroom pan
and fry the shallot, thyme and bay, scraping the crispy bits of the pan with a wooden
spoon. Scatter over the flour and brown then splash in the brandy, sizzle for a
minute, then add the red wine and boil to a purple paste. Pour in the mushroom
soaking liquid, avoiding the gritty bits at the bottom, crumble in the stock
cube and any juice from the resting beef and simmer for 5 minutes, season to taste.
12. Using a very sharp knife carefully carve the Wellington
into 6 thick slices. You can trim the pastry ends and serve them separately. Serve
on heated plates with a jug of gravy.