Treat Your Beef With The Respect It Deserves.
A classic British recipe, named after the first Duke of Wellington, who triumphed over the famous War General, Napoleon Bonaparte. Although Arthur Wellesley, as he was known before he received his title, was not particularly interested in food (much to his chef’s despair) – the dish was created for him in his honour at some point during the 19th Century to celebrate his great victory over the French.
Although historical recipes may vary greatly, there is a uniformly traditional way of forming the dish – which is now deemed to be one of the Great British Classics. Adopted around the world as a culinary speciality, it may seem like a tricky meal to create, but with the right techniques (and the best Cornish ingredients!) you can easily whip up this show stopper and impress your friends at your next big dinner party.
Before you even consider whipping up your pastry, press that little rewind button and have a think about where you’re getting your meat from.
Beef Wellington, at it’s heart, is British Cuisine at it’s most indulgent and explosive. The marriage of rich gravy, Madeira and duxelles is one made in heaven, but it’s still possible to make a hash of it.
The first error that most would-be chefs make, is investing in an inferior piece of meat. Of course, you could head to your nearest TESCO, you can pick up a kilo of decent quality beef fillet. This would normally put you back around £30 and would give you enough meat to feed 6, (along with sides to serve it with). But the age old adage with beef tends to be true: ‘You get what you pay for’.
This dish is a celebration meal, something that elevates a normal dinner party to banquet status. What’s the point in presenting a gorgeously baked Wellington, that only disappoints the diner when they take a bite?
This is your chance to really push the boat out. A decent butcher that sources his meat locally will cost you more dollar, but will almost certainly raise your Wellington’s fame. Fork out £40-50 for your beef and it will virtually cook itself.
A good quality Wellington only needs a handful of techniques to achieve success.
Although purists will insist that all pastry should be hand-made, you can buy the pre-made stuff. It takes off one worrying chore for you and will leave you with more time to get the important stuff right; namely the duxelles and the wrapping process.
Your duxelles is the finely chopped mixture of mushroom, breadcrumbs and herbs that lines your steak and protects it from the heat of the oven. Recipes vary, but I would always recommend Rosemary with Beef. Using a mixture of mushrooms (grab some dried Porcini if you can) will also lend your Wellington a greater depth of flavour. If you’re really looking to plumb the depths of decadence then you can grab some truffle oil from a high-end delicatessen, pushing the cost up, but the flavour through the stratosphere.
Once everything’s wrapped up and put in the oven, you can make a start on whatever sides you care to serve. A sharp, but sweet, red cabbage always goes well, just make sure that your Wellington remains the star of the show and you don’t try and overcrowd the plate.
Respect your Beef: Make Wellington.