Sometimes it’s difficult to make dishes fit into the TimedEating approach of not having to do too much last minute. For others, like Beef Wellington, they’re purpose built already. Beef Wellington is that perfect dish which is incredibly tasty, not very technical and can be made ready to go into the oven up to two days before you actually cook it. It’s something for special occasions but a beef fillet (tenderloin) encased in savoury mushrooms with bacon and a crispy puff pastry filling is one of the great classics – everyone should know how to make Beef Wellington.
Recently we had a lovely evening with some of our closest friends. They’re always amazing company and since she’s pregnant it’s a perfect fit for dry January. Now, G and I may have decided to abstain from booze for January but I in no way believe that January has to be filled with kale smoothies and wheatgrass shots. Winter in the UK is cold and sometimes you need a winter warmer. Beef Wellington with roast potatoes (here are my secrets for perfect roast potatoes) followed by apple and cherry crumble was just the ticket and I definitely earned my run the next morning.
Beef Wellington is about doing a few simple steps well; Roasting and seasoning your meat well, choosing and preparing tasty filling, cooling your filling so as to keep the butter in the pastry from melting and finally keeping the pastry from getting soggy. I’ve made Beef Wellington many times and it was one of the first recipes they taught us in cookery school when learning to make puff pastry (I know just buy it because life’s too short and store bought is good quality). Over those many times I’ve honed in on the fillings that I truly love, a perfect mushroom duxelle, some French mustard and bacon. I don’t believe in gilding the lily with paté or foie gras; Beef Wellington is already expensive enough and it really doesn’t need it. I also don’t add any cream to my mushrooms, as I don’t think you need it.
However, every time I used to cook Beef Wellington, it used to be a bit of a lucky dip whether that Beef Wellington would have a soggy bottom or not. I don’t believe in pancakes as they’re an unnecessary step, make the Beef Wellington taste less nice (a cardinal sin) and don’t even always work. Then I read the work of Kenji Lopez-Alt over at seriouseats.com. One simple step, wrap the beef and fillings in one layer of filo pastry before wrapping in puff pastry. Filo is designed to be fairly impermeable – something which makes it so easy to fill it with waterlogged spinach and stay crispy (like in this recipe I learned on honeymoon). Kenji, my good sir, you’re a genius and I thoroughly recommend his blog.
I hope you like the recipe as much as I do.
Ingredients: (Serves 4 comfortably)
- 800g beef fillet (tenderloin) – ask your butcher for the centre cut (see tip below) and make sure it is well trimmed
- 500g mushroom (I like to use chestnut, or occasionally if I can get them a mix of wild mushrooms)
- 8-10 slices of unsmoked streaky bacon or pancetta(they should be as long as your fillet, if not then you may need more and thinly sliced)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (hot english mustard also works well)
- 3-4 sheets filo pastry (depends on how large the sheets are, you need enough to cover in one layer)
- 350g all butter puff pastry, thawed
- 2 egg yolks beaten to form an eggwash
- Optional: Splash of brandy
- Bring the beef to room temperature. Whilst the beef is coming to room temperature we will make the mushroom duxelle. Remove the tough ends of the stalks of the mushrooms and brush away any dirt that may be left. Tear the mushrooms and place in a food processor. Process until they have started to go liquid but still have a little texture. Traditionally they would be cut by hand and would be drier but I find it actually works better this way.
- Place the wet mushroom mixture in a pan with a very small amount of olive oil over a medium-high heat. Season well with salt and pepper and continue to cook until the mixture becomes quite dry and balls together when you stir it, this will take around 10-15 minutes but could take less or longer depending on the temperature of your pan. It will bubble very vigorously whilst cooking, don’t worry about it. Continue to stir whilst cooking so it never catches on the pan. Taste your mushrooms and make sure they are seasoned enough with salt and pepper, they should have a rich dense mushroom flavour that is intensely savoury. Entirely optional, but I find a splash of brandy added to the mushrooms and then almost entirely evaporated adds a lovely background flavour. This duxelle is actually great as a dip if blended with a little cream. Traditionally the cream would have been added and reduced to bind the mushrooms together but processing them a little more finely eliminates the need for the cream and in my opinion is better. Leave the duxelle to cool in the fridge.
- Season the beef fillet with table salt (no pepper) and lightly oil (I like to use rice bran oil but any high smoke point oil would work). Place a pan (large enough for the whole fillet) over a high heat until very hot (5-10 minutes). Sear the meat on all sides, no more than 30 seconds per side until it is nice and golden all over. Leave to come to room temperature.
- Lay slices of bacon/pancetta on a layer of cling film (saran wrap/glad wrap), each slice should overlap slightly with another. If you’re slices are long enough to wrap all the way around the fillet then lay them cross wise. Other wise if they are as long as the fillet, lay them lengthwise. Make sure you have enough bacon to completely encase the fillet.
- Spread the cooled mushroom mixture all over the slices of bacon in an even layer. Brush the beef with the mustard and place in the middle of the bacon. Wrap tightly using the cling film as an aid. (see tip below). Leave to cool in the fridge.
- Meanwhile, lightly flour your work surface and roll the chilled puff pastry to a 1cm thick rectangle. Lightly brush the edges lightly with beaten egg. Unwrap the beef and place in the centre of the pastry. Roll the pastry around the beef, turn such that the fold is on the underside and fold each end underneath, trimming off the excess. Make sure the pastry is well sealed. Place back in the fridge, covered, for no less than 30-60 minutes or up to a week.
- Preheat the oven to 210-220 degrees celsius. Brush the pastry with beaten egg yolk on all sides except the bottom. Season the top of the pastry with sea salt and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Leave the Beef Wellington to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
TimedEating Tips and tricks for making beef wellington ahead of time:
- The fillet is the muscle that runs along the back of the animal. It remains tender because it isn’t used for much. It’s shaped a bit like a cone, starting quite thick and tapering to a point. The centre of the cut is the most even in thickness and therefore roasts best (as it all cooks at an even rate). Ask your butcher for the centre cut, and don’t take the filet mignon piece which tapers a lot.
- If you prick the cling film with a toothpick after rolling you will be able to roll it tighter as it allows the air to escape. Prick it close to the end to avoid pricking the meat and then roll even more tightly.
- The mushroom duxelle layer can be done up to a whole week before you end up cooking the Beef Wellington. Fit it in whenever you’ve got time.
- The construction of the Beef Wellington can also be split into phases for your own benefit. Firstly, rolling it in bacon and mushroom can be done when you have time – up to three days before cooking. Then you can wrap in filo, again up to three days before cooking. Finally the wrap in puff pastry is fine up to three days before, though I’d always rather do it the night before to stop the puff pastry drying out as it is hard to do more than loosely cover in cling film at this point to avoid squishing the layers in the pastry.
- All that means the whole Beef Wellington can sit in the fridge at the very least overnight