The origins of the Beef Wellington are allegedly after the first Duke, Arthur Wellesley, to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Waterloo, though the French lay claims to this dish as a rip-off of their classic filet de bœuf en croûte. The late and great food writer Clarissa Dixon Wright said it was for a civic reception in Wellington, New Zealand. I think knowing her scrupulous research, she may be the one on the button.
There are countless recipes of this classic dish; some messed around with far too much for me with unnecessary ingredients that overpower the delicious beef, mushrooms, and buttery pastry. This recipe lets them shine through.
Don’t panic at the length of this recipe, start at the top and work your way through, it is actually easier than it seems.
If you want a veggie version checkout my vegetarian version, it rather good.
1kg fillet of beef, ask your butcher to cut from the middle
1 tablespoon neutral oil
350g prepared all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen
115g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
30g unsalted butter
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons shallot, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
85g smooth chicken liver pâté
1 large egg
A good pinch of Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
Making your beef wellington:
Heat the oven to 230C
- Sprinkle your chopping board with I teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Roll the beef fillet around the board, pressing gently to encourage the seasoning to stick. Tie the fillet loosely with string roughly one inch (3cm) apart; this is to hold the fillet straight while it is seared and roasted.
- Heat the oil in a roasting tin over medium heat and sear the fillet on all sides. Put the beef into the oven for 20 minutes for rare, 30 for medium. Then, put the meat on a plate and keep it to one side covered with a little kitchen paper to cool completely,
- Take one-third of the pastry and roll out to create a rectangle slightly longer and wider than your fillet. Lay it on a lightly greased baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork and bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and leave until cold.
- Clean the mushrooms with a little kitchen paper and chop finely. Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, shallot, garlic, and thyme leaves, raise the heat and cook to sweat out the mushrooms’ moisture – don’t rush this process, they must be dry, or your Wellington will have a soggy base. Once dry, season with the remaining salt and pepper, tip into a bowl, and leave to cool.
- Add the pâté to the cooled mushrooms and stir well to combine thoroughly. Cut the string from the fillet. Put the baked pastry back onto the baking sheet. Lay the meat in the centre of the pastry, and trim away any not covered by the beef. Cover the fillet, except the ends and base, with the mushroom mix in an even layer.
- Roll the remaining pastry on a floured work surface until large enough to cover the whole fillet. Lay the pastry gently over the fillet – like covering with a blanket – and gently press the pastry onto the meat. Tuck the raw pastry edges neatly under the cooked pastry base; use a palette knife to carefully lift each side, in turn, to make it easier. Seal the ends by pinching them together neatly and tuck them under too.
- Save any pastry trimmings for decorating the Wellington if you wish to. Chill everything in the refrigerator for 30 minutes; if not baking until much later, cover with plastic wrap.
- When ready to bake, beat the egg with a little salt and paint the pastry all over. Decorate with your pastry bits. Paint with more egg wash, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden and risen.
- Put the Wellington onto a cooling rack. Leave to rest, lightly covered with a kitchen towel, for 20 minutes before carving.
One way to decorate the Wellington is after the first egg wash, ever-so-gently, score a pattern using the tip of a sharp knife. Taking care not to cut right through.
The uncooked Wellington can be kept in the refrigerator for several hours before cooking. Make sure it is wrapped to prevent the pastry from drying out.
Beef Wellington will freeze well if cut and wrapped in individual slices. Defrost thoroughly and reheat on a baking sheet in a hot oven – 200C.
The real keys to success with a Beef Wellington are to buy the best beef fillet you can afford. Use squeaky fresh mushrooms, all-butter pastry and make sure every Wellington element is left to cool before assembling. You and your guests will not be disappointed.
If you enjoyed the Beef Wellington recipe, find more from Elaine, here on the website.