It’s the season of the showstopper – the dramatic, all-eyes-on-me festive centrepiece that really shows off one’s skills as a chef. At Christmas, most people go for the big bird – turkey or goose, and some might opt for the theatre of a fore-rib, but what if you’re not feeding an army? What if you’re looking for a super-special Christmas dinner just for two, planning a romantic new year in, or simply looking for a slightly show-offy Twixtmas treat?
Beef Wellington it is. The luxury of fillet steak. The earthy decadence of duxelles. The quintessential Britishness of wrapping stuff in pastry. Its origins may be lost to histoy, but the grand dame of dishes never fails to impress – unless you mess it up, of course. To ensure you don’t, Lisa Allen’s Michelin-starred kitchen at Northcote in Lancashire has provided the recipe below. Serve it with honey-glazed carrots, slather it in red-wine sauce, and consume it with a smirk of triumph.
250g fillet of beef
25ml single malt whisky
For the duxelles:
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp tarragon, finely chopped
1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp chives, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
To build the Wellington:
3 slices of Parma ham
150g puff pastry, rolled to a 30cm square
1 egg, beaten
Preheat a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and sear the fillet on all sides. Remove from the pan and brush liberally with the single malt whisky. Lightly season the meat and then wrap tightly in cling film and chill for at least 10 minutes.
Using the same frying pan, add a little oil and fry the mushrooms for a few minutes until dry. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook for a further minute. Turn up the heat, and continue cooking the mushrooms until you get a dry texture.
Stir the finely chopped herbs through the mushrooms and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour out the mixture onto a board and roughly chop to achieve a course duxelle.
Place a layer of cling film on your worktop bench and lay the three slices of Parma ham onto it, slightly overlapping each slice. Cover the Parma ham with the mushroom mixture, leaving a 1cm gap around the edges.
Unwrap the beef fillet from its cling film and place onto the edge of the mushroom duxelle nearest to you. Roll the fillet, making sure it’s fully covered with the mushroom and Parma ham all the way around. Leave to set in the fridge for approximately 10 minutes.
Dust the work surface with a little flour and place the pastry on top. Cut a T-shape from the pastry (as demonstrated) and place the wrapped beef fillet on the horizontal part of the T.
Fold over the edges at either end, then roll the fillet in the remaining vertical part of the pastry.
Take the remaining pastry trim and roll over it with a lattice pastry cutter to create a lattice pattern for the top of your wellington.
Brush the rolled wellington with beaten egg and lay the latticed pastry work on top. Finish by brushing beaten egg over the whole wellington to create shine and colour when cooking.
Pre-heat oven to 225°c.
Set the wellington on a tray lined with baking parchment and brush with some beaten egg. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 225°C, lowering the temperature to 200°C then continue cooking for a further 20 minutes for medium. Cook for another 10 minutes for well done.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.