Liam Finnegan, Head Chef at The Castle Taunton, imparts his top tips for mastering the classic Beef Wellington…
- First things first, it’s important to source some high-quality meat, so use a reputable meat supplier where possible. You’ll rarely hear this advice, but if you’re in a rush or your budget is tight, opt for the supermarket higher end meats as you’ll be able to see the difference. At Bow Castle Restaurant, we buy whole organic Dexter beef; but for a wellington we find the fillet is too small. It cooks at 180C/gas 4 for 18 mins, so we use a larger Devon Ruby Red fillet.
- You’ll want to ask your butcher for a centre cut of the fillet, as the head and tail of the fillet will cook unevenly. You can do double portions, but they tend to overcook, so I find using a whole centre cut is best. These are normally around 1kg. You should allow 150g of meat per portion, so 1 fillet will roughly feed 6 people once you’ve trimmed the ends off. When serving a wellington at the restaurant we carve it in the room in front of the guests. This has a real wow factor and can easily be replicated at home.
- When assembling your wellington focus on each component in turn. Follow the steps outlined in my recipe and chill everything down first. When everything is chilled it’s all about the assembly. I liken a wellington to a souffle; everyone is fearful of making it for a dinner party but when you follow the steps and break it down, it’s actually very easy and blows people away.
- Traditionally you would use crepes with a wellington. However, I find using Parma ham is a great alternative. It’s luxurious and adds seasoning and flavour to what is not usually the tastiest cut of beef.
- Since it’s springtime, why not try swapping beef for lamb and mixing the spinach with wild garlic? Venison is also a perfect substitute for beef. If you’re feeling fishy, a salmon en croute is similar dish to beef wellington and is much easier. Vegetarians and vegans can opt for a mushroom and spinach wellington. Pine nut served with beetroot and rocket is something my wife cooks at home and it’s both tasty and warming.
Liam’s Beef Wellington
1kg dry-aged, centre cut fillet of beef
200g button mushroom, finely sliced
1 sheet pre rolled puff pastry
12 slices Parma ham
1 banana shallot
1 sprig thyme
1 clove garlic
1 egg yolk, beaten for brushing pastry
200ml vegetable oil
- Take your centre cut of beef and chill in fridge for 24 hours. You can wrap it in clingfilm to help keep it perfectly round.
- Remove from clingfilm the next day and with a dry cloth remove any excess blood (if the meat is hung properly there should not be much). Season with salt and cracked black pepper then sear in a really hot pan. All you want to do is seal the meat not cook it, so 30 seconds should give it a nice deep caramelized colour. Remove it from the pan and allow it to cool before placing it in the fridge to chill.
- Chop a large banana shallot finely and cook it slowly in a shallow frying pan with non-scented oil. Halfway through cooking add a lightly crushed garlic clove.
- Finely slice the mushrooms and add when the shallot is fully cooked. Place the pan on a high heat, season and continually stir/shake. Mushrooms contain a lot of moisture and the last thing you want is soggy mushrooms affecting your pastry. Once cooked, finish with a dash of lemon and add some thyme leaves.
- Place your mushrooms in a strainer and allow them to cool. Once cool, remove the garlic before chopping the mushrooms finely. Place in the fridge to chill.
- Wilt the spinach in a pan with a grating of nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Once cooked, strain and squeeze out any excess moisture.
- Now it’s time for the assembly. Using the cling film, roll the Parma ham over the beef with the duxelle (mushrooms) and spinach, then roll and tie the cling film to get a nice, evenly thick log. Chill for at least 1 hour.
- Place your pre-rolled puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and place your Parma rolled beef fillet on top. Roll the pastry over the top of the beef, ensuring it is nice and tight and leave a fold at the bottom. Brush the pastry with egg wash and allow to rest for 20 mins in fridge
- Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6 and cook your wellington until the pastry is crisp – if you have a probe ensure it’s 50C. If you don’t have a probe just pray to the powers above (or a golden crisp pastry is a good indicator).
- Ensure you rest for as long as you cook – 15 min rest should be good. Resting is as important as cooking. Let it relax and remember nobody likes a soggy bottom!
Keep an eye on your oven temperature, as home ovens run a few degrees higher than professional kitchens!