The origins of beef Wellington are unclear… indeed no connection has been found to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. It seems more likely to be a dim distant cousin of the French filet de bœuf en croûte (fillet of beef in pastry).
Here are a couple of handy hints when making a beef Wellington:
- A duxelle is a finely chopped mixture of mushrooms, shallots (or onions) and herbs, sautéed in butter and reduced to a thick paste.
- It’s a good idea to have a meat thermometer for this recipe so that you can tell how the beef is going to be cooked when you cut through the Wellington.
- When you remove your Wellington from the oven, rest it on a cooking wire so the heat escapes equally, to avoid a soggy pastry bottom.
- Cut into generous slices to avoid the Wellington falling apart.
- To make the duxelles, heat the butter in a non-stick frying pan and add the shallots and garlic. Soften them on a low heat for about 5 minutes, allowing to colour.
- Mix in the mushrooms, turning up the heat and cook until all the moisture has gone (about 5 minutes).
- Mix in the sherry or madeira and reduce until the mixture is dry.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the tarragon, take off the heat and set aside to cool.
- To prepare the beef, pat dry all over with kitchen paper.
- Massage the goose or duck fat into the beef and season it with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large non-stick frying pan until smoking and then add the beef to the hot pan, searing until it’s a rich brown colour on all sides, including the 2 ends (you may have to hold it with tongs to do this part).
- Add the butter and, as soon as it’s foaming, baste the beef with it continuously for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove the beef from the pan and put in a dish to one side to chill.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan assisted) / 200°C (regular oven) / 400°F / gas mark 6
Now you’re ready to assemble the Wellington
- Beat the egg and milk together to create the egg wash.
- Measure the length of your fillet – your pastry needs to be approximately 10cm wider than this and long enough to wrap the beef and duxelles.
- Roll the pastry out on a floured surface to a rectangle of above mentioned measurements and 5mm thick.
- Next lay the pancakes (or Parma ham) slices onto the pastry next to each other, leaving a border of 10cm of pastry all around.
- Spread a thin layer of the duxelles over the pancakes and put the beef on top – two thirds of the way up the pancakes and duxelles.
- Brush the pastry border with the egg wash.
- Being careful not to tear the pastry, roll it up until it’s fully encased the beef.
- Gently seal the edge by pressing it with the outer side of your little finger and then using the blunt end of a fork, press again.
- Trim away any excess pastry on the sides, but pinch together to seal and then press flat with your fingers.
- Brush all the seals of the Wellington with the egg wash and then lay it onto greaseproof paper on a baking tray – sealed side down.
- Brush the rest with the egg wash.
- Now carefully score the pastry top with a sharp knife, making sure you don’t go through the pastry and expose the filling. You can choose your own pattern, but an easy one is to do a line down the middle, the full length of the Wellington and then opposing diagonal stripes down each side at about 1cm intervals.
- Put into the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes. The pastry should be golden brown and brittle when it’s ready.
- You can check the core temperature of the beef with your meat thermometer – for a succulent pink Wellington, it should be 54°C after resting for 10 minutes, so we suggest that you remove it from the oven when it reaches 50°C. This should be after roughly 30 minutes, but check it then and keep in the oven until it gets to the right temperature.
- Carefully transfer the beef Wellington to a warm serving dish and serve.