The world as we know it may be in disarray thanks to the pandemic, but the British countryside continues its seasonal cycle unabated. Gregory Gladwin’s heritage-breed Sussex cows can sense the winter on its way and frankly they are not that keen on the torrential autumn rains. Instead of disappearing into the further grazing fields they cluster by the yard gates mooing for attention. Barns have been lined with straw in preparation: within the next 10 days our two herds will be brought into their respective sheds, ready for a cozy winter of shared bodily warmth and of course carving the next generation.
There is no conclusive proof that Beef Wellington was created in honor of the first Duke of Wellington. Arthur Wellesley. In fact the French version, Filet de Boeuf en Croute, definitely predates the Duke. Nevertheless Wellington is an enticing name for the British iteration of the dish, as it sums up its key attributes quite nicely: sturdy, filling and something of a showstopper when placed on the table.
Fillet is the prime cut of beef; it is extremely tender, has no fat and is relatively mild in flavor. It therefore benefits from a ‘paté’(in this case mushroom) and encasing in rich puff pastry. Many claim Wellington as a ‘signature dish’ and we want to avoid joining that club but it is definitely a ‘best seller’ for Oliver in both Sussex and The Shed restaurants. He has inherited the recipe from our dad Peter whose claim to fame was preparing, cooking and carving Beef Wellington for 800 people at one sitting at Guildhall in the City of London.
Peter Gladwin’s Beef Wellington
Serves 6-8 people
2lbs 3oz – 2lbs 10oz beef fillet
Salt and pepper
1lb block of puff pastry
Flour for pastry rolling
1 egg, salted and lightly beaten
For the mushroom druxelle
1lb black or wild mushrooms, finely chopped
1 garlic glove, crushed
1 tbsp chopped parsley
- Season the beef well with salt and pepper. Place a heavy based roasting tin directly onto a high heat on the hob and when it is very hot sear the fillet, rolling it on all sides
- Immediately transfer to a pre-heated oven (430°F) and roast for 10 minutes
- Remove the beef from the oven and allow to cool
- Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat then fry the mushrooms and garlic. Season well and add the parsley. Leave to cool
- When cold, place the mushroom mixture in a tea towel and squeeze out all the juice, (saving the juice to add to a sauce)
- Sprinkle the work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to an even rectangle approximately 15 by 12in. trim the sides and safe the pastry offcuts to decorate
- Place the druxelle down the center of the pastry lengthways to the same size as the beef fillet, place the beef on top
- Fold the pastry over the meat and seal the overlap by brushing with beaten egg. Tuck each end in and again use the egg to seal. Turn the parcel over so the joins are on the underside
- Use the pastry offcuts to decorate the Wellington with lattice strips
- Brush the whole thing with the rest of the egg then place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Refrigerate until ready to cook. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 25 minutes until golden brown
- Keep warm and allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes before presenting the dish at the table and then carving
- We like to serve Beef Wellington with roasted root vegetables, kale leaves and both Madeira demi-glace and a sauce béarnaise but the choice is yours. Those recipes will have to wait for another day
Richard’s wines to match
For me a classic dish like this cries out for Bordeaux (Claret if we are insisting on the English version of everything). But I want to throw in a couple of different ideas too.
Treat your wines well, just like the cook will treat the expensive beef fillet. Bring them up to a good room temperature, open an hour or two in advance, and if you have got a decanter, gently pour the wine down the inside to aerate it. Oh and most important: don’t overfill the glasses! You’re not being generous, just boorish.
Carronne St Gemme, Haute Medoc. Great value and really reliable.
Cru Bourgeois vintage after vintage, rich in plum or damson flavors with good length and attractive tannins.
Cabernet Sauvignon from Yarra Valley, Victoria. Giant Steps, De Bortoli or Yering Station are all good but there are others worth considering, including some Bordeaux blends. Often medium weight with ripe. Notes of cherries, black pepper and sometimes licorice.
Tuscany, Cabernet, Merlot, Super Tuscan Blends: often softer, more velvety than Bordeaux but sharing some of the chestnut and ripe fruit characteristics. In some cases more oaky but still a lovely companion for the Wellington.
This article was originally published on Spectator Life.