Beef Wellington – What Did The Brits Ever Do For Us Anyway?

Beef Wellington (11 of 13)When it comes to the United Kingdom, we Irish have “history”.  Many of us spend our time looking backwards into the mists of time to support our own inferiority complexes. Others of us have raw, recent pain with which to live. We have a long and complex relationship with our nearest neighbour (if you don’t count the Isle of Man) and one would expect many of us to be pretty happy about the prospect of Great Britain exiting the European Union. Or, in more tabloid terms “BREXIT”. 

But, it would appear that is not the case. Why? Because, if they go, a large swath of the Irish economy will be put in peril. Or so the more hysterical news reports go. Others say that the impact will be small and new trade arrangements will be put in place. Whatever happens, the prospect of our relationship being strained again, got me to thinking “What Did The Brits Ever Do For Us Anyway?”.  In culinary terms, not a lot. The classic roast beef and Yorkshire pudding would seem to be the high point of it all. But, what of the Beef Wellington? I suppose there’s only one way to find out, we had to give it a go.

Beef Wellington (1 of 13)

Irish beef, Irish mushrooms, French wine, Italian ham. – A British Classic.

I have written about the Ham Wellington before. But, this could not be considered British as the Grand old Duke of Wellington was an Irishman. Perhaps we could call it the Barnes Wallace Wellington. Barnes Wallace developed the Wellington bomber (used to bomb parts of Europe back in the day). Anyway, I am digressing. This dish is undoubtedly a British classic, no matter what one calls it. Not withstanding its status as a ‘classic’ there are lots of different recipes. I am going with one that includes some good European ingredients, possibly to make the Brits amongst you see the benefit of benefit of BRAYING (Brits staying).

Ingredients for Beef Wellington for 6 people

  • 1.5 kilo of prime Irish beef fillet*
  • 500 grammes of Chestnut mushrooms
  • A glass of good red wine**
  • 8 slices of Parma ham
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry***
  • Thyme leaves****
  • Salt and pepper

*Don’t fall for the old butcher trick of folding the tail of the fillet under the end and showing you the other side. Make the tightwad cut an even piece out of the middle of the fillet.

**Take the wine out of a bottle of good red wine and drink the balance either during cooking or with the meal.

***Life is too short to make your own puff pastry.

****I couldn’t think of anything to say about thyme leaves.

First dust the mushrooms to remove any stray soil. This is not the most glamorous of tasks. The brush reminds me of Boris Johnson for some reason.

Beef Wellington (2 of 13)

Tedious work. Just as tedious as trying to sell Irish goods in a Brexited UK.

Blitz the mushrooms in a food processor until they form a fine (in every sense) texture.

Beef Wellington (3 of 13)

Mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper. The aromas are wonderful.

Fry the mushrooms in a little butter. They will give up their moisture like the UK giving up its moral conviction when they realise they are better off inside the tent.

Side note on the Brexit campaign: The leader of the Brexit camp, Boris Johnson (the thinking man’s Donald Trump) is a Tory buffoon who has vast personal ambition and is using Brexit as a lever to oust the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron (a man who prefers pork to beef). The windswept blond is supported in the campaign by that paragon of the British political landscape, Nigel Farage, the beer swilling rabble rouser who leads the UKIP party (pronounced ‘you kip’, as if talking about his beloved Britain). 

Beef Wellington (4 of 13)

Make them sweat then give them a good glug of wine. It’s like a post Brexit celebration.

Reduce the mushrooms to a nice paste. Taste them and add more seasoning if needed. Allow this mixture to cool. Quickly clean the frying pan and brown the beef on all sides.

Beef Wellington (5 of 13)

That’s one fine piece of Irish beef. It would cost a lot more in the UK after Brexit.

Roll out the puff pastry so it will cover the beef. Lay on the Parma ham. Spread the mushroom mixture evenly over the ham.

Beef Wellington (6 of 13)

The mushroom mixture tastes very nice on toast. Post Brexit, we can have it that way.

Place the beef in the very centre of the wrap (that’s what it is).

Beef Wellington (7 of 13)

The trickiest part to get right – wrapping it up and getting it all to hold together.

Carefully fold it up and turn it over so the beef is evenly wrapped in ham and mushroom mixture. Fold the ends under the parcel. Make some slashes in the pastry to let the steam out. Is the steam going out of the Brexit campaign? Who knows?

Beef Wellington (8 of 13)

The folding bit is not easy to show in a photo. Bt, you get the idea.

Paint with an egg and place in a 200ºC oven for 40 minutes (or until your meat thermometer reads 52ºC. Take it out and let it rest for ten minutes.

Beef Wellington (10 of 13)

The beef resting. It looks strangely small in this photo. It isn’t.

While it is resting, make a sauce with a shallot, another glass of the red wine (If you haven’t swilled it all) and some beef stock. Mine is home made, highly concentrated stock that  keep in the freezer.

Beef Wellington (9 of 13)

This is the simplest and most delicious sauce. But, you must have your own stock. Period. (period)

Fry the chopped shallot in a little oil until it becomes translucent. Add the beef stock and the wine. Reduce this until it is nice and thick. Stir in a knob of butter and be ready to serve it with the beef.

Then carve the wellington into even slices. Serve and enjoy as best you can, knowing that many Brits don’t want to have anything more to do with us Europeans.

Beef Wellington (12 of 13)

There are nicer things to do with a fillet of beef. However, I can’t think of any right now.

Thankfully, the Brit I know best is the Wife and she seems to be happy enough with me. For the moment anyway. Whatever way the Brexit vote goes, this is a dish worth trying once. Like the protectionism and bigotry that lies behind a lot of the Brexit campaign, the dish really is a little out of date. There certainly are better things to do with a fine piece of Irish beef. But that starts to sound a bit xenophobic, don’t you think?….

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  • Clearly I should move to Bray as I’m a firm believer in staying. Whether I’m officially in a minority remains to be seen. I may have to start reading estate agents’ websites or simply replace the footbridge over the stream with a drawbridge (thereby living up to the national stereotype). Your Beef Wellington is perfectly cooked and looks like a far more tender and tasty alternative to the great man’s other invention, the gardening boot.

    • You bring an old Ealing classic to mind; Passport to Pimlico. When I read the generally right leaning UK press, the mood appears to be pretty safe in the ‘No to Brexit’ vote. However, not all read the right wing press.

  • Ah. Good cooking, Conor, and a highly amusing but sadly inaccurate commentary, IMO, as far as Brexit and the cast of rogues involved are concerned.
    Boris is a highly successful mayor of London and very bright chap who may sound like a buffoon sometimes (like Robert Peston, he thinks faster than he can talk). I think he talks sense.
    Farrage is indeed a beer drinking man of the people although he was an investment banker and is no twit.
    Cameron is the silver spoon career politician who has never had a real job and is a weakling scared of upsetting his Euro political buddies.
    The Brits have never fully committed to the European project, and even now want special treatment every time something vaguely socialist comes along,
    Personally I think Europe will be better off without Britain and vice versa; no more half in half out. Trade will go on, Ireland will not suffer.
    As a long term expat I don’t have a vote although people are trying their legal best to overturn the stupid and arbitrary 15 year rule.
    BTW it should read ‘cover’ not ‘over’.when you’re rolling out the puff pastry.
    How much does a nice fillet cost in An Lar?

    • That little piece of tastiness could set one back €40 to €50, whatever that is in the fluctuating £ will change daily.
      Thanks for the spelling spotting. I hate missing that stuff.
      I agree with you on Britain and Europe up to a point. I completely agree that the lack of being ‘all in’ does nobody any good. It’s the sort of cute hoorism of Irish country politicians and not a way for a state to behave.
      Cameron – I agree.
      Farage – Having been an investment banker is no great addition to a potential leader’s CV.
      BJ – I hear what you say but I see a cloth haired buffoon hanging from a zip wire holding two limp Union Jacks. This rather than a leader of the currently free world.
      Hope all goes well with you. We will be down that way again in early August. Staying near Libourne. Might we have you over for dinner or lunch or both?

  • I have gratefully resigned any right to an opinion in the in/out debate. But one more thing the Brits gave the rest of everyone is the Wellington boot, a tough and rubbery old item, unlike your tender, pinkly delectable dish. Which reminds me, I don’t know where my meat thermometer is…

    • Now that I have cooked it, I probably will consign it to the history books. It is pretty lardy and I really believe I can do better things with a beef fillet.

      • Quite! It’s more of a ‘look what I can do’ party piece. Your point is made, the man can make an immaculate Beef Wellington.

  • I love Beef Wellington. I hardly every make it though as the last time I made it for a dinner party all I got was ‘It’s a bit heavy”. Ungrateful gits!
    Perfect summary of the Brexit there. I presume Cameron will just head straight for the Ham Wellington?

    • I couldn’t resist the Cameron reference. The wellington is a bit on the ‘pit of the stomach’ end of the scale. However, dinner guests should just eat up, drink up and shut up. You need to replace your guests with me Donna.
      Best as ever,
      Conor

      • I love ‘pit of the stomach’ food. And you are right, they didn’t get invited back too quickly 😉 Family are the worst critics. You’d be welcome at my table anytime Conor, just bring your sous vide and smoker with you.
        There’s always a catch, eh?

  • Ah Beef Wellington, if done properly (as you have) quite delicious.

    My favourite Beef Wellington memory is from way back in 1975 (!) My husband-to-be was bringing his parents to meet mine for the first time, one month before our wedding. My nervous mother decided to push the boat out and make a Beef Wellington. She did a magnificent job. When she lwas in the dining room serving the ‘starters’ the neighbours’ cat got in, leapt onto the kitchen counter, stole the BW and got it on the floor where it managed to eat some of it. The Horror, The Horror! my sister was summoned to the kitchen – she retrieved it from the floor, wiped it off, cut off the chewed end, surrounded it with copious amounts of parsley and served it. I and my in-laws-to-be were non the wiser. My M-i-L raved about it for years!
    u

    • A friend of mine had a St. Bernard. One day they had their extended (very extended) family over for lunch. The centrepiece was a leg of lamb. It was left on a side table to rest. The dog took it out to the garden. There was nothing left but the bone by the time they found out.

      Did I mention that the centrepiece of that lunch was sliced ham, purchased at great expense from a local deli? Love your cat story.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Glad to hear that the Brit wife will not be exiting along with the rest of them! Nice piece of Irish beef there Conor.

    • As they say, If she hasn’t left me by now, she never will…

  • Ps thought you would enjoy this wee article as you always manage to make raw meat photos looks pretty darned good. http://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2016/05/03/meatart-new-trend-taking-over-your-insta-feed-pun-totally-intended?cid=23230

    • I appreciate the share of that. Love the post. A lot of it can be seen in some rural French butchers. They take real pride in their presentation.

  • You always make me laugh, Conor! Beautiful Wellington.

    • Thanks Mimi. If I can raise a smile, my day is complete.
      Hope all is good with you.
      Best,
      C

  • You’ve done a ripper job Conor. I made Beef Wellington once in the 70s. We deemed it not worth the effort but looking at your photos I feel inspired to try again. I suspect your Brexit movement will be like our push to be a republic, a mere storm in a tea cup. Common sense rarely prevails.

    • You are the second person to mention the Wellington and the ’70s in the same sentence. It’s no wonder I believe it should be left in the past. Good luck with the republican thing. The part of our country that is a republic is a nice place to live, despite everything.

  • One of our favorite meals for “very special” occasions…. I love your take with the Parma ham, should try that next time, I find its salty nature superb and agree that on a Wellington it will be wonderful!

    Twice we made our own puff pastry for the dish, but honestly it felt like running a marathon – I now admit that buying good quality store bought pastry is better for the mind 😉

    • The ‘original’ recipe calls for foie gras instead of mushrooms. That would be totally over the top. The ham is needed to keep the mushrooms in place and to stop them making the pastry soggy. There are a raft of different recipes, all variations on the same theme of fillet wrapped in taste, wrapped in pastry.

      When I was a young fella, I worked for a while in a bakery where sausage rolls and steak and kidney pies were the main output. The baker spent a huge amount o his time making puff pastry from scratch. He had big rolling machines and industrial fridges. Life is definitely too short for making it at home.
      Best,
      Conor

  • This looks so good. I love how you make the mushrooms. It is so perfect to wrap the beef into this delicious paste. And you are correct: I would never (ever!) make my own puff pastry 😉

    • The aroma from those mushrooms when they were frying was amazing. There must be other uses for it too. I must put my thinking cap on.

      • I am sure you can use them differently too & I can just imagine how good it smelled!

  • I cannot comment on the politics, but am impressed with the meal. I like the addition of Parma ham. Très elegante.

  • Beautifully executed classic dish!
    The few times I made my own puff pastry were definitely worth the effort, but I admit that now that I’ve found a good buttery ready-made one, I totally lost the urge… 🙂

  • This looks INCREDIBLE… Beef Wellington is something I’ve never attempted (or even tasted before, now I come to think of it) but I want this to change!

  • ****You could have wondered if thyme stays? BTW, I haven’t been following much news as I’m tired of all the U.S. presidential campaign “smear-of-the-day” news. This is the first I’ve heard of the Brexit movement, but I’m sure my hubby has as he’s glued to the news all the time. Anyways, the Beef Wellington does look pretty but seems like a lot of work for not a lot of payback, huh?

    • You got it in one Kathryn.
      The Trump is not a force for good in the world. His critics have constantly underestimated him.

  • You have brought history into my home again! Made Beef Wellington ad infinitum, ad nauseum in the 70s and 80s . . . actually methinks it had a pate layer as well ? The Oirish: well, same time around nearly married a so-called ‘Bog-Oirish’ and another was my best gf. You can imagine us around a curry table with bottles of vino late at night!!! Brexit: undecided ’cause not there day-to-day . . . personally at this stage I would say ‘no’!! BJ – OMG: wish I somehow could u’stand the fascination of some for this guy!!!! Smiling: Sandra’s comparison re ‘Republic’ for us . . . . nope for me: why fix s’thing which is not broken . . . oh, did I say I just might try ‘The Wellington’ again . . .

    • I must try and think out a modern twist in the Wellington. If we could concoct some sort of a healthy alternative to the pastry, we might live a bit longer. The original, original was smeared in foie gras. A waste of both beef and foie gras in my view.
      Glad I prodded the memory.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Wellington is one of my favorite classics and this is a nice version. I like to add a touch of tomato paste to boost the mushroom flavor. At least we know there won’t be a Brexit within your house 🙂

    • A good idea Stefan. We will avoid Domexit as long as I keep cooking nice stuff!

  • Very funny post.. Good dish, and as I live in Buckinghamshire funny commentary on an issue most have stopped talking about round here .. Foi gras does make a difference though.. Then it’s real opulent indeed!

    • We are all scared over here. We live in fear of Brexit, in the same way as we all live in fear of change of any sort. For me, it will be a change if ye go but it probably won’t impact my life to any great degree. We are sort of conflicted. Currently, most of us don’t want you out of the north of Ireland. It would be a big drain on scant resources. However, we like the concept of a 32 county Republic. Many of us hold grudges for 800 years of oppression but, we want to sell stuff to ye.
      Best,
      C

      • very true! my wife is from Cork and my father is from Waterford.. so i kinda get it..

        • The Wife is half Brit herself, as I am careful to point out whenever I get a bit shirty across the Irish Sea.

          • Ahh with a full on rebel wife it’s more delicate indeedo!

  • I don’t know much about the ongoing differences and old historical baggage between the irish and the brits but I had a great time reading about it and I enjoyed your photos and presentation. I believe the term for that mushroom coating is duxelles, correct? It’s been on my list of things to do.. not the duxelles but the whole beef wellington thing. Take care Conor!

    • Thanks Paul. Better to focus on the food and not the history. Duxelles is correct.

  • You can’t go wrong with a classic dish…I might be considered a little out of date myself. 😀 I like your recipe as I’ve never had it with the ham before.

    • I enjoyed the ham Wellington more than the beef. It was not so old world heavy and it was of my own invention. Both mean the ham gets my vote. I really enjoy cooking the beef version, even if it is a little on the out of date side of things. Now, I can say I have done it. Probably never again.

  • I’ve been waiting for this post ever since your Ham Wellington, Conor. My thinking was: ‘if Conor shows me how to do it, I might actually manage it.’ Sadly, having read this, I think it might be a bit beyond my ham-fisted capabilities. The Beef Wellington might be beyond me, but I can be a political buffoon with the best of them, so I’m sure you’ll be delighted to hear that you’ve inspired me to go back into politics (legally this time).

    • I would support your minority government. However, you would have to Tarmac the road outside my house and build a hospital 200 meters from my door. Oh, and a cycle lane between here and the office etc. Etc. Ad nausium.

      • Oh, I can safely say I could promise you anything, Conor. Glad I can count on your vote.

  • Hi Conor….I really enjoyed reading this particular post, I read them all but have never commented on any to date regardless of how much I enjoy them….anyway, I just wanted to say…I hope your British blog watchers take heed of your comments, I just happen to be of a similar opinion to yourself in this matter ..(brexit !? …not Beef Wellington )…as i was born a brit but raised in Ireland from the age of 7 I have a particular interest in events across the pond….I think you outlined the points really well here…especially the selfish interests of the anti European campaign being waged by Johnson etc. …cheers for that !
    And, despite a great version of said dish….I am no more inspired to make a Beef Wellington than I was yesterday. …as you said rightly….there’s better things to do with a fine piece of Irish beef such as that !
    Many thanks again. …

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I really love when I prompt a bit of conversation, even if it is not about the food. I did cook something far more worthy this weekend just gone. It was beef fillet with a porcini and mixed peppercorn sauce. Simple and really awesome. I will post it in a few weeks. Hopefully we will be long term conversationalist friends by the time I get around to it.
      Best,
      Conor

  • oh no Conor, how on earth did I manage to miss this post? I read it twice (incl. comments) now and I am still chuckeling. Made this for official dinnerparties so many years ago – but here? No way. Could try with veal fillet (least tough), but then I would have to make my own puff pastry and in this tremendous heat – no way, my friend. So, therefore all is left to me for now is looking at your pictures and dream!
    Re politics: I have to say “No comment” but find reading the above interesting.

    • Really, the world has moved on Carina. I doubt I will ever make it again. “No comment” is probably the best place to be on the politics too.

  • I once won a prize at one of my favorite restaurants – the chef would come to my house and make dinner for four (five, as we were happy to have him eat what he cooked). He called, and although I was prepared to have him tell me what he was prepared to do, he simply asked me what I wanted. Beef Wellington was the first thing that popped into my head. He said OK rather matter-of-factly, and that was that. He arrived with absolutely everything in tow, from the wine to the beef to the spices, and left all the leftover ingredients with me. We drank more bottles of wine that I’ll admit to, while I fetched him whatever utensils he needed. It was fantastic … a very memorable night. Since then, Beef Wellington is my favorite dish to watch someone else make.

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