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.
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.
Blitz the mushrooms in a food processor until they form a fine (in every sense) texture.
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).
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.
Roll out the puff pastry so it will cover the beef. Lay on the Parma ham. Spread the mushroom mixture evenly over the ham.
Place the beef in the very centre of the wrap (that’s what it is).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?….