If you are looking for a show-stopping recipe which will wow your family and friends at your next dinner party, look no further than this Beef Wellington with Green Peppercorn Sauce. These photos are my latest contribution to the food column in Discovery, the inflight magazine for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon.
A Beef Wellington is traditionally a large piece of meat wrapped in a fine mushroom mixture (called a duxelles), and which is then encased in puff pastry. Most old-fashioned recipes call for the beef to be wrapped in a thin pancake or crêpe before being wrapped in the pastry, which helps to absorb any moisture from the meat and mushrooms during baking and which might otherwise make the pastry on the bottom go soggy. Other recipes use thin slices of bacon or prosciutto in place of the pancake, which has the benefit of adding additional saltiness and flavour, as well as making the overall Beef Wellington lighter to eat.
A crispy and flakey bottom, free from any leaks or sogginess, is one of the signs of a successful Beef Wellington, and one of the key elements is ensuring that your mushroom duxelles is cooked long enough so that you evaporate, as much as possible, all of the liquid content in the mushrooms.
Letting the Beef Wellington rest for 15-30 minutes after you have finished baking will also help to prevent any liquid escape. Much like when you cook a normal steak, if you were to cut into it right away, all of the juices in the meat would immediately run out. Hence, you need to leave the meat to rest (for about half the cooking time) so that the juices return to the centre of the meat, which also keeps the meat from drying out.
And as the puff pastry is a key component in this dish, it makes sense to use the best quality puff pastry you can buy (preferably with an all-butter content), or you could take the time to make your own from scratch. If you must buy the pastry, I would recommend buying it in a block and rolling it out to the desired size, but keeping a thickness of about 5mm. Pre-rolled puff pastry tends to be on the thin side and which can crack during baking.
But the most important component of a Beef Wellington is the beef itself. The ideal cut of beef for this dish is the filet mignon; it is one of the best cuts of meat available and, when cooked properly, it is incredibly tender and will simply melt in your mouth. It is also one of the most expensive cuts, especially when buying it in one large piece to feed 4 to 6 people. For this reason, Beef Wellington is generally reserved for special occasions, although you could easily scale down the ingredients to make smaller or individual portions using less expensive cuts.
A Beef Wellington might seem like a complicated recipe, but if you break down all of the steps, I think it is quite a manageable. A digital thermometer is your best friend in this recipe and which will take away any guess work in cooking the meat to the right temperature. A helpful guide to assembling the Beef Wellington is in the video below by Gordon Ramsey.
If you are travelling with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon this month, please look out for the Beef Wellington feature in the inflight magazine, Discovery. You can also download a copy for free on the iPad to view the interactive version of the magazine, or see the tearsheet here. Bon appétit!
- For the mushroom duxelles:
- 700 g (1.5 lb) button mushrooms
- 2 shallots, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- sea salt & freshly ground pepper
- For the beef filling:
- 1 kg (2 lb) piece of beef filet mignon
- sea salt & freshly ground pepper
- olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 12 thin, rectangular slices of prosciutto
- 300 g (11 oz) block of good quality puff pastry
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- Making the mushroom duxelles
- Place the mushrooms into a large food processor and pulse until they are roughly chopped.
- Add the shallots, garlic, thyme, and some salt and pepper, and pulse until you have a finely chopped mixture.
- Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, and cook the mushroom mixture (in a dry pan), for about 10 minutes until the moisture in the mushrooms has evaporated as much as possible. It is important that the mixture is as dry as possible to avoid the beef wellington getting soggy later during baking.
- When you have finished cooking the mushroom duxelles, remove the mixture to a flat plate or tray, and set aside to cool completely.
- Preparing the beef
- Heat a large frying pan with some olive oil. The pan should be wide enough to fit the piece of meat comfortably.
- Season the beef generously with salt and pepper.
- Sear the beef on all sides, including the ends.
- Once you have seared the beef, place it on a large plate or tray. (Do not wash the pan - save it for making the Green Peppercorn Sauce later.)
- While the beef is still warm, brush it all over with the Dijon mustard.
- Leave the beef to cool completely.
- Assembling the beef wellington
- Place a large sheet of clingfilm on the work surface. The clingfilm needs to be about 20cm wider than the piece of beef, and long enough to allow you to wrap the beef completely. You may need to overlap pieces of clingfilm to make it wide or long enough.
- Layer the slices of prosciutto on the clingfilm, such that they are a bit wider than your piece of beef. The slices should sit vertically in front of you.
- Spread the mushroom duxelles in a thin layer over the prosciutto.
- Place the beef on top, sitting horizontally in front of you.
- Carefully wrap the beef in the prosciutto, using the clingfilm to roll the mixture away from you. Wrap the beef tightly in the prosciutto. Tuck in the ends and place the beef in the fridge for at least 15-30 minutes.
- Place another sheet on clingfilm on the work surface. Again, it needs to be about 20cm wider than the piece of beef (now wrapped in prosciutto), and long enough to allow you to wrap the beef completely.
- Roll out of the puff pastry to a size which will be large enough to wrap the beef, leaving a bit of excess on the sides.
- Remove the clingfilm from the beef (now wrapped in prosciutto), and place the beef on top of the puff pastry.
- Like before, carefully wrap the beef in the puff pastry, using the clingfilm to help you wrap it tightly. Tuck in the ends, and return the wrapped beef to the fridge for at least 30 minutes. At this point, you could leave it in the fridge overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F).
- Brush the Beef Wellington with the beaten egg yolk.
- If you wish, you can use the back of the knife to score a pattern in the pastry, taking care not to cut into the pastry. Alternatively, you could decorate the Beef Wellington with some shapes cut from any leftover puff pastry. Stick any pastry decorations onto the Beef Wellington with some egg wash, and also brush the decorations with egg wash.
- Place the Beef Wellington on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Bake for approximately 40 minutes if you like your meat cooked medium/medium-rare. A digital thermometer, inserted in the middle of the beef, should read about 60°C (140°F). If you like your meat more rare, cook it for less time. As a rule of thumb, you should start checking the temperature from about 30 minutes. Bear in mind that the meat will continue to cook at is cools.
- If the Beef Wellington is browning too quickly and/or your haven't reached your desired temperature yet, cover the Beef Wellington with a piece of foil to stop it browning further.
- Once the Beef Wellington is cooked to your liking, leave it to rest on a board or tray for at least 15 minutes or more.
- To serve, cut the Beef Wellington into thick slices. Serve with Green Peppercorn Sauce (see recipe below) and a side of vegetables, such as roast potatoes, roasted tomatoes, steamed beans, or even a salad.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
- 1 cup (250 ml) brandy
- 4 cups (1 litre) beef stock
- 2 cups (500 ml) double cream
- 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
- 1 teaspoon of cornflour mixed in 1 tablespoon of water
- ½ cup green peppercorns in brine, strained
- In the same pan which you used to sear the beef, add the oil and return to the stove over medium heat.
- Add the shallots, garlic and thyme. Sauté for a few minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Add the brandy and flambé using a long matchstick. Once the flame has subsided, return the pan to the heat and simmer over medium-high heat until the sauce has reduced by half.
- Strain the sauce through a fine sieve into a smaller saucepan. Discard the solids.
- Add the beef stock, double cream and mustard.
- Continue simmering the sauce over medium heat until it is reduced by half again. You should have about 250 ml (1 cup) of sauce.
- Taste for seasoning.
- To thicken the sauce slightly, add some of the cornflour mixture. Stir for about a minute to check the consistency. The sauce will continue to thicken once it cools.
- Once you are happy with the taste and consistency of the sauce, add the green peppercorns.
- Serve the sauce hot or warm.
I think it is best to start this recipe the night before, or otherwise set aside a whole morning to prepare the Beef Wellington for serving later in the evening.
When checking the temperature of the meat with a digital thermometer, take the temperature from the side of the Beef Wellington and in the centre. The temperature of the meat here will be less than at the ends, i.e. the ends of the Beef Wellington generally have meat which is more cooked than in the centre. I tend to aim for medium-rare in the centre, which will give me medium-cooked meat at the ends.
Keep in mind that meat continues to cook as it cools, so take your Beef Wellington out of the oven if the thermometer gives you a reading a few degrees below your target.
If you wish to use a crêpe in place of prosciutto in this recipe, you can make some thin crêpes using my recipe here. Depending on the size of your crêpes, you will need 2-4 crêpes to completely encase the beef. Assemble and overlap the crêpes to form a rough rectangular shape. Spread the mushroom duxelles over the crêpes and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
The Green Peppercorn Sauce can also be made ahead of time. Upon reheating, you may have to thin it with some water or cream.
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If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #eatlittlebird