A decadent dish using luxurious ingredients, beef Wellington has become a classic dinner party staple, ideal for special occasions.
Often considered an entirely English dish, beef Wellington is said to be named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, created to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Waterloo. But the exact origin of the name is unclear. While the English have wrapped meat in pastry for hundreds of years, the dish does have a particularly close resemblance to French filet de boeuf en croûte. Some have even suggested beef Wellington is, simply, a “patriotic rebranding of a trendy continental dish”, with some of the earliest recipes for the dish – as it’s known today – actually found in American publications.
Regardless of origin, beef Wellington is globally renowned as a fine dining classic, served in high-end restaurants all over the world. Typically using a large joint of fillet steak, the beef is generally coated with pâté and/or mushroom duxelles, then wrapped in pastry before being baked. Although the preparation seems simple, many beef Wellington recipes produce results that are absolutely disastrous – a waste of high-quality – expensive – ingredients.
This beef Wellington recipe is fairly simple, but features a number of tips to make sure your beef Wellington will be absolutely perfect. As for the meat, fillet steak is used here. While fillet isn’t necessarily the most exciting cut of meat – although generally prized as the most luxurious cut of beef – it works well for beef Wellington, well suited to being served very rare, with little fat needing to render, as opposed to cuts such as ribeye or sirloin. The fillet steaks are also cut into individual portions, rather than using a large fillet. This allows greater control, ideal for anybody who prefers their steak a little more well-done, while also yielding additional duxelles and a greater covering of flaky, golden pastry.
Once sealed, the beef is also wrapped in a thin crêpe, to prevent the pastry from becoming soggy, which is also aided by chilling the beef Wellington at various stages throughout preparation. Best served with fondant potatoes or dauphinois, and a rich red wine and shallot sauce.
- 4 beef fillet steaks
- 50 g butter
- 2 shallots finely chopped
- 500 g mixed mushrooms finely chopped
- 2 tbsp double cream
- 4 crêpes ready-made are fine
- 500 g puff pastry
- 2 egg yolks beaten (for egg wash)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Neutral cooking oil such as vegetable or rapeseed
- Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat a splash of neutral oil in a heavy-based frying pan and quickly sear the steaks in batches of no more than two. Cook over high heat for around 30 seconds, until each side is lightly sealed. It’s crucial to avoid overcooking at this stage. Remove from the pan and leave to cool down on a plate.
- While the steak is cooling, make the mushroom duxelle by heating the butter and a splash of vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Once the butter has melted, add the chopped shallots and fry over low-medium heat, stirring often, for around two minutes until translucent.
- Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan and continue to cook, stirring often. Cook for around 10 minutes, until the mushrooms have softened and most of the excess moisture has evaporated. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible and stir in the cream. Continue to cook for another minute or so.
- If you’re not using pre-made crêpes, prepare four thin pancakes using your preferred method. Place each of the crêpes on a large square of cling film. Spread each of the crêpes with a quarter of the mushroom duxelles.
- Pat the fillet steaks dry with some kitchen paper, then place in the middle of each crêpe, on top of the mushroom duxelles.
- Roll the side closest to you over the meat, to encase within the crêpes, then wrap tightly in the cling flim and transfer to the fridge for around 30 minutes, until completely cold.
- At this point, pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
- Roll the pastry into a large rectangle (approx. 3mm) thick, then cut into 4 rectangles large enough to cover each of the wrapped fillet steaks. Brush the pastry with beaten egg yolk, then place each wrapped beef fillet onto one side of the pastry. Fold over then firmly press down to seal.
- Trim the excess pastry edges, brush the tops of each wellington with a little more egg wash and place in the fridge to cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Place the wellingtons onto a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper and add one shallow slit to the top of each. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Related: How To Make: The Perfect Steak