Give it some welly

My home attempt Beef Wellington served with celeriac purée and asparagus

Filet de Boeuf Wellington. Woohoo!!!

Making Beef Wellington was a double cook. The first 3 hours in the kitchen was Mise en Place—making the puff pastry, duxelles, a chicken mousse and crêpes with chervil. The French adore chervil. It’s hard to obtain in the UK. The second 3 hours was the build and cook and serve.

I was scratching my head about the chicken mousse. I’d heard about using pancakes to wrap the meat and hold the mushrooms in place so that explained the crêpes. But what the hell had chicken mousse got to do with Beef Wellington? Turns out it gets mixed with the mushrooms so they set once cooked. Clever.

I enjoyed making the puff pastry last time and it turned out well. This time we had to use the French inclusion method and not the English way. It’s a more complicated way to include the butter within the Detrempe or base dough for no net benefit. The method required 4 petals to be rolled from the centre of the dough and the centre of the dough to be large enough to enclose a 20cm square of rolled butter. The leaves were then folded in. Et voila! Inclusion done. 6 turns were then made to build up the laminations with a 30-minute rest in the fridge in between each pair of turns. It had been a hot week and it was humid in the kitchen. Just like that episode of Bake Off when the pastry is impossible and the chocolate melts. I shortened a few rests to get done on time. In the end this meant I didn’t quite get the rise in my baked puff. Given the proximity of the puff to wetter ingredients—basically everything else in the Wellington—you’re never going to get the rise that you’d expect with say a vol-au-vent. However, the decorative outer lattice of puff pastry should puff nicely. It didn’t do great.

To build the Wellington, crêpes were arranged on cling film, a rectangle of duxelle and chicken mousse was spread in the middle, and the beef placed centrally with the top side down. The beef was carefully wrapped like a Christmas present, ensuring all surfaces were covered by the mousse mixture. Into the fridge to set up.

The puff was rolled to size and a piece reserved for the lattice. Rest in the fridge.

Assembly. With the beef located on the puff pastry, top side down, the puff was trimmed, egg-washed and rolled ensuring a tight seal. It was then turned over and the ends tucked neatly. The heat in the kitchen meant I had 2 attempts at this to try get a tight fit. The outside was egg washed, the lattice fitted and a chimney hole added. Oven.

Beef wrapped in duxelles, chicken mouse and savoury crêpes

Beef Wellington ready for the oven

While all that was going on beef trimmings were browned, mirepoix added, degreased and deglazed with Madeira and veal stock. Blip, blip. Infuse. Skim. Pass. Reduce. Jerusalem artichokes were peeled and diced and cooked in butter until they took on colour. A little water was added now and again to help them along. While hot they were puréed in a hand blender then passed through a drum sieve. It’s important to blitz while hot and as it turns out, a chinois must be used to obtain the smooth finish. Yellow beans were cooked to order in a little water and butter.

How did it turn out?

Well that’s the problem with Beef Wellington. You don’t know until you carve it. There’s the inevitable nervous anticipation. Then…

My Beef Wellington resting after the oven

…cue sad trombone sound.

Not great. My beef was over and though my puff pastry looked good from the outside the lattice lacked, well, puff. And I still didn’t get the wrapping tight enough to avoid air gaps. Gutted. As a beef lover, this was my dish. I really wanted to give my Wellington some welly but I fucked it up. I try not to swear on here but hopefully my emphasis conveys the scale of my disappointment. The beef probably had a few more minutes in the oven than it needed but I suspect the damage was done by overzealous searing. On the plus side chef said my jus was “superb”, my purée tasted great though the texture was grainy, and my beans were perfectly cooked and seasoned.

Here’s what chef plated in the demo.

Chef’s Beef Wellington with artichoke purée, artichoke crips and yellow beans

Here’s my attempt. I went for symmetry on the plate with a hodgepodge arrangement of garniture.

Slightly overcooked Beef Wellington

Deflated, I took my naff puff home along with leftover crêpes and duxelles mousse, resolved to have another go at the Beef Wellington. The photo at the top of this post shows my second attempt. Much better beef. Happy. Why couldn’t I do that on the day? FFS.

During the second demo chef also prepared an Assiette de Foie Gras Gourmande or selection of foie gras dishes.

The poached foie gras was served with fig and dark chocolate purée. The foie gras was horrible mostly because it still had the veins inside. Chef said this was conventional. To pull the liver apart and remove the veins would create a structure that would not lend itself to poaching later. The purée was nice though. I could taste the Port. The fried foie gras was yum. Caramelised. It was served with a lentil salad. The star was the foie gras espuma. OMG. Diced foie gras was poached in chicken stock then blitzed with Cognac, passed through a chinois and left to cool with an occasional whisk. A siphon or creamer was used with a double charge of CO2 and was left in the fridge upside down for 20 minutes or so. Sooo good. Light, airy, creamy and so tasty. I could’ve lathered myself up in the stuff.

Poached and fried foie gras served with a foie gras espuma