The Best of British

Recently, a selection of Spanish friends challenged me to cook a British meal that was “actually good and not boring”. Immediately, I was up to the challenge! But I must admit to being stuck. What’s the British classic that stands out as a beauty?

Like any modern woman with a question that can be resolved with a public vote, I turned to Facebook. There were oodles of suggestions each more British than the last- Roast Dinner, Pie & Mash, Fish and Chips… But one stood out to me as deliciously challenging and I couldn’t resist. I opted for Beef Wellington.

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Now, first and foremost the theme of this dinner was British, and nothing but! So after deciding on Beef Wellington, I thought very carefully about what ingredients are to be used, where they are to be sourced, and what sides and beverages are to be selected.

For the ingredients, my local farm shop sorted me out nicely.
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As someone that had never cooked or eaten a Beef Wellington before, I was incredibly nervous about this dish. I had no idea about cooking times or temps, so I used this Gordon Ramsay Recipe as a guide. You will see it calls for smoked pancetta to be wrapped around the beef… Which sounds absolutely amazing and something I will do in the future, but was unfortunately something I knew I would lose British points for. I still wanted that smoky bite to it though, so was very happy to find Smoked Garlic in my farm shop! Just what I needed for the job!

Among other items, Smith’s Farm Shop is also where I bought our starter- the royally delicious Brixworth Pâté, local to my home town of Northamptonshire and so perfect it’s rumoured the Queen of England herself has it ordered in to Buckingham Palace by the kilo!

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For the sauce? I wracked my brains to come up with something. A red wine or brandy sauce would be good, but wouldn’t work with my accompaniments. A white wine sauce? Also good, but name me one decent British white wine. Finally it came to me… A bizarr invention that might just be crazy enough to work…

Gin Stilton Sauce
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Finally, the drinks. It can only be Real Ale! I had great fun introducing people to their first sips of a variety of top ones! Noted favourites included Hob Goblin and Well’s Banana Bread. The Scottish Innis & Gunn was used to get the Spanish pallets adjusted and ready for the taste of ale and seemed to do the job very nicely as there was no holding back the beer from this point!
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The final point I’ll mention is the cut of beef to be used. Any Beef Wellington recipe will tell you to use fillet, which sounds like a delicious and tender treat… But go into Waitrose and ask for a piece of fillet steak big enough to feed 4 people in a Beef Wellington, and you will be quoted in the region of £30-£40. After 5 minutes of jumping from one foot to the other in a little panic as to which is the best alternative cut that will cook nicely, have a good flavour and remain tender, the kindly butcher eventually guided me to a silver side joint, bigger than the fillet cut I had just been shown and more than half the price. Better! So, if you follow this recipe, keep in mind that it’s with this particular cut of beef and I took very delicate measures with the cooking times as a result!
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So, now we know the facts, let’s press on!

Ingredients

For the Beef Wellington

  • 1kg of Silverside Joint Beef
  • 500g of Puff Pastry
  • Fresh thyme
  • Smoked garlic- lots
  • 500g of chesnut mushrooms
  • A sploosh of white wine
  • Fresh spinach
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 20g of proppa English butta
  • 2 eggs

For the Gin Stilton Sauce

  • 100ml of Gordon’s Gin
  • 250g Stilton Cheese
  • A handful of chives, chopped
  • 120ml of double cream
  • 1 clove of garlic

Let’s Get Our British On!!

1. Pre-heat your oven to 150

2. Prep your beef. Rub with oil, salt, pepper and tuck your thyme inside the butcher string.
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3. If, like me, you prefer you meat closer to rare, cook for exactly one hour. For mediumish, one hour 10 minutes… closer to well done, one hour 20 but I really wouldn’t recommend this for Beef Wellington.

4. After one hour, remove your beef from the oven and leave to cool. Once at room temperature, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for one hour.

5. While you wait, quarter and slice the mushrooms and chop up about 5 cloves of the smoked garlic to whatever style you see fit. Put them in a frying pan then place this one a low heat. Stir gently while the butter melts, ensuring the mushrooms get a good rub of it. Once the butter has melted, add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and about 50ml of white wine. Once this has been soaked up by the mushroom, add another 50ml of white wine. Once this has been soaked up, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

6. Take your pastry and divide into two pieces- 1/3 and 2/3. Dust your work suface with flour, and roll out the 1/3 piece of pasty. Place this on a non-stick baking tray.
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7. Place a thick bed of spinach leaves in the centre
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8. Then your beautiful beef (removing the butcher strings/thyme sprig of course)
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9. Then finally your delicious smoky garlic mushrooms.
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10. Next, beat the two eggs together and paint the visible edges of your pastry. Return to your floured work surface and roll out the large piece of pastry. Very carefully place this on top of your beef. Then take a spoon, dip in the beaten egg and use the curved back of the spoon to gently press down the edges.

11. Paint all over your Beef Wellington with the beaten egg. Use a knife to trim the edges and keep it tidy, then use the BLUNT BACK OF THE KNIFE to gently press along the top, making decorative lines. Take great care not to tear the pastry.
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You are now ready for the final stage of cooking the Beef Wellington! To make life easier, I did all of this as prep the night before then covered and placed it in the fridge, so all I had to worry about in the House of Spanish was throwing it in the oven, drinking lots of beer and making the Gin Stilton sauce.

The Gin Stilton Sauce

1. In a small saucepan, pour in your gin with the clove of garlic and bring to a simmer.

2. Throw in your cheese and chives and stir until the cheese has melted.

3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cream. Then return to a VERY low heat and stir for 3 minutes.

4. Remove the clove of garlic.

Cooking Your Beef Wellington

Finally, we approach the moment of truth! Pre-heat the oven to 180(fan) and bake until the pastry is golden… about 25-30 minutes. Serve in big slices with the sides of your choice! I went with Brussell Sprouts roasted with Smoked Bacon Lardons and Shallots, and Vichy Carrots.
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Words can’t express the relief I felt when we sliced the wellington down the middle to find the perfectly pinkened beef inside! This was, for me, and incredibly challenging dish but it really paid off and was enjoyed by all! The Gin Stilton Sauce, originally created for a bit of a joke in my fierce commitment to the British theme, was actually delicious and worked really well against the smoky flavour given to the beef from the mushrooms. The pastry of course made a fine mop for this sauce too! I was keen to do my country proud, and felt confident I had achieved this as I watched everyone go for seconds! I’ll definitely cook this again (once I have the energy)… Perhaps next time with the smoked pancetta!

Finally, at the end of the night, the British Recipe appreciation was (quite literally) topped off by my Homemade British Blueberry Wine. Followed by Diana’s sparkling ros’e, this ended the night quite nicely.
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I think it’s fair to say we all had a good time!

As a final remark, I would like it noted on record that following this evening everyone was hungover except for me! What a nice change of pace! Perhaps Real Ale should feature more frequently in our shenanigans??…

2 thoughts on “The Best of British

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