Filet de boeuf en croûte (Beef Wellington)

This extraordinarily sumptuous dish probably does not owe its name to the great Sir Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington of Napoleonic war fame. Perhaps it was a rare subversive attempt to Anglicise a French dish during that time. However one names it, it is a treat and makes for an indulgent Sunday lunch.

It  is essentially a piece of beef fillet wrapped in a pâté consisting variably of mushrooms, ground meat or foie gras. I have used ground Portobello mushrooms with a prosciutto wrap with an outer wrap of puff pastry. If you wish to make a version with smaller slices, then feel free to use Aberdeen Angus fillet. Feel free to use ready made puff pastry. 1 fillet feeds 6 – 8 people. It goes well with sauté potatoes and wilted kale. Serve this dish with a mature claret.

6 tbsp olive oil

14 oz (400 gms) Portobello mushrooms, chopped

Salt and pepper

1 whole beef fillet, surface-dried and seasoned

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

10 slices prosciutto ham

21 0z (600 gms) puff pastry

Plain flour to dust

2 egg yolks, beaten

Place the mushrooms in a food processor and blend with seasoning until it produces a coarse paste. Warm 2 tbsp the olive oil in a shallow pan and under a moderate heat, sauté the paste until the water content of the mushrooms has evaporated. In the meantime, prepare a rectangular sheet of cling film large enough to wrap around the beef fillet with a small amount of overlap. Lay the sheet out on a work surface then arrange the prosciutto slices in overlapping palisades so as to cover the cling film. Spoon out the seasoned mushroom paste onto the prosciutto slices and, using a spatula or palette knife, spread it evenly.





In a separate heavy pan, heat the remaining olive oil. Sauté the beef fillet on all sides until it is browned all over. This will take about 10 minutes to complete. It is important not to overcook the fillet. Take the fillet out of the pan and place it in the centre of the layered cling film rectangle. Carefully wrap the cling film with its prosciutto and mushroom layers around the fillet and carefully place the overlap it at the base. Place the wrapped fillet on baking sheet and mould it into a neat roll shape. Refrigerate it for 30 minutes to help it keep its shape.







Preheat the oven to 360F/180C/GM6. Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the puff pastry into a 2 mm layer or perhaps the width of a thick coin. Take the beef out of the refrigerator and carefully remove the cling film. Place the wrapped fillet into the centre of the pastry and wrap it neatly. Carefully connect the seam of pastry in a neat line. Cut out excess areas of puff pastry. Shape the Wellington and place it seam down on a baking sheet. Brush the pastry all over with the egg yolk. Using a knife make regular scores in the pastry but do not penetrate the width of the pastry. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 320F/160C/GM3 and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Remove the Wellington and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.



Roast loin of pork with mead reduction and honey roast vegetables

The origins of mead are truly ancient and is almost certainly one of the (if not the) oldest, of alcoholic beverages with archaeological evidence dating back at least 4000 years in China and 2000 years in Europe. It is essentially a wine formed from honey and is known for its sweetness, its medieval charm and its ruthless hangovers. The latter is unsurprising given the large number of complex sugars which in turn break down into skull-breaking complex ketones.

My inspiration for this dish came from my recent visit to Hampton Court Palace – a must visit for fans of Tudor and Jacobean history. The tourist restaurant served good food including a decent beef brisket. What caught my eye was the advertisement for the mead and honey cakes on sale as a specialty product. It was delicious. Honey mead and seeds made for a great combination.

Given the popularity of red wine, Madeira and port reductions, it did seem logical to try a mead version of this technique. What I found was that mead is quite a subtly flavoured drink and I needed larger starting volumes of the alcoholic beverage than I usually use. In fact I doubled it. The result was a silky smooth, creamy, honeyed jus that was difficult to stop dipping in the spoon for tastings prior to serving. This beautiful sauce compliments pork excellently. I hope you enjoy making it.

Each tenderloin serves 2 people comfortably.

For the sauce

1 rack of pork ribs, separated
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup (125 mls) water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 turnips, peeled and chopped
1 head of garlic, chopped
10 black peppercorns
1/2 cup (125 mls) Madeira
1 cup (250 mls) Mead
4 cups (1 L) chicken stock/water
3 tbsp golden sultanas
1/2 cup (125 mls) double cream

Heat the oil in a stock pot and sauté the ribs until they brown. Deglaze with the water. Allow the pan to sizzle again then transfer the bones to a warm plate. Add the vegetables and peppercorns and continue cooking until they become caramelised. The water content of the vegetables will deglaze the pan. Deglaze for a third time with the Madeira. Once reduced to about a quarter, add the mead and reduce by 1/3. Add the chicken stock/water and simmer, frequently skimming impurities from the surface. Simmer for about 3 hours. Strain the liquid and reduce it in the pan by at least 1/2. Add the sultanans. Add the cream and reduce to the required consistency.

For the tenderloin

1 tenderloin of pork (for 2 people)
5 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to180C/350F/GM4. Season the tenderloin. In a large pan, sear the tenderloin on all its surfaces. Transfer the tenderloin to a baking sheet and then cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the tenderloin from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Slice the tenderloin into thumb-width slices.

For the honey glazed vegetables

Carrots, peeled
Turnips, peeled
Heads of garlic, halved
Parsnips, peeled
salt and black pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp honey
5 sprigs rosemary

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/GM4. Place a baking tray with the oil into the oven. Boil the root vegetables in salted water for 5 minutes and drain. When dry, season them well with salt and pepper. Carefully remove the hot baking tray with oil from the oven and place it on a hob on a moderate heat. Sauté the vegetables in the hot oil. when slightly browned, transfer the vegetables to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tray of vegetables from the oven, coat them in the honey, add the rosemary and return them to the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Arranging the dish

Plate out the tenderloin segments and the honey roasted vegetables with some grapes. Spoon out the mead reduction and serve.