Beef Wellington

2015-01-25 19.07.11

I made a beef wellington!

And I do not mind admitting, I am SO proud of myself.

I really like cooking up savoury dishes, but I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to making this kind of thing. Like most people, I tend to stick to the 5-6 meals I can make without really thinking about, rather than looking up new things to cook. But, I wanted to make something special for my boyfriend’s birthday, so I decided to attempt the wellington and he loved it. He said it was the best thing I’d ever cooked him and I really liked it, too.

I used a recipe from Jamie’s Comfort Food (Although 90% of my cookbooks had a variation in them) and it was actually quite simple and only took about an hour and a half. The effort to impressiveness ratio is high!

As there were only two of us, I made a mini version with a smaller piece of fillet. My small one worked out fine and was actually handy because it fitted exactly in a sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry, but the recipe below serves 4-6.

One word of warning though, this meal is NOT CHEAP. Just for my little two-man version, the fillet I bought from the market cost £18.50. EIGHTEEN POUNDS AND FIFTY PENCE. Once I’d bought all the other bits it came to around £25.00 for the whole meal. This puts beef wellington firmly in the “Birthdays, Christmas and off to prison tomorrow” category as far as I’m concerned.

Beef Wellington (Taken from Jamie’s Comfort Food)

Serves 4-6

  • 1kg centre fillet of beef, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large knobs unsalted butter
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or Dorot frozen cubes
  • 600g mixed mushrooms (I used chestnut and button, but generally, urgh mushrooms), finely chopped
  • 100g chicken livers, chopped
  • 500g block of puff pastry
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • Worcestershire sauce
  1. Preheat a large frying pan on a high heat and add the oil, butter and rosemary.
  2. Season the beef with the salt and pepper, then seal by turning it regularly with tongs for about 4 minutes. Take it out the pan and put it aside on a plate.
  3. In the same pan, fry the onion and garlic until softened and then add in the mushrooms. Cook for around 15 minutes.
  4. Add in the livers and cook for a few minutes, then tip the contents onto a large board.
  5. Finely chop it all by hand with a big knife, to a spreadable consistency. I used my trusty demi-lune knife for this.
  6. Taste and season, then stir in the breadcrumbs which should hopefully stop the pastry getting too soggy.
  7. Preheat the oven to 210ºC/425ºF/gas 7.
  8. On a flour-dusted surface, roll out the pastry to 30cm x 40cm. As I mentioned earlier, I used pre-rolled puff so I just left it on the waxed paper it came in and didn’t need any flour. This next bit is directly copied from Jamie, as it’s a bit confusing:

“With one of the longer edges in front of you, spread the mushroom pâté over the pastry, leaving a 5cm gap at either end and at the edge furthest away from you – eggwash these edges. Sit the beef on the pâté, then, starting with the edge nearest you, snugly wrap the pastry around the beef, pinching the ends to seal.”

Basically, fold it over itself and squash down the edges.

  1. Transfer the Wellington to a large baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, with the pastry seal at the bottom and brush all over with eggwash.
  2. Before it goes in the oven, heat the tray for a few minutes on the hob to crisp up the base, then transfer to the oven and cook for around 40 minutes.

For the timing, I wasn’t sure how long to cook it as I’d used a much smaller piece of beef. I cooked it for about 35 minutes in the end and it was very rare, which is fine for my boyfriend and me (we eat like wolves) but I know not everyone likes their beef like that. As for the breadcrumb trick, the pastry was a little soggy but not bad. Ooh, one more thing; I couldn’t find chicken livers when I was shopping so I just used some Crème Fraiche I found in the fridge to make it creamy. Turned out fine.

A few other recipes I’d looked at suggested making dauphinoise potatoes to go with a wellington but as the portions turned out enormous we just had ours with broccoli and some onion gravy. Classy!

This week I’m sure I’ll be straight back to my usual bolognaise, Thai curry and chili routine but I’m pleased I made the effort with this. I’ll be riding the smugness for weeks to come!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

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2015-01-25 19.07.11

Christmas Chocolate Truffles

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. Well, given how late I’ve left it to write this, it doesn’t just look like Christmas, it actually IS Christmas.

I love Christmas. Winter’s my favourite time of year and Christmas is just the best bit. I like the presents, the decorations, the lights, the time off work (seriously, a sure sign of getting older must be that you look forward to the six days off just as much as the big day), the TV and especially THE FOOD.

Roast turkey, Mum’s bread sauce, mince pies, Wine Gums (if Nan’s staying), amazing leftover sandwiches, Jan’s Boxing Day chilli…. it’s all good. And giving food as gifts is fun, too.

I wanted to make a little foodie gift for all my work friends to go with their cards. Last year I gave everyone tiny decorated sponge cakes and I wanted to do something similar. I decided on chocolate truffles, decorated to look like mini christmas puddings. I made some last year and really liked how they turned out and it also meant that I could use my edible glitter, which is always a plus.

I found a recipe for chocolate truffles on the good old BBC Good Food website, which recommends using all dark chocolate, but I’ve used 125g dark chocolate and 175g milk chocolate, because I find that they can be too bitter.

I will admit, I’ve had to make this twice because I cocked up and forgot to buy butter so used Flora Buttery instead. I don’t know the science, but it seems that the truffles need the fat to set or something because the mixture just stayed really gross and slimy. So use full fat, it’s Christmas!

Christmas Pudding Chocolate Truffles

Makes about 40 truffles

For the truffles:

  • 300g good quality chocolate
  • 300ml double cream
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • Bitter cocoa, such as Bourneville or Green & Blacks

For the decorations:

  • 125g white chocolate
  • Holly sprinkles
  • Edible glitter
  • Gold petit-four cases
  1. Chop up your chocolate (I used a demi-lune knife) and pour into a large heat-proof bowl
  2. Gently heat the butter and cream until the butter melts and the cream starts to simmer
  3. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and pour over the chocolate
  4. Stir the chocolate and cream together until you have a smooth mixture
  5. Leave to set for around 3-4 hours

Once the mixture has set, you can start decorating!

  1. To shape the truffles, pour the cocoa into a medium sized bowl
  2. Take a walnut sized spoonful of truffle and roll in your hands to make a ball
  3. Drop the truffle into the cocoa and roll around to cover and then place in a petit-four case
  4. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave (much easier than a bain-marie) and then use a teaspoon to dot a tiny amount on top of the truffle, to make the cream on the pudding
  5. Finish by carefully placing some holly sprinkles on top and then dust over the glitter

I think you’ll agree, they’re pretty effective.

For the packaging, I had grand ideas. I wanted to put four or five into a clear plastic box, very simple and classy. I found the boxes by searching “clear plastic favour boxes” on eBay but it turns out I can’t count or measure though and I bought 35 boxes in totally the wrong size. I ended up just giving everyone one truffle in a little box on the day of our Christmas lunch when we wouldn’t want to eat much anyway. The single truffles actually looked really cute in their Christmassy boxes and made a nice little present to go with the cards.

So that’s that. Tree’s up, cards are written, presents are wrapped and gifts are made. We are ready for Christmas! Ha, not really, so much left to do! I hope everyone has a wonderful time over the holidays and if anyone finds themselves needing 25 favour cases, please let me know.

Merry Christmas!!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

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Frimble Frumble

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I’ve been wanting to cook something Christmassy for the last week or so, but I couldn’t decide what to make. I know a gifty thing I want to make for friends, but it’s too early for that. Then it hit me, I’ll try and make Pret’s Crimble Crumble!

I LOVE Crimble Crumble. It’s a mince pie bar that’s shortbread with a layer of mincemeat and a crumble topping. It’s rich and lovely and, it turns out, quite easy to copy.

I’ve decided to call my own version Frimble Frumble, so we all know it’s a fake. I used Jamie recipes for the shortbread and crumble topping, but I used shop-bought mincemeat. It took most of Sunday to make, but its very easy, just a bit of a faff.

Frimble Frumble

Makes about 12-16, depending on how you’re cutting!

Part One, Shortbread (Taken from Cook with Jamie)

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 125g cornflour or semolina
  • Preheat the oven to 150ºC
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  2. Add the flour and semolina and mix lightly with a spoon then your hands to make a dough
  3. Jamie recommends that you then roll it out on a floured surface before placing into prepared tin. I found this really tricky so I ended up putting the ball of dough into the tin and flattening it into place with my hands.
  4. Prick the dough all over with a fork and place in the oven for 50 minutes or until it’s golden
  5. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Part Two, Mincemeat

  • 2 jars of any shop bought mincemeat (I used Co-Op, because we happen to live opposite one)
  1. Spread the mincemeat over the shortbread. That’s it!

Part Three, Crumble (Taken from the apple pie recipe in Jamie’s Dinners)

  • 225g plain flour
  • 140g unsalted butter
  • 85g caster sugar
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Rub together the flour, butter, sugar, lemon and salt to make a sandy mixture
  3. Add the egg yolk and a dash of water and make a dough
  4. When the dough is smooth, wrap in clingfilm and put in the freezer for a couple of hours
  5. Once the dough is quite firm, take out the freezer and crumble over the mincemeat. I just pulled bits off the dough and scattered over, but I think next time I’d leave it longer in the freezer and then grate a layer over too.
  6. Put in the oven and cook for around 30 minutes. Keep a close eye on it though, as the time it takes to cook depends on the thickness of the crumble.

And its done! I sliced it into smallish squares and rectangles and took it to work for everyone to sample. It went down very well! It’s not *exactly* the same as the Pret version, I think that they use actual crumble rather than a pastry, but its still a nice take on a traditional mince pie. According to the Pret website, Crimble Crumbles are 330 calories per serving and I’d imagine Frimble Frumbles are about the same.

In other news… we got a cat! After 2 solid years of hints and flat out pleading, Jonny finally relented and we adopted a cat from a girl in Manningtree, who is having a baby and couldn’t look after her cats any more.

He’s a tabby boy called Ziggy and he’s very nearly a year old. I would love to put a photo on here to show how handsome he is, but he’s an antisocial sod at the moment and is living behind the sofa, under a radiator. He only seems to come out at night, to test out the acoustics of the house by wailing pitifully in every room. Still, all the (many, many) websites I’ve looked at and friends on Facebook say that this is normal and he’ll relax and make friends with us soon, so I’m not too worried. A little friend for Christmas, yay!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

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