The culinary history of Beef Wellington is a bit of a mystery, with far too many theories, (and all of them lacking in any hard evidence) to put this dish any earlier than the 20th Century – it certainly does not appear in any Victorian recipe books. So ignoring for now the myths surrounding this recipe we should instead concentrate on making it.
Indeed we should! For my vegetarian version, I decided to wrap the pastry around eggplant anyone could love (marinated, breaded, baked), I topped it with roasted mushrooms and shallots sprinkled with sherry, and I put a layer of sautéed chard in the middle. It turned out very well indeed! Tasty, and substantial, but not overly heavy considering it’s really only vegetables inside. (And a few slices of cheese!)
It’s not a last-minute meal – it did take a bit of time because there are a few parts to contend with, but most of them could be made earlier in the day, or even the day before. And if you buy your puff pastry, you’d cut down even more time. (I’d be more likely to cheat and use a quick paté brisée before I’d buy frozen puff pastry, though.) It’s very fun to make, too – and a delight to take out of the oven. I felt so proud of myself! It makes a nice crowed-pleasing meal for a special occasion. Like Christmas dinner!
We ate it with a lovely tomato & port wine sauce that went perfectly with all the flavors and textures.
If you liked this, you might like to also try my Portobello Wellington.
If you’d like to compare this to genuine beef wellington, check out Felicity Cloake’s article in the Guardian.
Here’s Michael Coleman, a fiddler active in the 20s, playing Wellington Reels.
1 batch of puff pastry (You’ll have extra, but, as ever, I made them into (very puffy) crackers.
1 eggplant prepared this way. But cut lengthwise and still about 1/4 inch thin.
1 batch roasted mushrooms. Be sure to include the shallot, but leave out the garlic. When it’s done sprinkle about a tablespoon of sherry over the mushrooms.
1 bunch swiss chard, washed and chopped very finely
1 garlic clove
1 T. olive oil
red pepper flakes
1/2 t. basil
about 1 cup of very thinly sliced mozzarella
Preheat an oven and a baking sheet to 425.
1. In a large frying pan, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, basil and red pepper flakes. THen add the chard. Cook until the chard is wilted and the pan is quite dry. IN a bowl combine the chard and one egg. Season with salt and black pepper.
2. Roll out your puff pastry to be about 1/8th inch thick. You want to have a square that’s about 1 foot by 1 1/2 feet. (Cut off the rest, slice it in strips and you can bake it alongside as crackers.)
3. Beat the remaining egg in a small cup. Brush some beaten egg over the pastry.
5. Layer your eggplant lengthwise in the middle of the pastry rectangle. (I put it to one end, because I was going to try to roll it up, as seems to be traditional, but because this has layers, it proved easier to pull the edges up around it and then flip the whole thing over onto its seam.) Do two layers of eggplant, then a thin layer of sliced mozzarella.
7. Put another layer of cheese and two more layers of eggplant. Pull the edges of the dough up over the filling, and press the seam gently to close. Then turn the whole thing over onto it’s seam, right onto the hot baking sheet. Crimp the two ends with a fork. Brush everything with the remaining beaten egg, and prick in a few places with a fork to let the steam escape. Try not to think of your uncooked wellington as a giant slug.
8. Cook for about 20 minutes to half an hour, till it’s puffy and golden brown. Let it sit for a few minutes before you try to cut into it. Serve with any sauce you like, but I’d recommend this port wine tomato sauce.