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Beef Wellington - Cheap Sous Vide Method

Introduction & method

Beef Wellington is a favourite celebration dish. If it's made well, it's bound to impress, but it's not easy to get the beef fillet cooked right while maintaining a firm and crisp pastry shell. Plus the fillet of beef is frighteningly expensive. As an experiment, I decided to try making beef wellington with a cheaper cut of beef (I ended up with topside, which cost less than half the price of beef fillet), and pre-cooking it using the sous vide technique. It turned out really well. Some versions of beef wellington have the meat wrapped in Parma ham, and some include a layer of pâté de foie gras. I think the dish is plenty rich enough just with the meat coated in mushroom duxelles, so that's what I'm doing, along with crêpes to stop the bottom going soggy.

Beef Wellington - Cheap Sous Vide Method Recipe

Prep the Beef

Set your sous vide immersion circulator or water bath to 56°C (133°F) and heat it up.
Trim off any fat from the beef, and cut the joint to shape - it needs to be like a cylinder, about 75mm (3 inches) diameter. This is the natural shape for fillet, but not for many other cuts, so try to buy something that can be cut down to a cylinder. Bear in mind you might have to cut off quite a lot so buy more meat than you need for this. Season the beef all over with salt, black pepper and thyme. Put it into a vacuum pouch and suck the air out and seal it with a food-saver gadget. Or use a zip-lock bag and when the water is up to temperature put the bag in, let the water displace the air and close the zip. Cook for 4 hours.


Being realistic, you'll probably buy ready-made, ready-rolled puff pastry. But if you do want to push the boat out, this rough puff pastry is easy to make and has a texture that's kind of halfway between puff and shortcrust pastry. Your butter needs to be cold and hard, so stick it in the freezer for 30-60 minutes. Mix the salt into the flour in a large bowl. Partially unwrap the butter, dip the open end into the flour, then grate butter into the flour, dipping the end of the butter into the flour every now and again. When the butter's all grated, fold it into the flour with a knife. Now add water, one tablespoon at a time. Stir each addition in thoroughly before adding the next one: you don't want to add too much. Just under a cupful should be enough to make the dough stick together in a ball. Wrap it in plastic film and place in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

Mushroom Duxelles

Clean the mushrooms and chop them as finely as you can. Peel and finely chop the onion. If you have a machine in your kitchen that can help you with this chopping, I encourage you to make use of it because doing this amount by hand is a tiny bit soul-destroying. Heat a little oil or butter in a large frying pan and throw in the mushrooms and onion. Fry gently for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly. You want the mushrooms to give up as much of their moisture as possible. and the duxelles mix should be a bit like a paste. Set aside to cool.

Make a Crêpe

Whisk together the flour and salt, then the milk, and then the egg. Beat until smooth and fairly runny - add a dash more milk if it's too thick. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes. Heat some butter or oil in a big frying pan and when it's hot, pour in some of the pancake mixture and swirl it round until it's big enough to cover the bottom half of the meat. When the underside is golden, turn it over and cook the other side. When done, remove from pan and set aside.

Finish the Beef

When the beef has had its 4 hours, remove it from its plastic bag. Some juices will have escaped, so pour these into a bowl and use them later in a sauce. Pat the beef dry and sear it all over in a very hot pan with a tiny bit of oil in it. You want to get a good charred crust on the beef. While it's still hot, paint it all over with Dijon mustard. Set aside.

Assemble the Beef Wellington

Sprinkle some flour on your worktop and rolling pin. Roll the pastry out into a rectangle that's about 5mm (quarter inch) thick. Lay out 2 long strips of cling film, slightly overlapping, and transfer the pastry onto it, leaving a small margin at the bottom edge. Cut the crêpe into a rectangle that will fold halfway up the sides and ends of the meat. Spread duxelles in a thin layer on the crêpe, place the meat in the centre, and spread the remaining duxelles over the top and sides. Raise the pastry up and over the long side of the meat. Trim the pastry if necessary so you get a 2cm (just under an inch) overlap along the centre. Apply a bit of water as glue and rub down the seam with your finger. Squeeze the ends together and fold it up onto the top of the parcel. Trim off excess pastry and seal with water. Pull the edge of the cling film that's nearest to you up and over the top of the parcel, then start rolling the whole lot towards the far edge. Twizzle the ends of the cling film tightly to compress the parcel. Wrap as tightly as you can in 2-3 more layers of film and place in the fridge to chill for an hour.

Decorate and Bake

Preheat your oven to 200°C (392°F) for a fan oven, 220°C (428°F) conventional, gas 7. If you want to apply decoration, roll out some of the excess pastry as thinly as you can, and cut leaves, stalks, berries or whatever you want. Or you can leave the wellington plain but I don't recommend scoring patterns into this pastry as it doesn't puff up much. Take the wellington from the firdge, unwrap it and paint the top and sides with eggwash. Stcik your leaves however you want them and lightly brush with eggwash. I was concerned that the pastry might spread out at the bottom of the wellington, so I put it in a loaf tin for the first 15 minutes. Then I took it out and baked it for 15 minutes more. When your pastry is golden-brown, take it out and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting it into thick slices.


Ingredients & Info

 700 grams lean beef joint (eg topside)
 1 tsp salt
 half a tsp black pepper
 half a tsp salt
 half a tsp thyme
 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
 250 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
 200 grams unsalted butter
 about a cup water
 pinch of salt
 250 grams mushrooms
 1 medium onion
 1 tsp salt
 half a tsp black pepper
 half a tsp salt
 half a tsp thyme
 75 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
 125 ml milk
 1 egg
 pinch of salt


Eggwash - a beaten egg with a splash of milk.

US Customary/Imperial

Serves 4 -6
Prep time: 30 minutes.
Resting/chilling time: 1 hour.
Cooking time: 4 hours.
Total time: 5 hours 30 minutes.