Sunday, 23 March 2014

My Beef 'Wellington' with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Some years ago when Mrs Clonc and I were courting, I whisked her away to London for a weekend. We booked a lovely little hotel just near Earls Court but as we did not know the area very well and  iphones were still not about (I know its hard to imagine a time with out them) we spoke to an actual person at the hotel who directed us to what is now a restaurant I hold in very high regard. Not because it is the height of gastronomy but because although the food was good and the atmosphere convivial but because it holds a lot of good memories for me. I believe when it comes to forming a lasting 'food memory' there are so many factors that contribute to it and for me it was a combination of good food, good service and even better company. I believe your mood has a big influence on your enjoyment of food or dining out. If you have the predisposition to criticise everything and are not 'in a good place' then you will not enjoy the experience or the food. If however you are relaxed and open to trying a new place to eat or a new type of food then good 'food memories' are waiting to be made! I know we can all recount that meal or restaurant we rave to friends and family about but when you think about it there is so much more that contributed to that 'food memory' than just the food. 
The restaurant in question is The Little French Restaurant in Earls Court, London. It's a lovely small place tucked away just off the high street with the most reasonably priced menu in London in my opinion. The stand out dish on the menu for me has inspired this recipe. 
I've called it a 'Wellington' for the sake of brevity but in actuality it is a lovely braised blade of beef wrapped in puff pastry served with a sauce made from the cooking liquor and accompanied by the bang in season purple sprouting broccoli that is as delightful to eat as it is to look at. I've used a cut of beef here called blade of beef or feather blade of beef, its a more unusual cut but this is reflected in the very reasonable price and that it needs to be cooked long and slow and is delicious. The recipe is for two people but can easily be scaled up for more people and can be preprepared for a dinner party for instance. 

My Beef 'Wellington' with Purple Spouting Broccoli - Makes two individual 'Wellingtons'
  • 1 blade of beef trimmed of all fat and sinew and cut into 2 portions width ways
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Plain flour to coat the beef 
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to season
  • Olive oil to cook with 
  • 600ml fresh beef stock (you can use a stock cube if you wish)
  • 300ml red wine - I used a decent Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 pack of 320g ready to use puff pastry sheet
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g of purple spouting broccoli 
  • 1 knob of butter

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade/gas mark 2 (I know this sounds low but trust me on this). Firstly start by seasoning the plain flour with salt and pepper, you need just enough flour to cover a large dish. Then add the beef to the dish and coat with the seasoned flour, dust off any excess. The aim of this is to give a nice colour and crust to the beef when it is being sealed/browned but also has the added benefit of helping to thicken the resultant sauce.
Heat a good glug of olive oil in an oven proof casserole dish or pan on the hob until almost smoking hot (you can do this in a frying pan if you wish then transfer to an over proof dish) then add the beef and colour until golden brown on all sides to seal the meat. At this point I remove the beef from the pan and turn down the heat slightly then add the prepared vegetables and cook until softened and starting to pick up some colour. I next add the herbs and the sealed beef back to the pan, turn up the heat and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for a few minutes to burn of the alcohol then add the beef stock, you need enough liquid to cover the beef add a little water if you have to. Pop a lid on the pan and transfer to the oven and cook long and slow for 3 hours. After this remove the beef from the pan and set aside and allow to cool fully, the beef should be very tender. Strain the cooking liquor  with a sieve over a new pan to separate the vegetables and herbs from the liquid, this will form the sauce to serve with the beef.
Roll out the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal squares, place each portion of beef into a square of pastry (be sure that the beef has cooled down completely) then with the beaten egg wash the edges to help seal the pastry. Place another square of pastry on top of the beef and seal the edges by pressing together to form a parcel. Trim away the excess pastry from around the beef and here I used fork to press down and further seal the edges (at this point it looks like a giant ravioli!). Egg wash the whole thing, place on a lightly floured baking tray and place back into a slightly hotter oven (200 degrees/gas mark 6) for 30 mins or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove and set aside on a cooling rack to rest. 
In the mean time the sauce can be made by reducing the cooking liquor on a medium heat, you want to reduce the volume of liquid until its coats the back of a spoon and has thickened. Taste and season accordingly, I like to finish the sauce with a knob of butter for a glossy appearance.
For the purple sprouting broccoli simply just bring to the boil in a pan of salted water for couple of minutes or until tender, drain and its ready to serve (you can return it to a frying pan to sautĂ© with some butter but that is up to you).
To serve add a generous ladle full of the sauce to a warmed plate as a base, place the 'Wellington' on top, accompany with the purple sprouting broccoli in a separate serving dish and some extra sauce in a jug. 
This dish is lovely, beautiful puff pastry that gives way to meltingly soft beef and a rich sauce. The broccoli provides a shot of colour and a nice contrast in flavour to the richness of the dish.
For me this dish is enough on its own as a main course but if you wish some lovely mash would go well with it.

There you have it folks, one of my favourite 'food memories'! Enjoy and please have a go at making it. Until next time.

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