Beef Wellington

30.1.11 - 16:41
We had a bit of a family celebration at the weekend. To avoid too much work in the kitchen we decided to allocate each course of the meal to a different person and I promised to cook something a bit special for the main course.

I looked at a couple of different things, but decided to have a go at beef wellington. Which I've never made before ... or even eaten before.

A lot of the recipes I found suggested that it wasn't a difficult dish to make - just a little time consuming. Which pretty much covers it. This is my recipe which I kind of mushed together from all the ones I read online. There's loads of steps and plenty of waiting for things to cool so it's not something you can do in an hour - but it's worth making if you want something impressive looking. Went down a storm with my family :)

I made roasted baby carrots and potatoes to go with it as they take about the same time to cook.

Ingredients (4-6 people)

600g Fillet beef - from the middle of the fillet
1 pack of ready made puff pastry (I'm lazy I used ready rolled)
250g Mushrooms
150g Shallots
2 Cloves garlic
75g Pâté
6 Slices of ham (or parma ham or some pancakes)
Butter/oil for frying
Flour for dusting
1 Egg for egg washing
Salt and pepper

Red wine sauce/jus

Half a bottle of red wine
1 litre of beef stock
25-50g butter
Dried/fresh thyme


- Trim any fatty or membrane-y bits from your meat and put it in the fridge to keep cool
- Chop up your mushrooms and shallots and garlic really small. Use a food processor if you have one, or plenty of patience to get everything teeny.
- Heat up some oil and/or butter in a frying pan add the chopped up ingredients and cook gently without browning the shallots. Keep cooking until all the water has boiled away from the mushrooms. I should look like a sort of brown paste. Add some salt and pepper. This is called mushroom duxelles.
- Put the'duxelles' into a bowl and leave to cool.
- In the mean time deglaze the pan with a splash of wine and reserve the liquid.
- Wipe out the pan and return to heat.
- Remove your meat from the fridge and pat some salt and pepper all around it. Massage a bit of oil all over it.
- Sear the meat on all sides including the end. Then set it aside to cool again.
- Whilst it cools, deglaze the pan again and add to the mushroom liquid.
- Put the cooled beef back in the fridge.
- When the duxelles (mushroom paste) is cool, mix it with the pâté and put it back in the fridge.
- There is a recurring theme here, everything has to be cool or it will melt the pastry! So before the next step I popped the meat, duxelles and ham in the freezer for 5-10 mins.
- Next put down some food safe cling film. Lay out your slices of ham (or pancakes? some recipes use pancakes for this bit instead) so that they over lap. These will be wrapped around your meat so make sure there is enough.
- Take the meat out of the fridge again and pat it dry with kitchen roll. Add any juices from the meat to the liquid collection.
- Spread some mushrooms/pâté mix in the middle and place the meat on top. Spread the rest all around the beef including a bit on the ends.
- Wrap the ham around the meat and then wrap the cling film around it to hold everything in place. Then back in the fridge to cool again.
- Next roll out your pastry on a floured surface.
- Whisk an egg with a little milk or water and brush it on the pastry.
- Unwrap the meat parcel, make sure its dry, and place it gently in the centre of the pastry.
- Fold the pastry around it making sure that it is well stuck down and sealed with egg wash. Also make sure that there is only two layers of pastry where it joins up or the pastry won't cook through.
- Turn the pastry encased meat onto a preheated baking sheet so that the seam is underneath.
- Egg wash the top and then score several lines lines across the top. Egg wash again and make two slits that go through the pastry, ham and pâté.
- Pop it back in the fridge again, for at least 15 minutes so that the pastry can relax.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes on gas mark 7/220c
- When the pastry is golden brown, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes.
- To serve, first slice off the pastry at one end then cut 1inch slices. It should be quite pink in the middle.

For the sauce/jus

- Put all the reserved juices/liquids into a pan with half a bottle of red wine and simmer it to reduce it by about 2 thirds.
- Put the beef stock in a pan and reduce by half - add the reduced red wine and some thyme.
- Just before serving add a good blob of butter and mix in.
- Sieve to remove any bits and pour a little over each slice of wellington.




Win a Diana Mini Camera

19.1.11 - 13:20
'For the easily distracted...' is having a Diana Mini week and with Lomography they are giving away a white version of this super cute camera! It takes 35mm film which is still pretty easy to find and get developed and it's small enough to fit in your bag wherever you go. It's a great way to get into fun film photography.

I like mine so much it got a starring role in my title banner.

All you have to do to enter is drop them a line saying which camera at the Lomography store you like best.

Check out some of my Diana Mini pictures on my Flickr.



On location

18.1.11 - 22:51
Recently (at my real life job) I've been working on a very interesting project. It has meant that for the past couple of days I have been taking photos at a video shoot. It's been quite an experience actually. I'd never really thought about how much work goes into video production. Each scene is practised and filmed several times and then they film each character in close-up. Also the sound and lighting has to be right each time and the Director has to be happy with the performances and framing of the shots. On top of that all the footage then has to be edited into the finished piece. No wonder films are so expensive to make - that's a lot of person-hours.

There's also quite a lot of waiting around; so whilst I can't share the pictures I took on set, here are a few of the ones I've taken in between takes:



Photography inspiration: Vivian Maier

10.1.11 - 22:21
Today I came across the work of Vivian Maier. It's a bit of an odd story. No one really saw her pictures when she was alive; but then a guy in Chicago bought a box of her negatives from a sale of things being cleared out from some kind of storage locker. In fact he has boxes of her amazing prints and rolls and rolls of unprocessed films full of photos Ms Maier never even saw herself. (I wonder why she never got them developed?) Now he is spreading the word about her talent and sharing her work with the world.

Her street-style photography is very modern and she had an amazing eye for an image. Here are a few of my favourites:

You can find out more about her work and the story on John Maloof's blog: Vivian Maier - Her Discovered Work.



Macaron book

9.1.11 - 22:38
Happy New Year folks!

Check out this cool book Marc got me for Christmas. It's by one of the top chefs in the world of Macarons - Pierre Hermé. It's got loads of recipes for different flavours including tomato ketchup!

What's interesting is that the basic mix he uses is made with Italian meringue. The recipes I've tried have always used soft meringue. The main difference is that hot sugar syrup is added to the egg whites. Apparently this makes for a more stable meringue which won't deflate as much when you add your other ingredients. It does mean more washing up though and hot sugar...

There's one other issue. The whole book is written in French. Luckily although my spoken French is awful, my reading is okay. Hopefully I'll be able to decipher enough to give it go. Maybe not the ketchup ones.