It was our first Sunday lunch in the new flat and I’d invited mum and dad up to see the place and cook them a Sunday lunch for Mother’s Day. Mum being a keen baker herself, particularly when it comes to desserts, meant I needed to come up with something scrummy for pudding.
One of Mum’s favourite desserts is crème brulee and having never made it before, I decided this would be a good challenge and also win me some bonus points. It’s also the perfect dessert because you can make it the day before leaving you just to stress about the main course on the day.
Deciding which crème brulee to do was the real test with so many choices out there, but I opted for white chocolate and raspberry. It sounded simply delicious! I found this recipe for it which looked simple enough. Things however didn’t quite go to plan when I got to the part about the mixture thickening up… nothing was happening! So panic struck and I had a quick look what other recipes said. It looked like most crème brulees are actually popped in the oven in a water bath at this point, so a quick change of tact and the brulees were popped in the oven to firm up.
Panic over, brulees were set and put in the fridge to cool over night. As it was Mother’s Day, I went the extra mile and also baked some shortbread biscuits to go with the crème brulee. I can’t actually believe I’ve never made shortbread before because it’s literally the easiest thing in the world to make but tastes so good. This was the recipe I followed.
3 ingredients, mix, roll out, cut out and bake. Simples!
Now the real challenge was the main course meal and it’s something I’ve been waiting to make for a while but;
a) I needed the right reason
b) It was a little bit daunting
c) It’s an expensive piece of meat
One of the things I love about where I now live is that within 30 meters of my front door I have a cheese shop, fish monger, wine merchant and a butcher… and a lovely local opposite! I think it’s important to make friends with your butchers and get their advice on what to do with the piece of meat you’re purchasing. They are a fountain of knowledge and more than happy to impart their expertise, so don’t be scared to ask.
I decided the star of my Sunday lunch was the one and only… Beef Wellington. Now my husband has not stopped talking about when a best friend (Kate Gowar) cooked a fabulous Beef Wellington so I knew the pressure was on and expectations were high.
Beef Wellington is traditionally made with beef tenderloin coated with pate which is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. A lot of recipes also include wrapping the coated meat in crepes to retain the moisture and prevent it from going soggy. I went for Gordon Ramsey’s recipe which instead wraps the fillet in Parma ham.
We purchased our 1.2kg (!) beef fillet from J Seal Butchers which they suggested would feed 3 hungry people. I personally felt this was more than enough for 3 people and cut off 400g and popped it in the freezer for next Sunday’s lunch.
First thing to do was seal the meat which takes just a few minutes and ensures the juices are kept inside keeping the meat lovely and tender.
The meat was then left to rest whilst I got on with the pate. All this entailed was chopping up the mushrooms nice and fine and blitzing them before popping them in a frying pan to evaporate all the water. Simple enough so far.
I then smothered the seared fillet in English mustard. As Gordon says, “Why would you use any other kind of mustard?!”
Next up was laying out the Param ham so that each slice was overlapping on some cling film, followed by covering it in a thin layer of mushroom pate.
This is where I started to get nervous as the fillet had to be placed on the pate and neatly wrapped and rolled. It felt like there was only once chance at this or it could all go horribly wrong. There was a slight call/shriek of panic to Will to be an extra pair of hands when I thought it was going wrong, but all I would say is be confident and roll it quick! Beef fillet packed up and in the fridge to chill and it was on to the puff pastry.
I can’t say I made my puff pastry… there’s only so much time I have, so I rolled out some ready-made in preparation. Once the fillet was set and chilled I unwrapped it from the cling film… thank god the Parma ham appeared to be staying where it was meant to and on to the puff pastry it went. Again wrap it round and use plenty of beaten egg yolks to make sure it all sticks. Don’t scrimp on the egg yolks! You wouldn’t want it coming apart at this point after all the effort you’ve gone to.
I then scored the pastry… in a highly uncreative pattern and I was ready to go!
So once England had taken down Italy 18-11 (Woo hooo) dinner was served.
I actually used a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat to make sure it was nearer to medium rare than medium… I really didn’t want to waste an expensive piece of meat and discover once it had been carved that it was actually over done.
Beef Wellington with sautéed new potatoes. Accompanied by wilted gem lettuces and roast tomatoes with asparagus and black olives with a red wine jus.
All I can say is… WOW (if I do say so myself)! Oh my word, the beef was just beautiful. So tender. This is where you can taste the difference between meat from the butcher and meat from a supermarket. The money was most definitely well spent (and I’m happy in the knowledge I get to have the rest next weekend!) and I had some very happy men round the table that day. Even after all that meat, I was pleased everyone still had some room for dessert; White chocolate and raspberry crème brulee accompanied by shortbread biscuits.
I got out the crème brulees from the fridge (leaving two spare in there for tomorrow night), sprinkled the tops with caster sugar and then discovered that the blow torch my brother had bought me for Christmas actually didn’t come with any gas. Gutted! I was so looking forward to using it. So under the grill the brulees went instead. Unfortunately due to the lack of heat on the grill, I had to leave them under the grill a bit longer than I’d have liked in an effort to try and caramelise the top of them. This resulted in the brulees actually starting to go a bit runny. Shame!
Note to self… next time, check I’ve got some gas.
Whilst the tops were a little runny, the bottom half remained set and were just luxurious in their taste. The white chocolate was simply divine whilst the raspberries provided the cut through and sharpness so that it wasn’t too rich. The shortbread biscuits were light and crumbly and quite useful for dipping too.
I’m pleased to say it was a very successful Mother’s Day with dad being spoilt with some fabulous meat and mum getting the treat of crème brulee.
I really can’t recommend enough having a go at a Beef Wellington and sourcing your meat from your local butcher (particularly on the back of recent headlines). It’s worth the extra penny’s spent when you can taste the difference quite so clearly. Now I just need to decide what to do with the rest of the meat next Sunday!