Two favourite Classic recipes
Classic beef Wellington
If you are serving more people, make several rather than one big long piece, as the end bits will probably get too well done and it will be tricky to move from A to B
4 tbsps olive oil
Salt and pepper
Sprinkle of caster sugar
Approx 700-800g fillet of beef, whole piece
1 onion, peeled and very finely chopped
Few sprigs thyme
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
250g button mushrooms, very finely diced
Splash of cream
8-12 slices Parma ham
Approx 250g ready-made puff pastry
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Heat half the olive oil and half the butter in a large frying pan or chargrill pan until it is very hot. Sprinkle the top of the beef with salt, pepper and a little sugar and brown the meat, seasoned side down. Sprinkle some more seasoning on to the top surface and then turn it over and sear the other side till you get plenty of charred colour, without any real cooking of the interior. Try to do this so that the beef is seasoned well and nicely caramelised on all sides. Remove it from the pan, allow it to cool down and refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat up the rest of the olive oil and butter and fry the onion till soft. Add the thyme, garlic and mushrooms. Cook on a high heat – you want to cook the hell out of the mushrooms so you end up with a very dry mixture. Add the cream, season and cook again until the mixture is uber tasty and dry. Set aside to cool.
When the beef and mushrooms are cold, lay out three sheets of cling film, one on top of another, to give extra strength to your parcel. Lay out a large blanket of Parma ham slices and spread it lightly with a layer of mushrooms. Place the beef in the centre, and wrap it all up by rolling the cling film – almost as you would for rolling a swiss roll – so that you end up with a tight log shape. Twist the ends of the cling film tightly, and chill the parcel for a few hours.
When the pastry has defrosted, roll it out quite thinly and cut it into one neat rectangle. Unwrap the clingfilm from the beef parcel and place the meat lengthways in the centre of the pastry. Trim away excess pastry so that the beef can be rolled and wrapped snugly. Brush the pastry rim generously with egg yolk and wrap up the beef parcel, ensuring that the mushrooms do not poke through any gaps. Cut away any excess pastry at the ends. Dip your fingers in water and use them to smooth out the seams and ensure the pastry is snug against the beef. Then place the ugly sealed side down on to a plate that you’ve lined with some greaseproof paper. Brush the entire parcel with egg yolk and chill until ready to bake.
Heat an oven to 190 degrees/gas 5 and preheat a non-stick baking sheet. Just before baking, lightly score the pastry with a sharp knife, but don’t cut all the way through. Cook the beef, straight from the fridge – seam side down – until the pastry is golden-brown and the beef medium rare, which should take about 15 minutes. If you want the meat cooked more, just watch the pastry doesn’t burn, so turn down the oven to 170 degrees/gas 3 and bake for an extra five to 10 minutes. But when the pastry is a lovely golden brown, it should be perfect inside. Allow to rest for at least eight minutes before carving.
Chocolate hazelnut meringue tower with mandarin orange curd by Eunice Power
This is a great centrepiece – a really dramatic and delicious masterpiece. Please don’t be put off by the Blue Peter-style instructions – it will be worth it. I have based this on a conventional two-shelf oven. so it is made in two batches. The meringue ingredients are the same each time.
Meringue (Note: you’ll be making this recipe twice)
6 egg whites
350g caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
100g peeled hazelnuts
Preheat an oven to 180 degrees/gas 4. As we are doing the recipe twice, take 200g of peeled hazelnuts and spread them in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast until the nuts start to turn slightly golden and smell toasty; this should take about 10 minutes. Allow them to cool and then roughly chop them in a food processor. Divide the nuts in half, for each batch of meringue.
Next, line two baking sheets with baking parchment and draw two circles, one 23cm (9in) and another 20cm (8in).
For the meringue, put the six egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl with a pinch of salt and whisk until they make soft peaks, then add the sugar and continue beating until the meringue is stiff and glossy. It should be stiff enough that if you turn the bowl upside down the meringue won’t budge. Gently fold in the sieved cocoa with a metal spoon, and add one half of the roasted chopped hazelnuts. Divide the mixture between the two circles, and spread into rounds using a spatula.
Transfer the two trays to the oven and bake at 180 degrees/gas 4 for five minutes – this is to crisp the outside – and then reduce the temperature to 120 degrees/gas ½ for an hour and 10 minutes to set the inside. Do not open the oven whilst the pavlovas are cooking as this will cause them to collapse. When the cooking time is over, turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for an hour or so. When they have cooled, transfer them to a cooling rack and peel off the baking parchment.
For the next batch, line the two baking sheets with parchment paper, and draw three circles. On one tray draw a 18cm (7in) circle, off centre as you want to leave room for a small circular blob of meringue for the top of the tower, and on the next tray draw 13cm (5in) and 10cm (4in) circles. Make the meringue as before, dividing the mixture between the three circles and leaving enough for a large blob of 6cm (2in) or so. Bake as before.
The pavlovas can be made a few days in advance of when you need them. Leave them somewhere safe and cover loosely with a clean tea cloth.
Mandarin orange curd
For me mandarin oranges are synonymous with Christmas. The curd can be made a week or so in advance.
Juice of 5 mandarin oranges
Juice and zest of a lemon
225g caster sugar
3 egg yolks beaten
Place all the ingredients in a heavy-based saucepan over a gentle heat, and stir frequently for about 20 minutes until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon – do not allow it to boil as the mixture will split. Allow to cool and pour into a jar or plastic container and store in the fridge until needed – it will thicken up more as it cools. It can be kept for two to three weeks.
Whip 600ml of cream until it holds its shape. Just before serving you can assemble your masterpiece on a wide-brimmed plate or better still a cake stand – I bought mine in Dunnes Stores.
Put a little whipped cream directly on the plate and place the largest meringue on it. Spread some cream over the meringue and dollop six dessert spoons of mandarin orange curd on the cream. Place the next size meringue on top, repeat the cream and curd, and continue with the rest of the meringues, reducing the amount of curd and cream each time, until your tower is complete. Decorate with holly leaves and a dusting of icing sugar. For a special occasion you can put a sparkler on top as you bring it to the table.