Fit for a Brit


I believe British foods receive a bad rap. All that talk of bland, boring and boiled. Nonsense! Oh sure, the taste traditions of England don’t sport chiles and oregano, I’ll grant you that. But variety is truly the spice of this guy’s life. I like balance. So British classics definitely hold a place in high regard on my “favorite things to eat” list.

You’re not going to believe this, but Mom always prepared a British inspired meal on New Year’s Day. I know, what does a Brooklyn Italian woman know of such things? Well, she held that after the garlicky seafood dishes of Christmas Eve and the saucy lasagne of Christmas Day – not to mention the repeat of spicy seafood on New Year’s Eve – we needed a break. Relief, as she put it, from the gastronomic revelry and much consumed antacids associated with our Italian holiday repasts. She turned to the Brits.

Mom began the meal with a consommé. Not necessarily British, but she felt it was a fine base. She then proceeded with a beautiful Beef Wellington. For those not familiar with this dish, it consists of a tender filet steak, coated in duxelles (chopped mushrooms and herbs, lightly sautéed) and then wrapped in a flaky puff pastry. To accompany the Beef Wellington, she treated us to a Yorkshire Pudding. A thin flour, egg, butter and milk batter was poured into a greased pan and then baked. She often added to the batter some of the drippings that remained in the pan after searing the beef fillet for the Wellington. Scrumptious. Buttered carrots, steamed broccoli and a fresh salad also adorned the table. A truly wonderful meal, and very British.

Mom had something there. So I took it a step further and began to incorporate British favorites in my culinary adventures all year long. For instance, Shepard’s Pie. This is a hearty casserole lined with cooked chopped beef or lamb and any choice of vegetables, which is then topped with buttery mashed potatoes and baked. I mean, how could you go wrong with that? Or Fish and Chips – battered cod that’s deep-fried until golden and served with steak-cut, french fried potatoes. I add a brown beer to the batter for authenticity. Of course, I never serve a tartar sauce alongside. I keep it traditional with a sprinkling of quality malt vinegar, just as the Brits have been doing for decades.

You must also try Bangers and Mash – or pan-seared sausages placed over mashed potatoes and ladled with onion gravy. Simple and savory! I’ve also been known to serve unsuspecting guests a hearty Steak and Kidney Pie. Yes…diced beef, kidney and onion cooked in brown gravy and covered in a nice crust. Try it. You won’t be disappointed. And every once in a while my breakfast buffet will include Kippers and Eggs. Don’t be alarmed. A kipper is simply herring that has been salted and cold smoked. A nice alternative to smoked salmon. Reminds me of the breakfasts served to estate guests in those old British mystery novels.

So you see, British food isn’t boring at all. Please purchase a good cookbook devoted to the topic – you’ll love the “High Tea” treats. And be sure to try Phyllis’ recipe for Beef Wellington below. It’s outstanding! Let us know how you like it. Until then, cheers!

Victor Ribaudo

Everything Old Is New Again: Beef Wellington

This dish goes back to the kitchen of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, famous for having won the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 against Napoleon. This version was filled with a truffle paste instead of the mushroom duxelles used here and was wrapped in a standard pastry dough instead of puff pastry.

The dish made a resurgence in the 1960’s because former President Nixon was very fond of it. The White House served it at every state dinner during his tenure.

Today British chef Gordon Ramsey has made it a signature dish. It makes a very impressive entrée and is easier than it looks. Try it as an alternative to the Sunday roast or for a romantic dinner.

Ingredients (6-8 servings)

For duxelles:

1 ½ lbs. white button mushrooms

2 medium shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For beef:

3 to 3 ½ lb. center cut beef tenderloin, trimmed

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 T Dijon mustard

12 thin slices Parma ham (or prosciutto)

1 lb. puff pastry*

2 eggs (beaten for egg wash)


1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms, shallots, garlic and thyme until finely minced. Sauté in a dry non-stick skillet until the mushrooms give up most of their liquid, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Pat dry the beef tenderloin and tie in 4 places with butcher’s twine to hold together in the cooking. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper generously.

4. Coat a heavy-based skillet with oil and sear meat over medium high heat on all sides including the ends.

5. Remove from skillet, cut twine and smear all over with Dijon mustard. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

6. Lay out an 18-inch length of plastic wrap and shingle 12 pieces of Parma, slightly overlapping forming a rectangle that will completely cover the tenderloin.

7. Using a rubber spatula, smear the duxelles over the completely cooled tenderloin and then wrap it in the Parma. This layer shields the pastry from moisture, keeping it light and crisp. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap tightly to hold the tenderloin in a log shape. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

8. Heat a rimmed baking sheet in oven.

9. Prepare the puff pastry by rolling it out on a lightly floured surface to form a rectangle long enough to envelop the tenderloin and wide enough to fold over the ends. Trim any excess.

10. Seal edges with egg wash and tuck under enclosing the tenderloin completely like a package. Puff pastry often comes in two sheets. Just slightly over lap them. Brush top and sides with egg wash.

11. Using the tip of a paring knife, cut a few slashes across top to allow steam to escape** or make a series of parallel cuts on an angle about an inch apart to provide an attractive result after the baking. Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired.

12. Place the tenderloin seam side down on the hot baking sheet and roast in upper third of oven for about 45 minutes until an instant read thermometer registers 125 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving into thick slices.

*I prefer Dufour all butter frozen puff pastry. You can find it in food specialty stores. Thaw out in the refrigerator overnight before rolling out.

** You can also cut decorative shapes out of any excess pastry to decorate top. Brush egg wash on these.

(Recipe inspired by Gordon Ramsey)

Photographer Bill Brady

Written by Victor Ribaudo

Recipe Provided by Phyllis

Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika

Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell

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