Gear up for 2017: eat well, drink good wine, explore and surround yourselves with people who care…Here’s how we approached 2017 over one weekend in January and there’s still 47 more weeks to go in 2017.
The fog has become a part of our landscape and it drags one in. If you dare to have a walk, you walk for hours, despite the cold and humidity that captures all scents of the soil. It brings new dimension to long known features of our neighbourhood. Hundred years’ old willow trees gracefully leaning toward Thames River never looked so mesmerizing on the milk-like sky. The river, usually busy with rowers in their shells, during these foggy days enjoys its solitude. Only ducks, swans and a couple of grey herons are looking for some food on bare banks of the river (due to a low tide).
Has it not been for my little four-legged friend = Chester, I would have stayed at home all day long but luckily, his daily routine keeps me fit and most importantly enables me to enjoy all the British weather has to offer whatever the stereotype about British weather says, the last few days were spellbinding. A Dog or two, a couple of friends, waterproof jackets and wellingtons is all* one needs to enjoy all kinds of weather.
*All – provided that there is some delicious food and a glass of port waiting for us at home.
Our diet is simple and got simplified over the last few years. We follow seasons and geography when it comes to food that ends up on our table (only with a very few exceptions). This time we decided to take the challenge and prepare Beef Wellington ourselves with roasted heritage carrots and some potatoes. The recipe seemed to be quite simple: tenderloin beef, some mushrooms, chicken liver, shallots and puff pastry encapsulating it all. That’s what I thought until I shared our Sunday’s lunch idea with my two friends at work – self-appointed chefs: one Brit and one Argentinean. Obviously, both experts in beef: one in Beef Wellington as a true Brit and the other in beef itself, as his homeland is in top of beef producers in the world. Both gentlemen did not try to cover up their surprise when they heard ‘Beef Wellington’ from my mouth but willingly shared their expertise with me i.e.: ‘put some pancakes around mushroom filling so that the pastry does not soak’, ‘don’t make pastry yourself, just buy it’, ‘use some strong mushrooms e.g. shiitake mushrooms’, ‘make some decorations’ and ‘do not overcook the beef – the best is pink inside, although it’s difficult to get first time. Otherwise it’s waste of money and beef’. I listened and did not doubt for a second that our Sunday Beef Wellington lunch will be a Michelin star one. The key is best quality ingredients, good recipe and friends who are fearless when it comes to challenging dishes.
We had a plan: Emilia would take care of beef; Sam would do the filling and roast veggies and I would prepare the pastry. Oh yes, and Chester will take the cleaner job, so that nothing that accidentally ends up on the floor would go to waste (he excelled in his new job and truly loves it).
Saturday started with some shopping: Emilia got a beautiful, fresh and tender piece of beef and chicken livers from http://mackenbros.co.uk/; Sam went to farmer’s market to get herbs and organic veggies and I went to get ingredients for my pastry. Once reunited in our kitchen, we took to our treasures. Emilia started to work with meat, putting some herbs and getting it ready for the next day. Sam started to chop shallots, liver and mushrooms to prepare the mushroom-pate layer for the Beef Wellington. And I took my challenge to make some puff pastry – I have to admit that half-way through the preparation I dreamt I had listened to my friends and bought a ready-made one. No short cuts though – we were all devoted to do Beef Wellington justice (healthy, organic and slow cooked version). We actually spent nearly half day shopping and the other half day in the kitchen. But it was worth it. The next day joined by our friends and Chester’s friend Bosco we went for a 3 mile walk to enjoy misty River Thames and a silver coin of the sun.
Chester & Bosco. Please, believe us.
The walk only whetted our appetite for comfort food. On our way home, we bought 2 bottles of Burgundy Pinot Noir at Lea and Sandeman .
Once we made it home, we put the beef in the oven, and 20 minutes into the process we added heritage carrots and some potatoes to roast them for another 20 minutes. 40 minutes was the time we unanimously agreed will be sufficient to get beef medium rare. We set the table opened wine bottle to let it breathe and put Nina Simone’s music in the background. Oh we were so ready for the Beef Wellington. Curious if it was pink inside – just have a look at the photo below.