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THE PERFECT BOEUF EN CROUTE
This dish might be better known as Beef Wellington, but whatever it’s called, beef en croûte makes for an impressive French style dinner party main course. In order for the meat to cook evenly, it is important it is the same thickness – either have your butcher prepare a piece of centre-cut fillet for you or tuck the thin end under the fillet before tying it, to give a piece that is approximately the same circumference all the way along. While this may look like a complicated dish to make it is really straightforward.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7). To make your own pâté, melt 90 g (3¼ oz) butter in a frying pan, then add 3 chopped French shallots and 1 chopped garlic clove. Stir over medium heat for a few minutes until softened. Add 360 g (12 oz) trimmed chicken livers and cook, stirring, for 4 – 5 minutes, or until cooked. Cool the livers, then combine with shallots, garlic, pan juices, 1 tablespoon brandy and remaining butter, in a food processor. Process until smooth and season.
Using kitchen string, tie a 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) piece of trimmed beef fillet at 5 cm (2 in) intervals to form a neat shape. Heat 30 g (1 oz) butter in a roasting pan, add beef then brown all over. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then cool to room temperature and remove the string. Reduce the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Roll 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) purchased block puff pastry into a 3 mm (1/2 in) thick rectangle large enough to enclose the beef, trim edges and reserve for decoration. Spread the pâté over the pastry, leaving a 1.5 cm (1/2 in) thick rectangle large enough to enclose the beef, trim edges and reserve for decoration. Spread the pâté over the pastry, leaving a 1.5 cm (3/4 in) border then brush border with lightly beaten egg. Place the fillet on the pastry then use the pastry to wrap it tightly, pressing seams firmly to seal and tucking ends under. Place the package, seam side down, on a baking tray then brush all over with beaten egg. Cut shapes from the trimmings to decorate, then brush with egg. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes for rare and 35 – 40 minutes for medium. Stand boeuf en croûte for 5 minutes before slicing.
FOOD FOR FRIENDS
Simple food, well prepared, is one of life’s great pleasures and when friends and family are part of the equation, cooking and sharing becomes all the more enjoyable. In a series that spans everything from casual barbecues to the tagines of Morocco, from nutritious ways with vegetables to the classic dishes of Italy and France, the recipes capture the spirit of a cuisine and the spirit of an occasion. There are feature spreads on specific ingredients and techniques, step-by-step photos and suggestions for variations to the recipes.