If there’s one thing we do well in the UK it’s pastry. The Brits have had a bit of a chequered past when it comes to our culinary reputation around the world. But you can’t argue with our pedigree when it comes to pies and pasties!
From a modest sausage roll through to a high end beef wellington. Pretty much anything can be improved by wrapping it in pastry. Or failing that, coating it in batter. There are few things more pleasurable than cutting (or biting) through a crisp, golden shell to get to the filling inside. I’d cook with pastry a lot more often if I thought my waistline would thank me for it.
So with all of that in mind, I should probably start this post by mentioning that the inspiration from this Winter Wellington came from a little further afield. Its journey into my kitchen began in Italy… Michael and I went to Florence and Pisa in early November for a little city break. I was fortunate enough to be travelling there with work, so we tacked a few days on to see the sights. And, of course, to experience the food and drink.
It’s when you eat Italian food in its native environment that you realise why people rave about it. Many restaurants retain a connection to their local surroundings and the ingredients that they provide. I don’t doubt that there are plenty that use big foodservice companies, like you often see in the UK, but they’re easy to avoid. Finding a meal that’s made of authentic, locally sourced and, most importantly, seasonal ingredients really isn’t difficult.
I won’t bore you with tales of the amazing beef stew or the delicious bowls of pasta that I practically inhaled during our time there. But I do have to mention the pizza that inspired this Winter Wellington. It was our last night in Florence and I was drawn to the specials board. The stand out for me being the Pizza Autunnale, or Autumnal Pizza.
It was a white pizza (with no tomato sauce) topped with a mixture of Italian sausage, rosemary, gossamer thin pumpkin and plenty of blue cheese. A rich, heady combination that really captured the flavours of early November. I fell in love immediately and resolved to recreate it at home.
Though, as you’ve guessed, I wanted to take those flavours and make them a little more British. The first attempt, which nearly made it onto this blog, was made with shortcrust rather than puff pastry. It tasted great but just didn’t feel right – the ratio of pastry to filling was a bit off. Never one to be put off, I parked the recipe over Christmas and resolved to revisit it in the New Year.
Boy, was it worth the wait. I’ve challenged myself to expand my baking horizons this year, so it was only a matter of time before I took on Puff Pastry. Like most people I’d normally buy it from the supermarket, as the quality of the pre-made versions is very good. But now I know how easy it can be to make from scratch I may be a convert to homemade. You can find out just how easy by checking out my Quick Puff Pastry recipe for yourself.
Plus, when you have a delicious filling waiting for the perfect pastry crust it’s almost an insult to cut corners, don’t you think?
For the Filling
- 500 g Butternut Squash peeled and cut into 1cm chunks
- 1 Red Onion peeled and thickly sliced
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 400 g Good Quality Sausagemeat
For the Spinach, Mushroom & Blue Cheese Sauce
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Shallot peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove Garlic peeled and crushed
- 2 stalks Fresh Rosemary leaves finely chopped
- 150 g Chestnut Mushrooms finely chopped
- 150 g Frozen Spinach defrosted and blanched
- 25 g Salted Butter
- 25 g Plain Flour
- 200 ml Semi-skimmed Milk warmed
- 100 g Blue Cheese
- 600 g Puff Pastry see notes
- 1 Egg beaten
- Preheat the oven to 160°C
- Spread the butternut squash and onion onto a baking sheet, then drizzle with the olive oil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes until the squash is just tender.
- Break the sausagemeat into small chunks around 1cm in size. Spread onto a second baking sheet, then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, start to make the sauce. Start by heating the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Add the garlic and rosemary, then sauté for a further minute or so until fragrant.
- Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan, then reduce the heat and loosely cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the mushrooms are softened and browned. Finally, add the spinach to the pan and mix through the other ingredients, then remove from the heat.
- Whilst the mushrooms are softening make the cheese sauce. Start by making a roux. Melt the butter in a separate pan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour until it forms a smooth paste, then cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, to cook out the flour.
- Add the warm milk to the pan one ladle at a time, whisking continuously, until you have a smooth white sauce. Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken – though if you feel it’s too thick you can add a little more warm milk as needed. Remove from the heat, then stir in the blue cheese until it melts. Mix with the mushroom and spinach mixture, then put to one side.
- Remove the roasted squash and sausagemeat from the oven when cooked, then increase the temperature to 180°C.
- Allow the filling components to cool slightly before bringing them all together. Put the roasted squash and sausagemeat into a bowl, then add as much of the spinach and mushroom sauce as needed to hold it all together. You don’t want too much sauce in the mixture and can always serve any extra on the side (as in the photos above).
- Divide the pastry into two – one of around 350g and one around 250g (approximately 60:40).
- Roll the smaller piece out on a floured surface until it’s approximately 25cm by 20cm, and around 3-5mm in thickness. Roll the larger piece out until it’s the same thickness and around 5cm longer in each direction than the smaller piece of pastry.
- Place the smaller piece onto a line baking sheet. Spread the prepared filling over the top, leaving a border around 2cm in width around the edges. Brush this border with some of the beaten egg.
- Carefully place the second sheet over the top, then press around the edge with your fingers – or a fork – to seal the two sheets of pastry together. Add a pattern to the top sheet if you like, then brush with the remaining egg.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
- Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
- If you’re looking for an easy (and relatively quick) recipe for pastry then I can heartily recommend my Quick Puff Pastry recipe. There’s not a huge amount of manual work needed here – most of the time is taken up by the pastry resting in the fridge. It’s certainly worth a go.
- Of course, you can buy puff pastry for this recipe if you prefer – indeed, in most circumstances that’s exactly what I’d do. This recipe recommends 600g. Most of the blocks available in supermarkets are 500g – I’ve not tried making it with less pastry but this may be enough, depending on how you shape the wellington. If not, 2 of the pre-rolled sheets that you can pick up from most supermarkets will come to just over 600g, so that’s another option.
- The recipe listed above will make enough for 8 slices of Wellington, assuming you’re serving it with some side dishes. If you’re not then you might want to assume it only serves 6.
|Estimated Values per Serving|
|of which Saturates||23||g|
|of which Sugars||4||g|
|Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.|