Beef Fillet with Mushroom Gratin

Beef Fillet with Mushroom Gratin

Something draws me to large hunks of meat. It’s strange really, because there are only two people who generally need to be fed in my household, and so I generally don’t need a kilo or two of solid beef in one piece to carve a meal out of. However, since the astounding success of my beef wellington recently, I’ve become somewhat enamoured with that special cut that is the beef fillet.

So, finally making progress at my Chinese butchers (they are getting better at pretending they understand me, and my pointing skills are through the roof), I bought a lovely beef fillet for next to nothing, having absolutely no idea what to do with it.

Back home and I had a vague recollection of Gordon Ramsey using beef fillet in something other than a beef wellington during the second series of his F-Word show… After a little detective work I managed to track the episode down and was rewarded with a great recipe for (hence title of post) beef fillet with mushroom gratin. According to Ramsey, beef fillet is the Rolls Royce of cuts… but from past experience, I’d rate it more like an F1 car… The ride of your life under the right conditions, but one wrong step and it all goes downhill very very quickly.

The recipe was pretty simple though… sear the fillet, top with gratin, into the oven, done. I decided to serve mine with some jerusalem artichokes I’d been hiding in the fridge, sauteed with pancetta and red onions.


  • 1 beef fillet sliced into thick round medallions
  • olive oil, salt and pepper to season
  • For the gratin

  • fresh mushrooms (field, shitake, whatever you got)
  • heavy cream (thickened, not double)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • sliced shallots
  • 1 clove garlic (squashed but not chopped)
  • chives
  • fresh grated parmesan cheese

Prepare the gratin by chopping your mushrooms in chunks and your shallots finely, and sauteeing them in olive oil and a knob of butter. Add the smashed clove of garlic for a touch of garlic which won’t over power the mushrooms… and remove it after a minute or so. Once they’ve softened up and gotten some colour, take them out of the pan and into a bowl. Then add your thickened cream, egg yolk, some more salt and pepper to taste, and the finely chopped chives. Stir it all together and it should bond quite well, so that you can put it in a pile and it won’t all fall over.

So the rest is really simple. Season the fillet pieces in a good dose of olive oil, cracked pepper and sea salt, and then pop them in a hot pan and sear them all over. This means 30 seconds to a minute on each side, depending on how thick you’ve cut your slices… mine were a couple of inches thick (oh yeah !).

Once the fillets are done, leave them in the pan and pile the mushroom gratin on top…using all your physics skills to balance as much as possible on top. Then cover your glorious little towers with plenty of grated parmesan and slide them into the oven, to cook on medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes until pink and juicy… Important note: resist all temptation to leave them in longer… Beef fillet does not have the fat content to survive being over cooked, and will turn from melt in your mouth delicious to rubber ball disastrous in a matter of minutes if left in a hot oven too long.

Beef Fillet with Mushroom Gratin & Sauteed Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes are a great alternative to potatoes. They are sweet but earthy and a lovely texture. In the past I’ve made them into mash, but this time I figured i’d keep them solid. Another import thing with Jerusalem artichokes is that a lot of the flavour is in the skin. So unless absolutely necessary you should keep the skins on while you’re cooking them.

This time I using my newly sharp paring knife to slice off the knobbily gross looking bits, and then threw them into a pot of salted water to boil. When they were mostly soft, but not yet falling apart, I drained them and sliced them up into… ummm… slices.

Into a pan with butter, diced pancetta, and sliced red onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, the usual. Bring it all together over heat, and when the artichokes have coloured nicely you’re done.

Served with a 2004 Hardy’s Oomoo Shiraz that was just dandy. Bring on the whole cow next time… I’m ready.

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington

Just when you think you’ve got an original idea, everyone else seems to go and do it. Ok, so it wasn’t an original idea, it was born out of my obsession with watching Gordon Ramsey TV series, and his obsession with that quintessential English dish, the beef wellington.

I’ve been watching Hells Kitchen, Restaurant Nightmares, and his F-Word series, all of which at some point feature a delicious looking beef wellington recipe. A thick beef fillet wrapped in mushroom and proscuitto and again in puff pastry, and baked to a perfect moist pink, being sliced open everytime to the sound of his own self satisfied praises.

Now good sense and a little judgement would normally steer me away from attempting something that after a good hour or so of preparation, can come out looking and feeling like a burnt lump of wood… Not this time though. I had at least 3 different Gordon Ramsey episodes to cross reference and a giddy sense of self assuredness, that this would all be easy.

So after poring over the video footage with all the intensity and analytical skills of a coach preparing for the grand final, I was ready to go. I picked up a lean been fillet from my favourite Chinese butchers (Wing Hong in Northbridge) that looked like it would do the job nicely, and then made an important executive decision that I would not be making my own pastry. Puff pastry in itself has a degree of difficultly of around 9.5 in my book… and coupled with the standard degree of difficulty of the rest of the wellington, would push it way out of the reach of my meagre skills. So I picked up a pack of puff pastry sheets and hoped noone saw me in the frozen food isle.

So… to the recipe (batman) !


  • 1 beef fillet (or long roundy log shaped piece of meat)
  • Salt and Pepper to season the fillet
  • Mustard (Gordon used English, I used Dijon)
  • Field mushrooms (lots of, we’re going to blend them into a paste of sorts)
  • Thinly sliced prosciutto (enough to cover the fillet)
  • Puff pastry (enough to wrap the fillet entirely without stretching too far)
  • Egg wash (egg yolks and water (or milk)) to help the pastry seal

How I Made Mine

So firstly season the fillet with salt and pepper and some olive oil. Get a pan nice and hot and sear the fillet all over. I put it in on one side and left it there for 30 seconds to a minute til it had some nice colour, then turned it 90 degrees and did the same thing, turning each time so you get a good colouring all over the fillet. Once thats done, take it out and smear the mustard all over with a brush. Let that sit for a bit while you get the rest of it ready.

So take the mushrooms and put them into a blender or food processor, or just chop them really really small. I blitzed mine in the food processor and then into a hot pan with nothing else except a little salt to season. You’ll quickly see all the moisture that’s in the mushrooms start to evaporate and after a few minutes they’re good to go.

That's a wrapIt rubs the lotion on its skin

Now get some gladwrap (cling film/plastic wrap) and lay it flat on the bench. Lay the slices of proscuitto down next to each other in a row and slather the mushroom paste (or duxelle as it’s properly called) on top in a thin layer. Place the fillet in the middle and roll from one side to the other until the ends touch. Then wrap the cling film up tightly and put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes, try to avoid having to explain to your house mates or loved ones why there is a ball of skin in the fridge if you can.

Now take it out of the fridge, lay out your puff pastry sheet(s) and put the wrapped fillet in the middle. Using a pastry brush, get a good coating of egg wash all the way around the edges of your pastry, so it will stick nicely when you try and wrap it up.

Then summoning all the dark powers of great pastry chefs that have long since past, attempt to roll the fillet up in the sheet of pastry and have it look like something one of those professional present wrappers in department stores might come up with, rather than the twisted mess you manage to make each time you attempt to wrap anything more complicated than a small box (that was more for my myself than anyone else btw).

Glaze the wellington all over with more egg wash and score the top with a knife for some elegant post baking patterns.

Yay, it sticks !Beef Parcel

Now comes crunch time. Pre heat your oven to around 180C and place the wellington onto a tray. Season with a bit more salt and pepper and put it in.

The tricky part is exactly how long you should leave it in the oven. Never having cooked one before I was a little hesitant to take it out too soon, unless it was a mess of pastry wrapped raw meat. I left it too long though, and what I ended up with was best described as what they must serve to meat lovers in hell. The outer shell was nice… the pastry, proscuitto and mushroom formed a beautiful casing, but sadly were not protective enough to save my fillet from becoming a hard rubbery mess of dry meat.


So after going to bed hungry and crying myself to sleep, I woke up with a determination that I would not let any pastry wrapped meat dish get the better of me, dammit !

So back to the trenches I went. Another beef fillet, more mushrooms, proscuitto, mustard, seasoning, pastry… The very next night, and now with the added pressure of guests with expectations of culinary mastery… it was do or die.

The second time around was much faster to prepare, the steps of the preparation came back to me like a seasoned veteran, fillet, season, sear, mustard, proscuitto, duxelle, fillet, wrap, chill, pastry, egg wash, wrap, bake… All in all taking me about half an hour less than the night before.

I was also damned if I was going to let this one get overcooked. We’d be eating raw meat or nothing if it didn’t come out right. I’d taken the precautionary measure of finding my thermometer (previously used solely as a milk frothing thermometer before my coffee making skills developed), to test the inside temperature of the fillet while it was cooking.

So this time after about 15 – 20 minutes we were done. A check of the temperature in the middle of the fillet said just above rare, and that was good enough for me. Beef fillet doesn’t have the fat content to handle over cooking, so if you go much past pink you’re destined to be chewing your way through leather.

This time however, it was cooked to perfection. Succulent moist and tender all spring to mind as admirable words to use to describe it. The pastry and duxelle and prosciutto adding a delicate salty exterior that made for a nice feeling when you got a big mouthful of it all (which i always do).

Take 2

My guest satisfied, my stomach filled, and my faith in meat wrapped in pastry restored, it was off to bed with happy thoughts of what to cook next, and whether it would pushing it to cook the same thing three nights in a row.

Duck Breast with Shitake Mushroom Risotto

Shitake Mushroom & Almond Risotto with Star Anise Duck Breast

Another quick post here because I’m running behind and no doubt my hordes of loyal readers are clicking refresh each morning only to form a look of disdain as the same tired rhetoric comes up.

A simple seared duck breast and shitake mushroom risotto. The duck breast was rubbed with a spice mixture that I guess might almost equate to Chinese Five Spice if you broke it down. There was Star Anise, Cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds…so ok… four spice if you want to be picky. Dry roasted them in a pan and crushed in the mortar and pestle and then rubbed it into the duck on the skin side. Season with a little olive oil and salt (for good luck), and then place into a hot pan skin side down to sear. Once the skin is nice and crispy, flip it over and seal the bottom, before popping it into the oven to finish off.

The Shitake mushrooms I used were dried. So I soaked them in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes before using them. This had the added benefit of giving me some intense mushroom flavoured water to use in the stock, which was topped up with chicken stock and white wine.

The risotto is made as you would any other. Leeks, onion, garlic, sweat…add rice, coat, add stock x lots, add mushrooms and other bits towards the end, wait til its getting soft but still has a bit of bite… and you’re done.

One thing I have noticed is that if you leave it too long to serve and eat your risotto then it will continue cooking from the heat trapped in the body of rice, and pretty soon you’ll have overcooked stodgy rice puffs, rather than the creamy smooth risotto of 10 minutes beforehand.

Shitake Mushroom & Almond Risotto with Star Anise Duck Breast Star Anise Seared Duck Breast

So after the risotto is done, slice your duck breast in nice sexy little pieces, and layer lovingly on top of the plate, with a sprig or two of fresh coriander for decoration and sensory juxtaposition.

Spiced Duck with Cauliflower Puree

Spiced Duck with Cauliflower Puree and Kipfler Potatoes

Every now and then I get a fancy idea in my head, and for whatever reason I decide to run with it. Last Friday night was just such an occasion.

I had previously purchased a whole duck from the butcher, and had been waiting and thinking about what I was going to do with it, when I finally gave up and decided to make it up as I went along. I had invited friends over with the promise of duck for dinner, and now I had to pony up the goods (note to self… never promise anyone anything).

So after a quick search of the internet on how to debone a chicken (or duck, or other object with bones and meat shaped like a chicken or duck), I put my trusty Wusthof to work and portioned the duck off into it’s various bits and pieces. Seperated legs and thighs, wings, and breasts into sections, and collected all the bones togther in a slightly macabre little pile.

Still having no idea what I was going to make, I decided that I wasn’t going to waste the duck bones, so into the pan they went, with a little olive oil to help them brown, once done, into a pot of water with a carrot, onion, leek, fennel, and mushrooms to turn into duck stock. Having then discovered that we did in fact have a whole bag of dried Shitake mushrooms, another idea came to mind. Whatever I was going to make would be dressed with a shitake mushroom and red wine jus.

Now at the same time as the stock was boiling away, I had another idea. Having been titillated by Jules use of duck fat to roast Jerusalem artichokes, I figured I’d get down with the duck fat action myself. So I harvested as much of the precious goop as I could from the skin and bits of duck I had seperated, it was all thrown into a pot over a low heat to render down into delicious fatty ducky goodness.

Ok, so now I knew I was cooking duck… making shitake mushroom sauce, and cooking something in duck fat. Next… check fridge for other vegetables and it uncovered a cauliflower. Now there was no way I was going to serve steamed cauliflower, and so the next logical step was cauliflower puree. Into a pot it went along with a little leek and some milk to gently poach until it was nice and soft. At which point I seasoned it well and threw it all in the blender.

Now it was all turning into a meal. I had cauliflower puree, I had duck, I had sauce… Next choice, something to sit under the duck. A quick check of the pantry uncovered just what I wanted, my much loved Kipfler potatoes. Perfect for sauteeing. I did cheat a little and par boiled them in salted water to start with, just to make life easier… and when they were a little soft, into a hot pan with the duck fat to sautee away until nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Now to the duck. Inspiration still wasn’t striking me and so I went back to basics. A spice rub containing fennel seeds, coriander seeds, black pepper, salt, and cloves… I would have used star anise as well, but I’d run out. I had four portions to cook, the individual breasts (with skin on) and the maryland pieces (drumsticks with thighs attached). A smothering in olive oil and then into the pan they went, breasts skin side down. Once they were cooking away, I put a good sized knob of butter into the pan and basted the pieces in butter and the juices a little, giving each piece a poke every now and then to see how done it was.

Duck is quite a dark meat, something that turns some people off when they compare it to chicken. It has a much richer and meatier flavour however, and hence if you’re cooking a breast fillet you should try and get it a nice medium so it doesn’t dry out and go rubbery.

Once the duck was just cooked but still lovely and moist, I took it out of the pan and left it to rest, while making the sauce. Basically a red wine jus using pinot noir to deglaze and the duck stock I’d made earlier. Adding in a couple of handfuls of shitake mushrooms that had been soaking in warm water. Some cornflour to thicken slightly, and a knob of butter to finish.

Spiced Duck with Cauliflower Puree and Kipfler Potatoes

So now I was basically done. I poured the cauliflower puree onto each place, stacked a little mound of the sauteed potatoes in the middle, sliced the duck into relatively uniform sized pieces and layered them on top, and casually (read: sloppily) drizzled the mushroom jus over the top.

Served with a side of garlic infused steamed beans and bok choy.

Our guests were kind enough to bring along a tasty bottle of Shiraz Cabernet that went just nicely with the richness of the duck and the earthy shitake mushrooms.

Not bad for a “throw it all together at the last minute” recipe… Not bad at all.

Caramelized Onion stuffed Pork Burgers with Enoki & Sweet Potato Fries

Onion stuffed Pork Burgers with Enoki & Sweet Potato Fries

I love burgers. To me they are the epitome of the self contained meal.. You’ve got your carbs, your protein, and your vegetables… animal, vegetable, and mineral all together in one nice little bundle.

This recipe was inspired by a great book i’m reading at the moment aptly titled Burgers, by Paul Gayler (actually, the link is to the US version of the book, the Australian version is basically the same with a different name). This one is my own creation though… so blame me and not him if it all goes horribly wrong.

Open faced

Ingredients (I’m not good with quantities, so you’ll have to fill in the blanks):

Pork mince (500 gms or so)
1 red chilli
small bunch of coriander
1/2 tsp ground cimmanon
1 egg
good olive oil
couple of onions
2 Tblsp sugar
a few knobs of butter (yes knob is the correct term for a piece of butter)
sea salt
cracked pepper

baby spinach
enoki mushrooms
couple of big sweet potato’s
vegetable or sunflower oil for deep frying
flat bread for toasting
japanese mayonaisse


Chop the chilli finely and roughly chop the coriander. Mix well through the pork and add the other ingredients. Cinnamon for a sweet taste, salt and pepper to season, egg to bind the mixture, olive oil because everything needs olive oil.

Now chop the onions finely and saute them in a little butter and olive oil. Slowly add a tablespoon or so of sugar to the onions, and perhaps a little white wine, so they soften up and caramelize nicely. Give them a while to cook so they are really soft and golden brown. These onions are a great garnish to lots of different meals, but we’re going to stuff them inside the burgers just for the hell of it.

So now get a ball of the pork mixture, flatten it out, and place a small pile of the onion mixture inside. Add another ball of pork to the top and seal it up into a nice burger looking shape. Good to go.

Heat a pan with a little oil and sear the burgers on each side until they’re just cooked through. At this point i transferred them to a
flat grilling tray to try and get those nice grill marks on them… but it was only mildly worthwhile.

Meanwhile heat your vegetable oil in a heavy pan… I’m not the greatest deep frier in the world, in fact it scares me everytime i have to do it, so by no means am i an expert. The trick for me is finding the right temperature. You want it cool enough so you don’t burn the sweet potato to a crisp on the outside and leave them hard in the middle, but no so cool that they go all soggy without crisping up.

So now peel and cut up the sweet potato into big chunky fries and rinse them under water to wash the starch off. Them
my best advice would be to keep an eye on them closely and fry them in small batches until they’re nice and golden on the outside and soft inside.

Once you’re burgers are done and fries close to finished you can start to assemble the burger. Toast or grill your flat bread and arrange a bed of spinach, then pile on top the burger, enoki mushrooms (Sharon’s all time favourite mushroom), and a little of the caramelized onion.

Season the sweet potato fries with salt and cracked pepper, and perhaps a little paprika, and serve next to your burger with some japanese mayonaisse as a dipping sauce.

Stop...burger time...

There you go… a nice complicated way to make a simple burger :)