celeriac mushroom and spinach wellington
Fri, 22 January, 2021
Vegetarians claim Wellington – and vegans too, with a couple of straightforward swaps. Mushrooms, spinach, roasted celeriac and the secret trick: nori sheets to help roll up the layers.
Wellington is really just a glorified beef sandwich. Pastry instead of bread, spread with pate and filled with a whole fillet of beef. Ooof – just thinking about it makes me feel bloated.
But I should stop being a hypocrite as I love a good beef Wellington. And it’s a perfect dish to prepare for Valentine’s Day dinner! Slog all day, trying to get your beef seared perfectly, making mushroom duxelles which even sounds ridiculous, then overbaking it by a fraction of a second and bursting into tears because it’s grey and miserable instead of juicy and pink. Thank heavens for the pink champagne.
Joking aside, it is hard work. But what if your Valentine is a vegetarian? Or you are? Or both? Well, then nothing doing but create and construct a vegetarian version of the Wellington.
Be warned: it is quite a slog too. There is less stress though as overcooking celeriac isn’t in the register of chef’s demons. On the other hand it doesn’t mean you should try to get it medium rare.
I picked celeriac for the centre. There isn’t much you can do to make it taste other than like celeriac but it’s a pleasant earthy flavour. And it’s firm – and if you’re making a veggie approximation of Wellington beef, don’t turn it into a Wellington meatloaf by mincing nuts and the usual veggie suspects.
It doesn’t look like meat but then it’s not supposed to. It’s not about aesthetics but textures: firm, soft, pastry. And about flavours: sweet, umami, pastry. Didn’t you know ‘pastry’ was a flavour?
Precook the celeriac
It obviously has to be pre-cooked before going into the pastry parcel as the beast takes its time to soften. Wrap it in foil and bake for up to an hour and a half while you prepare the lovely mushroom and spinach fillings.
Fresh or frozen spinach?
It’s rather a wintry dish in my view so I’d always use frozen spinach out of season. But of course fresh spinach will make lovely filling: I’d wash it, chop it roughly and then subject to the same treatment as frozen in my recipe; it will take a fraction of the time.
As it happens, duxelles is always made from mushrooms so my heading above is a bit like ‘liquid soup’ or ‘egg white meringue’. But just writing these words makes me itch for a nouvelle approach to old duxelles: perhaps fennel duxelles? Ha! Next time for sure!
I also streamline the method: instead of finely chopping the ‘shrooms, I blitz them roughly with a stick blender when cooked.
Wrapping the celeriac Wellington
It’s easy, and you can cut it even shorter if you don’t mind the two fillings mixing a little. I wanted to keep them separate and so a couple of sheets of nori found their way into a dish which is not sushi. They work perfectly too.
But the filling, spinach or mushroom, whichever first, can be spread directly onto the pastry sheet. You can then dollop the other filling on and rest the celeriac cylinder in the middle. That makes it somewhat easier to roll tightly and to seal.
Don’t skip the chilling before baking stage though: puff pastry must go to the oven cold, otherwise it will leak butter and generally misbehave.
celeriac mushroom and spinach wellingtonServings: 2Time: about 2-3 hours
- 1 medium celeriac
- vegetable oil
- 30g (1⁄2 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tbsp. butter (swap for oil for vegan version)
- 120g (4 oz.) chestnut cup mushrooms
- 350g (12 oz.) frozen spinach
- ½ tsp grated nutmeg
- salt and black pepper
- 30g (2 tbsp.) pine nuts
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp. grated Parmesan (skip for vegan version)
- 4 nori sheets
- 1 sheet of puff pastry (all-butter or vegan), approx. 30 x 30cm
- 1 beaten egg, for brushing
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
2. Peel the celeriac and trim it to obtain a cylinder about 4cm in diameter (like a fillet of beef). Brush it with oil, wrap tightly in foil and bake for 1 – 1 ½ hour, until tender when pricked with a fork. Leave to cool.
3. While the celeriac is baking, make the fillings. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Roughly chop the chestnut mushrooms.
4. Place the spinach in a saucepan with 1 tbsp. butter and cook over high heat until it thaws, and all the moisture is cooked off, about 30 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper by the end of cooking time.
5. Melt the other tbsp. of butter in another saucepan and add the chestnut mushrooms. Cook until coloured, then scoop the dried mushrooms from the soaking liquid and add to the pan. Reserve the liquid.
6. Cook the mushrooms stirring often until coloured and a little caramelised. Add the soaking liquid in two goes and cook it off completely each time. Season with salt and pepper by the end of cooking time.
7. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet. Add half to the spinach and blitz it very briefly with a stick blender. Add the rest of the pine nuts, taste for seasoning and adjust.
8. Blitz the mushrooms with the stick blender roughly, you want some chunks to remain. Add the parsley and Parmesan, mix, taste for seasoning and adjust. Chill both fillings in the fridge if the celeriac is still cooking or cooling.
9. Place 2 nori sheets on the work surface. Measure the celeriac with kitchen string: you’ll want a surface a little wider than its width and long enough to roll it whole. Trim the nori with scissors accordingly.
10. Spread the spinach on the nori sheets. Cover with the other 2 nori sheets, trimmed, and spread the mushroom filling over it. Place the celeriac at one short end and wrap it completely. You can do it with an outer layer of cling film. Tuck in the sides.
11. Roll out the pastry sheet to make it supple. Place the prepared celeriac at the short end and roll it up. Brush the end of the pastry with egg to help it stick. Seal the sides and trim excess pastry. Place the Wellington in the fridge for 30 minutes.
12. If you switched off the oven, turn it back on to 200C/400F/gas 6. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment.
13. Place the Wellington on the baking sheet and brush it all over with egg. Score the top of the pastry with a sharp knife, without cutting through the pastry.
14. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and crisp.
15. Let it stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with peas, mashed potatoes or fries.