“Well, if she can’t come home for Christmas then we’ll just have to bring Christmas to her,” said my brother, Peter. He was eating something down the phone – I could hear it, it was annoying.
“Do they even do Christmas dinner in hospital?” I ask.
“Yeah, but it’s probably rank, though. Also, I dread to think what the veggie option is.”
“Mmm, good point. I’m not risking her being given a manky stuffed pepper.”
“Chance will be a fine thing.”
Not being the person who usually makes Christmas dinner, I was suddenly set the task of not only making it, but finding a way to transport it. Christmas dinner ‘meals on wheels’ as it were. My mum usually makes us mushroom and gruyere cheese parcels but, as she’s currently incapacitated and having chemotherapy pumped around her fragile body, I thought it unreasonable to ask her to make Christmas dinner this year. Don’t think hospitals have the best kitchen facilities.
So, inspired by her recipe, I came up with these cheeky little Wellingtons. I’ve kept the mushroom and gruyere cheese element, but added a few leeks and a bit of thyme – lurvely. The plan is to cook everything in advance, portion it out, and microwave it at the hospital on Christmas Day. Fingers crossed she’ll be able to eat at least just one sprout, they’re her favourite.
Get well soon, Mum (aka Moomin) and Merry Christmas. I look forward to eating your delicious mushroom parcels next year when you’re better, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my substitute Wellingtons.
Leek and mushroom wellingtons (As featured in Familes First Magazine)
Serves 4 / Takes 1 hour
2 leeks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 portobello mushrooms
750g ready rolled puff pastry sheets (x2 375g)
200g *Gruyere cheese or vegetarian Italian hard cheese
8 sprigs of fresh thyme
Knob of butter
Red wine jus (optional)
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
30g unsalted butter
200ml vegetarian red wine
400ml vegetable stock, I use 1 Knorr stockpot
1. Preheat your oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms carefully with your fingers and discard. Put the mushrooms in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add a generous knob of butter and sprinkle each mushroom with fresh thyme leaves. Let the butter melt and cook on one side for a few minutes before turning. Once turned, add a couple of teaspoons of water to help the mushrooms steam a little and cook for a further few minutes until soft.
2. Remove the mushrooms carefully and put them on some kitchen paper to soak up any excess liquid or squeeze the juice out with a spatular.
3. Finely chop the leeks, crush the garlic and add them both to the now empty mushroom saucepan. Add another knob of butter, a good season of salt and pepper and cook down for 10 minutes until soft. Once cooked, take off the heat and put to one side.
4. Meanwhile, slice the Gruyere cheese and beat the egg in a separate bowl. Roll out the puff pastry sheets on a surface and divide each one in half with a sharp knife and then half again giving you eight equal rectangles of puff pastry (you need 2 rectangles per Wellington).
5. In the centre of the 1 of the rectangles, put a quarter of the leek mixture, roughly the same size as a portobello mushroom. Cover with a layer of cheese, top with one of the mushrooms (smooth side up) and top with another layer of cheese. Brush with a little egg wash around the mushroom stack. Take another square of pastry, stretch it a bit in your hands and stretch it carefully over the top of the mushroom stack. Press the pastry down with your fingers around the bottom of the mushroom to seal it. Trim the excess pastry around the edge with a sharp knife and seal the edges by pressing down with your fingers and then with the prongs of a fork. See images below. (Make sure the Wellingtons are sealed around the sides to prevent any leaks.)
6. Discard the off cuts of pastry and repeat this process until you have 4 Wellingtons. (Any leftover pastry can be used again so roll it together, cover in a few of layers of cling film and freeze).
7. Brush each wellington with egg wash and carefully transfer to a couple of baking trays lined with baking paper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with mashed potato, steamed vegetables or as part of a roast dinner. Perfect for Christmas day.
Red wine jus
1. Cook the onion in the butter for a 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil, then down to a simmer for 10 minutes. Season and serve.
If you’ve had a go at making my Wellingtons or any of my recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale firstname.lastname@example.org
❄– The wellingtons are suitable for freeze before baking. Wrap each wellington in 3 layers of cling film and freeze. Defrost before baking.
*Gruyére is a cheese of protected status originating from Switzerland. The production and maturation is defined in Swiss law and all Swiss Gruyère producers must follow these rules, however this doesn’t specify the use of animal rennet. Therefore it could or could not be vegetarian.
*Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiani) is always made using animal rennet, therefore it is not vegetarian. Substitute for Italian hard cheese if applicable.