HE is a British former history academic with a weakness for gun dogs and Appaloosa horses; she is a chef who speaks French, adores Bach and as a child dreamed of becoming an Egyptologist.
Fred and Carla Bright of Kingston Farm, a few kilometres outside the village of Bathurst, have established Kingston not only as an Appaloosa stud of excellence – Carla has also built up a solid reputation for the superlative classic dishes served in her restaurant in the Edwardian home on the farm.
Each recipe is painstakingly researched, as in the case of the Beef Wellington which is one of Carla’s signature dishes and the recipe she is sharing on The Global Table today.
She and Fred will tell you the pastry covering was, in the early days of this most British of dishes, a “mere paste of flour and water, wrapped around the uncooked tenderloin so it would roast without browning – a culinary fad of the era”.
“In time the covering became puff pastry; then the chefs of the continent, with their oft-noted penchant for lily-gilding, inserted a layer of truffles and paté de foie gras, today often simplified to mushroom and chicken livers.”
The history of Beef Wellington is a matter of historic contention, Carla says. “Food historians generally agree the dish is named for Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington, and the man who defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.
“Volumes have been written about Wellington, but the dish that bears his name is surprisingly elusive. In Ireland Beef Wellington, sometimes called Wellington Steak, remains a simple combination of excellent rare beef and flaky pastry. The dish is also known in France, where it is simply called filet de boeuf en croute.”
Carla says venison fillet like kudu also makes a very satisfactory Wellington and this approach “encapsulates to a great extent, what we at Kingston Farm are all about: combining the best of British and South African ingredients and techniques that do not seek the flash-in-the-pan and evanescent glory of contemporary food fashion, but comfort and satisfy a longing for excellence and tradition”.
You can marinade the beef for 24 hours prior to cooking to give it more flavour, she says, and any sinew should be removed prior to marinating. “The whole point of a Beef Wellington is to enjoy the tenderness of the rare beef, which has been given flavour from the mushrooms and pate and kept moist by encasing the fillet in puff pastry.”
Recipe: Beef Wellington from Kingston Farm
Serves 4 to 6
Beef fillet, whole and cleaned of all sinew and excess fat. Trim both ends so the fillet forms a roughly cylindrical shape. For the marinade: red wine, olive oil and seasoning.
Mushroom Duxelles: Wipe the mushrooms and trim the stalks, chop very fine indeed. Heat in a dry pan until their liquid comes out and evaporates. The mushrooms will wilt and shrink. Add a tablespoon of cream and stir in to blend with the mushrooms and season to taste. Although button mushrooms can be used, the addition of any wild mushroom such as chanterelles will greatly enhance the flavour of this dish.
Duck liver pate – a good foie gras is ideal, however chicken liver pate can be used. We make a pate from the livers of our own ducks, which has a more rustic flavor than the somewhat bland tinned foie gras available here.
Egg yolk wash
Sear and seal the fillet in a pan over a very high heat. Allow to rest; season.
Roll out the puff pastry to an area just greater than the length and three times the width of the fillet to allow for wrapping.
Smear the pate over the pastry, almost to the edges. Cover this area with the mushrooms. Place any excess on top of the fillet. Place the fillet in the centre of this.
Cut the pastry to size and wrap the fillet completely; seal the pastry joins with the egg wash. Allow to rest. It can be refrigerated at this point. However it should be removed from the fridge at least half an hour prior to cooking.
Heat an oven to 225 degrees Celsius. Once the oven has reached this temperature, place a baking tray in the oven to pre-heat.
Bake the Wellington for about 25 minutes. This will produce a Wellington that is medium rare. Thirty minutes will get you to medium. However, for those that like beef fillet well done, this is not a dish that you would enjoy, unless you also enjoy burned pastry as well as ruined meat.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10-20 minutes before serving. Carve with very sharp knife into slices about the width of a thumb and serve.
Serve with a Cumberland sauce and garnish with watercress dipped in a good vinaigrette.
More about Kingston Farm
For more about Kingston Farm, and its delightful owners Fred and Carla Bright, get your copy of Weekend Post on Saturday September 29 and check out the MyWeekend supplement.
There’s also a list of things to do in and around Bathurst, as well as Carla’s recipe for another quintessentially British dish – homity pie – which dates to the time of the “land girls” during World War 2.
PLUS: There’s a chance for one lucky reader to win a one-night stay for two people at Kingston Farm, breakfast and dinner included. Check out the Weekend Post print edition to find out how to enter!
How to get there
Situated on the R67 Between Port Alfred and Grahamstown, Kingston is the first farm on the Shaw Park road, just outside Bathurst on the Grahamstown side.
It has three self-catering units – one sleeps four and the other two sleep two each. Each unit has a lounge with TV and DVD player, as well as a fully-equipped kitchen. The cost is R300 per person per night.
You can prepare your own breakfast or request an English or continental breakfast in the farmhouse at an extra cost. There is also a braai area for guests’ use.
Dinner is R220 per three-course set menu; 24-hour booking is required and Carla is open to special dietary requests. You don’t have to stay over to dine here and Carla also offers one-on-one cooking classes, our classes for couples, by arrangement. Catering for functions can also be arranged.
Contact Kingston Farm on (046)625-0129 or 083-262-4813, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. GPS coordinates: -33.501439, 26.822569.
Most people know these spotted horses from the “cowboys and Indians” movies of old. The Appaloosa is a native of North America, where it was selectively bred by various tribes for centuries.
It is similar to a quarterhorse in build, is considered a good endurance horse and is sure-footed and easy-going.
“It’s a friendly, versatile horse – you could jump it or do dressage with it. You could think of the Appaloosa as a big pony or a small horse,” says Fred.