L.I.N.D.A.’s Tardis Wellington
This is a great recipe for getting your mates get together for a little Electric Light Orchestra jam sessions and alien spotting. Don’t be intimidated by the “Wellington” name. This is actually easier to make than most people think. The key is quality ingredients. Yes, it is a little bit of a hassle, but your friends will be talking about it for ages.
1 lb/455 g white button mushrooms
2 small onions, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
4 tbsp/60 g butter
1 tsp/5 g fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp/2.5 g kosher salt
2 lb/900 g sirloin tip roast, carefully trimmed of all fat
1 lb/450 g puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
2 tbsp/60g dijon mustard
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
You can use beef tenderloin in this recipe, but you won’t end up with the flatter, more square shape you want in a Tardis shaped meat pie. Instead, go for a nice, thick sirloin tip roast. They’re tender enough some people call the sirloin tip a “poor man’s prime rib.” Most cuts also happen to be just the right shape and texture for this recipe. Fair warning: don’t use a cheap, tough roast. You’ll end up with an inedible lump. Cheap cuts of meat need to be cooked slowly for long periods of time before they soften up. Just this once, go for the good stuff. If you can’t find any sirloin tip roast, ask your butcher what he’d substitute in a big, flat Wellington. Most of them will be totally relieved someone still cares about meat. If he stares at you blankly, it’s time to find a new grocery store.
Once you’re ready to make your Tardis Wellington, take your frozen puff pastry out of the freezer and let it thaw at room temperature. This takes a few hours, so you’re best off just putting the box in the fridge to thaw slowly the night before
When picking your sirloin tip roast, try to find one that’s already got as much rectangular potential as possible. You’ll probably have to cut it down a little to make sure it’s properly Tardis shaped. Luckily, the remains can either be grilled outside as steaks or turned into kabobs if they’re odd sizes. Make sure to carefully trim all visible fat from your sirloin tip roast then carve it into a nice rectangle that weighs around 2 pounds.
Preheat your oven to 400F/205C. When it’s good and hot, bake your rectangle of roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the interior temperature reaches 130F/55C. Don’t leave it in too long. It’ll be back in the oven after being covered in puff pastry. You bake it in two steps like this to make sure the meat is properly done without burning the puff pastry.
While the meat is roasting, it’s time to make the duxelles. That’s just a fancy term for the mushroom and shallot topping that gets baked inside the crust. Melt your butter in a skillet over medium heat. If you enjoy chopping vegetables, mince up your mushrooms, onions, and garlic. If you consider it a chore, throw them all in a food processor, along with the fresh thyme, and pulse it a few times until you end up with a nice vegetable mince. Don’t let it run too long or else you’ll end up with a vegetable paste.
Toss your veggie mix into your melted butter and cook it all for about eight to ten minutes. It should be gloriously aromatic. Finish the mix with your salt and pepper, cook for another minute or so, then set it aside to cool.
It may seem counter intuitive, but once the meat and veggies are ready, you want to put them in the fridge to cool down a bit. This is so they don’t soak through the puff pastry and thereby ruin the crust. Leave them be for an hour or so while you watch another episode of Doctor Who.
When you come back, it’s time for the fun part.
Unfold your puff pastry. It should be large enough to wrap your entire roast. (If in doubt, buy two boxes of puff pastry dough. This isn’t the place to skimp.) Now carefully cut an inch or so off one of the shorter edges so you have a line of thin scraps. You’ll be using these to decorate the top into a Tardis shape.
Carefully pat your roast dry with some paper towels.
Spread your duxelles out in the middle of your puff pastry. You want to make a rectangle of it a little smaller than your meat. Now carefully spread a generous amount of dijon mustard over one side of your meat and put it mustard side down on top of the duxelles. Once the meat is in place, oh so carefully fold in the edges of the puff pastry so they overlap. You want to essentially wrap your meat in the puff pastry as though it’s an edible Christmas present. Feel free to cut away any extra pastry that doesn’t fit.
Now for the hard part. Carefully flip the whole thing over so it’s seam side down in a pre-buttered pan. This gives you a nice, smooth surface for the rectangular top of your Tardis.
If you squint, you can see the potential within, but it doesn’t really look like a Tardis. Not yet. You want to use the puff pastry scraps to finish off the effect. Start by cutting strips to make a half inch wide rectangle around the top of the roast. Position this a good inch/2.5 cm inwards from the edges. Otherwise, you risk having your decorations simply fall off the sides when the puff pastry expands during baking. I speak from experience. Once your border is in place, add another strip down the middle, lengthwise. Now add three evenly spaced strips across the width to represent the upper windows, the warning plaque, and the bottom of the doors. Cut a small circle of pastry and put it in the second box on the right. Cut a little square of puff pastry and put it in the second box on the left. If you have enough puff pastry left, make a thin cross (to represent window panes) in each of the top two boxes. Stop and admire for a moment. It’s lovely.
To make sure it comes out of the oven a beautiful golden brown, beat your eggs until they’re slightly frothy. Use a pastry brush to coat the entire exterior of your puff pastry. Lightly sprinkle the whole thing with kosher salt. Add a little extra salt to the middle left box that represents the plaque so it’ll be nice and sparkly.
Now pop the whole thing in a 400F/205C oven and bake it for 25-35 minutes, depending on your preferred level of doneness. Feel free to sneak a meat thermometer into the side to check the temperature. You want it about 130F/55C (140/60C if you prefer your roast closer to medium well.) If your roast isn’t done enough, cover the top with aluminum foil and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Final cooking time has as much to do with the thickness of your roast as the weight. The thinner the meat, the faster it cooks.
If you’re feeling extra fancy, once your Tardis is finished baking, you can fill the top two windows with either some carefully carved egg whites or some pale white cheese, and perhaps even create some shadows in each of the boxes using either a spread made from diced black olives or some Japanese nori (seaweed paper used to make sushi.)
A good roast needs at least 20 minutes to cool before serving. Otherwise, you’ll lose all the delicious juiciness inside. Luckily, this gives you plenty of time for guests to admire your hard work. When you’re ready to serve it, simply cut the Tardis into 1-2 inch/2.5 – 5 centimeter thick slices.
If you desperately want a Tardis on the table but you’re intimidated by the idea of a fancy roast, don’t despair. There’s a perfectly good cheater’s option that will get you 80% of the look for a fraction of the effort.
Get yourself a couple rolls of unperforated crescent dough at the grocery store. Sure, you can also use pizza dough, but the crescents are easier to work with and create a more consistent final result. Now, make whatever casserole you normally enjoy. Chicken pot pie works a treat, as does a tamale pie, or even a shepherd’s pie. Prep your casserole in the usual fashion, spread a nice, flat layer of crescent dough on top, then follow the same procedure using dough scraps to create the details. You can probably throw this crust together in ten minutes, and that’s only if you take some time on the windows. Bake your casserole with the Tardis crust on top and enjoy the envy and admiration of your friends.
Whatever sort of meaty goodness you make, it’s best served with some Electric Light Orchestra Karaoke and the company of your favorite people whose lives have been touched by The Doctor.
You can find plenty of recipes for your Doctor Who viewing party in Dining With The Doctor: The Unauthorized Whovian Cookbook.