Definitely Time for Comfort Food

A week ago I was filled with such anticipation of being on the cusp of history.  Since then I’ve been in complete shock, along with a lot of the world.

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I wore my version of the pantsuit.  I don’t actually have one so a suit coat would have to do!  I also wore white and purple for the colours of the suffragettes.  I was excited!  But after the evening wore on I could see the writing on the wall.  Going to sleep that night I was hoping beyond hope that the numbers would be wrong. The first thing I saw in the morning was a message on my iPad from a friend in Scotland asking what the hell did this country do.

Clinton wasn’t great shakes but I am having trouble wrapping my head round the fact that so many people accepted the sexism, the racism, the ego, the inciting of violence, and outright lies of Trump.  It pains me that these weren’t deal breakers and in fact celebrated.  I don’t know what is in store in the next few years but I can’t say my normal optimism is in play.

It was also difficult talking about it with our kids.  Fortunately they are old enough to recognise what is right and what is wrong.  Let’s just say my daughter can’t wait to be old enough to vote!

In the meantime we have to get on with our lives.  Given we had another weekend of home improvement and how the week went, comfort food was definitely in order.

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Because we still have a ton of apples from apple picking I thought a pork hand pie with apple and sage would do the trick.

For the pastry I cut in 1/2 a cup of butter into 1 1/2 cups of flour and a 1/4 tsp of salt.  When the mixture is reduced to the texture of bread crumbs and they stick together, gradually add cold water until the dough comes together.  It doesn’t take much so add a bit at a time.  Cover and set aside until it’s time to fill the dough.

In a skillet heat up about two tablespoons of olive oil.  Add about 1/2 a cup of finely chopped onions and begin to cook.  Once the onion starts to become translucent add a pound of ground pork.  Finely chop 2 large cloves of garlic and mix in.

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When the pork is half cooked add a small handful of chopped fresh sage and a small handful of sliced fresh cranberry.  Then add a spoonful of mustard and about a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Roll the dough out thinly and cut out circles.  I used a bowl for this.

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Fill one side of the dough with the filling.  I had filling leftover because I only needed one pie but that would be good for a later pasta dish!   Brush beaten egg round the edge of the pastry and fold the pastry in half.  Pinch with a fork round the edge and then put 3 small slashes in the top. Brush with the egg and bake at 425F/220C for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

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My husband made a fabulous dessert with apple and frangipane so it was a lovely meal.

Now that a week has passed I hope the grass roots efforts that are springing up to hold on to the progress we’ve made for equality and to make this place better continue.  It won’t be easy but we do have a voice.

Tarragon Beef Stew to Keep You Warm

I think it is time to give up the ghost where the garden is concerned at this point.  With the exception of the hardy root veg and brussels sprouts we’re done and dusted.  A couple of weeks ago I managed to find some tarragon still green in the garden which reminded me of a recipe I had printed out from allrecipes.com a few years ago.  Looking at it again, I realised that I hadn’t followed it completely when I made it before.  For one, it had honey.  And a few other interesting things.  But it does have vermouth which works really well with tarragon.

I love beef stews, particularly with ale, but my husband sometimes finds them too heavy in flavour.  This stew has a lot of flavour without the heaviness.  A more refined rustic soup if that isn’t too much of an oxy moron!  

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Dredge about a pound of stewing beef in flour and season it with sea salt and pepper.  In a saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Brown the beef.  Chop a small red onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic, a carrot, and 2-3 mushrooms.  Add the veg to the beef and cook for a few minutes.

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Cube 2-3 red potatoes depending on the size.  Add it to the saucepan.  Cook for a few minutes then add 4 cups of vegetable bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Add 1/2 cup of vermouth, 4 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce, a handful of tarragon, and a small spoonful of mustard.

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Simmer for a few hours at low temperature until the beef is tender and the potatoes are cooked through.

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Add some crusty bread and you’ll be warmed to your toes!  🙂

Fabulous Pulled Pork Sandwiches and the French Language

When we travel we try to learn a few phrases and bring a phrase book.  Knowing please, thank you, where is the toilet, etc can go a long way.  It certainly is better received than yelling louder in English.  Honestly, why do people do that?  Right now my husband and I are learning French.  Well, he’s reviewing it and I’m trying to learn it.

Now I know English is very hard to learn, it is such a mish mash of languages from all the influences going back a few thousand years.  I’m starting to think French isn’t that far behind in the level of difficulty of learning it.  Questions have completely thrown me for a loop!  And the proclivity for words having many different meanings that don’t connect.  And plurals.  Sigh, I learn best by hearing and plurals sound the same as singular!  I am determined to get this because we’ll be in France this summer for a couple of weeks.  I am going to do my best but I think my phrasebook will be by my side!

I can not wait for the markets and the food.  I’ll be cooking up a storm!

I had mentioned a few months ago that my son had asked his friend’s mother to make pulled pork and he asked that I make it some time.  Now that I have more time I thought I’d give it a try.  To be honest I’ve never had a pulled pork sandwich.  But they look delicious.

This is an all day affair so in the morning prepare the dry rub.  This can be done the day before as well to let the pork sit overnight.  I found an hour to be enough.

In a small bowl mix 4 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp of onion powder, 1 tsp of garlic powder, and some sea salt.

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Prep the pork.  I got a 2 pound pork shoulder.  The connective tissue on the outside needs to be removed prior to cooking. Mix the dry rub well and rub it all over the pork making sure everything is covered.

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Chill for an hour at least.  Preheat the oven to 300F/150C.  Prior to cooking spread some mustard on the pork.  I used my homemade mustard which is super easy to make.  Then add about 3/4 cup of ale.  We used our Irish copper ale we homebrewed.

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Cover and slow cook in the oven for about 6 hours.  After a couple of hours baste the pork every hour.  The goal is to have it falling apart but still moist.  Nothing worse than stringy dry meat!

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Pull the pork with forks to shred it completely and put it into a pot.

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For the BBQ sauce I used the last of the Peach BBQ Sauce I made last year.  Time to make another batch!  Add enough to coat the meat without it being soupy.  While this is warming through pickle red onion in apple cider vinegar.

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The onions lend a wonderful brightness to the pork.  For the bread I found some local brioche that we warmed up in the microwave.  Layer the pork with shredded cheese and the onion.

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If you would like add a dollop of sour cream.  Because I couldn’t have the bread I had my dish in a bowl with the sour cream.  Delicious!

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Even though this takes all day it is so worth it.  Unfortunately our son had a friend over and it turns out he is vegetarian!  So he had a grilled cheese.  I promised the next time I’ll do a vegetarian meal for him.  But given his age the grilled cheese hit the spot.  🙂

Put the Devil in the Eggs for the Holidays

Every year I worry there is enough food for the holidays then I end up being confronted with a stuffed fridge.  And coming up with many ways to creatively empty said fridge.  But as the family’s dietary needs change there is a challenge of making sure everyone has something they can eat without making them ill.

One has to follow the fodmaps diet and she loves eggs so I thought it would be fun to dust off a classic and update it a bit.  We used to love the deviled eggs that mum made when we were growing up.

I had to make sure that at least one of the ways I made them didn’t have any garlic.  Because I planned on using my homemade mustard I had to make another variation.

After doing a bit of research on the internet, because it’s been years since I boiled an egg, I got to it.  I did the eggs the day before so they were chilled completely when it was time to peel and make up.

Various sites gave me the following steps to take to cook the eggs.  First place the eggs in an empty pan.

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Fill with cold water until the eggs are covered.  Add a bit of salt and white vinegar.  This helps contain any egg whites that might leak if the shell breaks.  Bring to a boil and turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the water for 10-12 minutes.

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Place the eggs in cold water to cool down.  When it is time to put it all together, peel the eggs.  I found it worked best for me by whacking the eggs round to crush the shells a bit then peel.  Slice the eggs in half.

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Scoop out the yolks into a bowl.

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For the fodmaps version I added a couple of spoonfuls of plain greek yoghurt, a few teaspoons of horseradish, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Mix well and adjust the ingredients as needed.  Some of us like the punch of horseradish!  Fill in the egg whites with the mixture.  For the second version I added a few spoonfuls of the plain greek yoghurt, a few dollops of mustard, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Again mix well and add it to the egg whites.  For the mustard deviled eggs I dusted them with cayenne pepper to give it a bit of a pop.

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This starter was a simple way to add a ton of flavour to the menu and make sure it met all the various dietary needs without a lot of effort.

Homemade Mustard with Garlic and Chilli

It’s been a crazy week and today isn’t any different.  We are almost done with the bathroom, I put what I hope to be the last coat of paint on the walls this morning.  I completely spaced on having said yes to making some baked goods for the PTA event tonight so that’s in the oven.  Most of the grocery shopping is done and then it’s an afternoon of getting everyone round to eye appointments.  So this will be a quick post!

Several weeks ago I bought mustard seeds to make homemade mustard.  I finally got round to it this week.  Even though this is incredibly easy you still have to find some time to do it.

I used half brown mustard seed and half yellow mustard seed for this recipe.  I did some research online and found that the basic steps are the same.  Just change up the ingredients to get the flavour you want.

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In a non reactive bowl put in 1/4 cup of brown mustard seeds and 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds.  Cover with 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar.

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Set aside, covered, for two days.  I ended up going 4 days but it didn’t ruin the recipe so that was lucky.

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For this round I wanted to do a garlic one and a garlic chilli one.  I had oven dried some Ring O Fire peppers from our garden.  That is really easy to do as well.  Bake them at 300F/150C until they are dried.

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This garlic clove turned out to be too much garlic so after finely chopping it I saved half for another dish.  Pour the mustard seeds with the vinegar into a blender and add the garlic and 1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

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Blend until you get the consistency you prefer.  I removed half of the mustard and stored it in the fridge.  Then I chopped up the pepper and added it to the blender.

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Again blend until you like the consistency.

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I was really pleased at how these came out.  I definitely want to play around with flavours.  A friend of ours in Scotland suggested using whiskey.  The possibilities are endless.

Mustard and Mushrooms

I had high hopes for our kale because every other year we’ve had an abundance of it from just a few plants.  Alas, not this year.  Which I think my husband is thrilled about as he is not a huge fan of what he refers to as rabbit food.  🙂 I succeeded in growing tiny kale, most of which I used for this dinner.  For two, mind.  Pretty pathetic if you ask me.

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The kale was the base of the dish with pan browned pork and a mushroom mustard sauce.  Because I’ve recently done a couple of dishes with bacon I had bacon fat on reserve which I used to brown the pork.  Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown on both sides.

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Remove from the pan and finish cooking by baking.  I had the oven going for the roasted parsnips so I popped the pork in with the parsnips.  For the mushroom sauce pick a mushroom of your choice that is on the lighter side, not meaty like portabellos.  Chop up the mushrooms and saute in the bacon fat used for the pork.

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Add about 2 tablespoons of stone ground mustard and 1/4 cup of dry white wine and continue to saute.  Add a few pinches of sea salt and a bit of pepper.

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When the pork is nearly done add a bit of bacon fat to another small skillet and lightly cook the kale.

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Reduce the sauce by about a 1/3.

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Place the pork on the kale then spoon the sauce over the pork to serve.

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A simple dish that has loads of flavour.  🙂

Irish Luck Was Not With Us But The Lamb Was Delicous

The past couple of weeks have been very difficult.  The kind where having then engine blow up requiring a new one wasn’t the worse thing to happen.  Fortunately things are looking up again and things getting back on track.  I did manage to find time to make an Irish meal for St Patrick’s Day for the two of us.

I found the inspiration for this dish on pinterest and it was for a rack of lamb with a mustard shallot sauce.  I couldn’t find a rack of lamb but I was able to find 4 lamb chops which were the perfect size for us.  And as it was a week night I had the added bonus of it being really easy to put together.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

Season the lamb chops with sea salt and pepper.  In a skillet heat up some olive oil then place the chops, fat side down, into the skillet to brown.  Brown all sides for a couple of minutes each.

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Roast in the oven until it is cooked to the doneness you desire.  We prefer medium rare heading towards the rare side.  In the same skillet, reduce the fat about half and add about half a cup to 3/4 cup of chopped shallots and cook until softened.  Add a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.

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Add 1/2 cup of veg bouillon, a 1/3 cup of dry white wine, and about 1 1/2 tablespoons of stone ground mustard.  I used the garlic flavoured one that we have.

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Simmer until it’s reduced to about 1/3 of liquid you started with.  After you let the lamb rest for a bit serve with the sauce.  I also served this with roasted potatoes and some yellow beets that were simmered in homemade chicken stock.

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I loved this sauce.  It would be fabulous on all sorts of proteins.  I’ll be trying this on grilled fish once the weather warms up.  The rate we’re going though it will be awhile!

Garlic Mustard Pork Loin

Thursday night was a continuation of the violent storms.  Which meant I was not cooking outside!  I did not want to risk looking like a seared steak.  My only choice was to do this dish on the stove top and toaster oven.  It came out great but I do like having it done on the grill.  A nicer sear on the meat.

It had to be a quick dish as boy scouts started up that night as well.  Well it’s Webelos which is one step down from boy scouts.  Anyone who swears girls scream louder than boys has never been to a pack meeting.  It can be deafening.  But my son loves it so what can you do?  He learned two new knots last night and he got a kick out of that.

I took some locally made garlic mustard and blended it with a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar.

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I seasoned the pork with salt and pepper and rubbed the mustard onto the pork.  After heating up some olive oil in a skillet I seared both sides of the pork.

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I placed it in the oven at 325F/160C to bake.  At the end I did up it to 375F/190C because time was a ticking and I still had to do the homework check before the boy scouts.  In the meantime I cooked up some rice, sauteed Brussel Sprouts for my husband and some eggplant/aubergine for the rest of us.  After letting the pork rest I sliced it.

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The pork came out nice and moist and the garlic mustard was a nice pairing without overwhelming it.

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Loads of flavour for a quick meal on a busy school night!

Oh go on Paris, influence me….

Sometimes I think the main reason I love going to Europe is the food.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the history, the art, the beauty.  Oh and the wine.  Can’t forget the wine!  But I could just eat my way through Europe.  Good thing we walk everywhere.  🙂

A couple of years ago we took our kids to Paris for a couple of days.  It was such a joy as they really are open to new experiences.  They loved going to the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, walking in the parks, etc.  And nary a complaint traipsing everywhere in 98F/36C weather.  Thought I was going to melt!

We all had a blast with the food.  They discovered duck, I mean how many kids do you know at ages 7 and 10 request seared duck?  I love it.  One of the best dishes I had was a steamed artichoke topped with smoked salmon, poached egg, and a mustard sauce.  Let me tell you that smoked salmon was the best I’d ever had.  As you know from a previous post I decided to recreate it and it went very pear shaped.  It took weeks to reclaim that pot!  If you run out of water steaming an artichoke it is not pleasant.

Walking home from Pilates class today I was looking for inspiration as how I could make that wonderful dish mine.  There it was in my garden, lovely green tomatoes.  I thought perfect, I’ll do fried green tomatoes instead of the artichoke.  This is a very easy dish to put together.  It took me about 15 minutes or so.  And after working out it is a very light lunch.  And I behaved myself and didn’t pour myself a glass of white wine which would be perfect for this.  🙂

As this is a dish for one I sliced two small green tomatoes.

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Next I seasoned them with salt and pepper then coated them in egg and panko bread crumbs.  Normally I do a beer batter for these but this is just a quick lunch.

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For the mustard sauce I used a couple spoonfuls of stone mustard.  The latest one I’ve tried was a local one with garlic.  Very nice.  I mixed in a bit of olive oil and a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar.

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In a small frying pan I get the olive oil nice and hot and pan fry the tomatoes.  You want to soften them as raw green tomatoes will make you sick.  As the Unorthodox Epicure pointed out in one of his posts recently.  The things you learn!

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While these are cooking you want to prep the poached egg.  While it is poaching layer the tomatoes and smoked salmon and place the egg on top.  Drizzle with the mustard.

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The runny yolk really brings all the components together for a delicious lunch.

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Paris has been good to me.  😉

Beef Wellington

I have to admit there are times I enjoy a challenge.  As I’ve mentioned before we watch some of Gordon Ramsey’s shows over here like Hell’s Kitchen.  In this show if you can’t do a proper beef wellington he starts yelling.  So I’ve wondered how difficult it was really.  Turns out it isn’t too bad.  And as I’ve never had one before it was a great treat.  I took inspiration from his recipe here.  And as usual I did it my way.  🙂  I changed a couple of things as I geared it to our tastes plus I took more pictures.  I didn’t like that there weren’t more pictures to show us what should be happening.  All went well except a slight hiccup at the end which I’ll get to.

There are a lot of steps but nothing overly difficult.  But it is important to set aside time to get this right.

First the mushroom mixture needs to be prepared.  I chopped up a bunch of mushrooms we had on hand.  It doesn’t have to be finely chopped.

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I melted some butter and added a bit of olive oil to a small skillet.  I started browning the mushrooms.  I then sliced a few cloves of garlic and added them to the mushrooms.

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To deglaze the pan I added a splash of white wine.  Not too much as you don’t want a sauce.  Once this is cooked transfer it to a food processor and pulse until it is a finely chopped paste.  Set aside and let cool.  Next salt and pepper the filets.

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In the same pan I did the mushrooms I add a bit of olive oil and heat.  Once hot I seared all sides of the meat.  It only takes a few seconds per side.  The meat shouldn’t be cooked at this stage but you want the juices sealed in.

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Set aside and cool.  Once cooled take some cling film and lay out about 4 slices of proscuitto.  Try to get the real thing.  My shop doesn’t carry it anymore despite the fact they went through one a week!  Sigh.  What I had was not half as good.  Spread the mushroom mixture over the proscuitto.  Next time I will make more mushrooms as I had to spread this quite thinly.

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I then spread stone ground mustard over the meat and placed it in the middle of the mushrooms.

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Fold up the proscuitto around the meet and wrap the cling film tightly around the meat.  Place in the fridge for about 10 minutes to chill.

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Roll out the puff pastry very thinly and place the meat in the centre.  Use a beaten egg on the edges.

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Fold the pastry around the meat and tuck the ends underneath.  Cut off the excess.  Then egg wash the pastry and chill for about 5 minutes.

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I baked it in a convection oven at 395 F/ 200C/ Gas mark 6.  Gordon’s recipe said to bake 35-40 minutes.  So I figured 30-35 minutes for convection.  Here was my hiccup.  Should have done it 25-30 minutes.

While it was baking I decanted the wine.  🙂  This wine worked well with the mustard.

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Here is the beef wellington while resting.  You want to rest it 8 to 10 minutes before slicing it open.

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If I had taken it out sooner it would have been more of the pink that we like.

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However the flavours were amazing and I’m not sure why I haven’t had this before!  And this was served with an asparagus dish my husband made with ham and cheese.  Delicious.  🙂