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Alexis Soyer invented this dish at the Reform Club - maybe the late arrival of a tricky and hungry club member, as well as an ingenious chef who had to make the most of what he had in his kitchen, might explain the creation of this somewhat strange concoction. But the tangy sweet and sour sauce works and is one of Soyer's best-known dishes. It's in danger of becoming a forgotten classic, but I think it's worth reviving. I suppose it goes back to the days of disguising inferior cuts of meat - the gentleman's club equivalent of the fish finger or fried chicken in a basket! The recipe has been altered over time - but this is pretty close to the original. I wouldn't suggest using cheap meat of course, but coating the cutlets in breadcrumbs keeps them juicy and seals in the flavour. It is best to keep the garnish separate, so it can be eaten as it is or mixed into the sauce. About Alexis Soyer: Celebrity chefs are nothing new. One who really was the Jamie Oliver of his time, was Alexis Soyer. He was involved with charity work as well as being a popular figure on the culinary circuit, chef de cuisine of the Reform Club and author of many cookery books. During the potato famine of 1847 he went to Ireland to help victims by setting up soup kitchens - he claimed he could provide 100 gallons of soup for £1 including expenses. Like high-profile chefs today he was often asked to cook for large numbers at prestigious events and in June 1838 rose to the challenge of cooking breakfast for 2,000 people for Queen Victoria's coronation. He designed the Reform Club's kitchens, installing advanced technology gas ovens, which became a bit of a tourist attraction and source of envy among his peers.
- 8 lamb cutlets (French trimmed, ie. with the fat taken off and flattened slightly)
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 50 g cooked ham, very finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 60 -70 g fresh white breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil (for frying)
- 1 good knob butter
- 2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- half garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 1 good pinch cayenne pepper
- 60 g butter
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 1⁄2 teaspoon tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
- 1 tablespoon red currant jelly
- 300 ml beef stock, made up from a good stock cube will do fine
- 40 g sliced ham, cut into thin 3cm strips
- 1 small cooked beetroot, weighing about 70g peeled and cut into strips like the ham
- 2 large gherkins cut into strips like the ham
- white of 1 large hard-boiled egg, shredded into strips the same size as the ham
- First make the sauce: gently cook the shallots, garlic and cayenne pepper in half of the butter for 2-3 minutes, stirring every so often. Add the flour and tomato purée and stir well. Add the vinegar and redcurrant jelly and simmer f for a minute, then add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Season to taste, and whisk in the remaining butter.
- Meanwhile, mix the breadcrumbs with the ham and parsley. Season the lamb cutlets and pass through the egg then the breadcrumbs. Heat a couple of tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and cook the cutlets for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden, adding the butter towards the end.
- To serve, add the shredded ham, beetroot, gherkin and egg white to the sauce, or mix and serve separately. Eat with potato dauphinoise.