Reform Cutlets, London
How British are Cutlets Reform? In one way they are supremely so, created for the upper elements of Liberal society at London 's Reform Club in Pall Mall, and becoming a classic of solid yet elegant British cuisine. But they were created by Frenchman Alexis Soyer, appointed head chef at the Reform Club shortly after its opening , creator of its wondrous kitchens, and a culinary (and PR) genius - if a financial fool.
Soyer's dish was in fact Cotelettes de Mouton a la Reform, that is mutton chops rather than lamb. Perhaps the so-called mutton revolution in our day will see the dish made again with the stronger and more mature meat - British palates today are used to, crave even, the stronger flavours enjoyed by Soyer's customers but spurned in much of the last century.
Soyer's life makes an amazing story, beautifully told in Ruth Cowen's biography of the man, Relish (Phoenix Non-Fiction). An innovator of enormous talent, Soyer commanded the club's kitchens as a surprisingly young man.
The dish still features on the menus of solid old-fashioned restaurants and hotels where napkins are starched and waiters starchier, as well as the Reform Club where it is included in the menu now as it has been since 1846, the year the Corn Laws were abolished , a project dear to the then club's aims.
In essence Reform Cutlets are breaded lamb chops, though the coating contains finely chopped ham and parsley too, served with a wonderfully sharp sauce. In his tome The Gastronomic Regenerator Soyer set down how to make the sauce, a hugely complex affair suited to his army of sous-chefs and helpers, but a somewhat simplified version of which is easily made at home.
This sauce uses redcurrant jelly, cayenne pepper, tarragon vinegar and good beef stock, and the finishing touches require strips of ham, beetroot, gherkin and boiled egg-white, the whole to be served in artistic fashion mounted on a bed of mash - Soyer was 150 years ahead of his time!