Alexis Soyer invented this dish at the Reform Club - the late arrival of a tricky and hungry club member and 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. When I was at catering college we'd often have to make dishes in breadcrumbs like this one. I guess it goes back to the days of disguising inferior cuts of meat - the gentleman's club equivalent of the fish finger or fried chicken, I suppose.
The recipe has been altered over time - I've even seen black truffle included - 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. I quite like to keep the garnish separate so it can be eaten as it is or mixed into the sauce.
8or 12 lamb cutlets, French trimmed (ie. with the fat taken off) and flattened slightly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
50g cooked ham, very finely chopped
1tbsp chopped parsley
60-70g fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
A good knob of butter
for the sauce
2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
Half clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
A good pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2tsp tomato purée
2tbsp tarragon vinegar
1tbsp redcurrant jelly
300ml beef stock, made up from a good stock cube will do fine
40g sliced tongue or ham, or both, cut into thin 3cm strips
1 small cooked beetroot weighing about 70g, peeled and cut into strips like the tongue
2 large gherkins cut into strips like the tongue
White of 1 large hard boiled egg, shredded into strips the same size as the tongue
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 tongue, beetroot, gherkin and egg white to the sauce, or mix and serve separately. Eat with potato dauphinoise.
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