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Former auction specialist turned antiques dealer, amateur cook and second-hand book obsessive, Luke Honey has been writing The Greasy Spoon blog since 2007: a personal, unashamedly nostalgic and sometimes irreverent take on the link between food and culture. He lives in London with his wife and book-munching whippet. Current enthusiasms include the food of the American South and London Dry Gin.

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    Cutlet Class

     

    KU_GB1401_03_The_Reform_Club

     

    Last week I had lunch at The Reform Club. It’s a distinguished building. Construction began in 1837 to the designs of Sir Charles Barry- the architect of the Palace of Westminster, Highclere Castle and Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. It always reminds me of Phileas Fogg, as of course, The Reform Club is his point of departure in Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ (1872).

     

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    The food’s rather distinguished, too. I double-checked that organ of truth- Wikipedia- and it says, I quote: "The Reform was known for the quality of its cuisine, its first chef being Alexis Soyer, the first celebrity chef.” The menu looked good, simple, well-thought out and unpretentious, as only club food should be- but there was one dish in particular, blinking away at us in imaginary neon: LAMB CUTLETS REFORM in REFORM CLUB SAUCE, it said. Well, it had to be.

     

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    Alexis Soyer: “the first celebrity chef”.

     

    Which reminds me. According to Patrick Marnham’s 'Trail of Havoc' (a superb account of the Lucan Case), the 7th Earl of Lucan’s two favourite dishes (as served at the Clermont Club in Berkeley Square) were Smoked Salmon and Lamb Cutlets (which he ate in the Winter), and Salmon and Lamb Cutlets en Gelée (which he ate in the Summer):

    "To this destructive atmosphere Lucan returned night after night, week after week, for eleven years, munching his smoked salmon and lamb cutlets, losing his fortune and stubbornly insisting on his skill and his luck. If Lord Lucan ate four lamb cutlets a day, for four days a week, for forty weeks a year, for eleven years, and if there are seven cutlets in a sheep, then he would have by the end have dispatched 1,006 sheep.”

    Lamb Cutlets Reform are- well, you guessed, lamb cutlets, dipped in egg, dipped in chopped ham and breadcrumbs and fried. Reform Sauce is more complicated. It’s a tangy brown sauce, flavoured with redcurrant jelly and served with mushrooms, gherkins, strips of hard-boiled egg white and ham. The combination is- and was- surprisingly delicious and I am glad to report that the Reform Club serves its food in plates of the piping hot variety. I’ve found an original recipe from the excellent- and now very collectable ‘Clubland Cooking’  (1974) by Robin McDouall (former secretary of The Traveller’s) and cookery correspondant of Harper’s Bazaar:

     

    Côtelettes de mouton à la Reform

    The chef of the Reform Club, as I have already said, declined to give me any recipes. I presume Mutton Cutlets Reforged were invented there, so I take this from Soyer’s Gastronomic Regenerator (1846):

    Chop a quarter of a pound of lean cooked ham very fine, and mix it with the same quantity of breadcrumbs, then have ten nice cotelettes, lay the flat on your table, season lightly with pepper and salt, egg over the paste-brush, and throw them into the ham and breadcrumbs, then beat them lightly with a knife, put ten spoonfuls of oil in a sauté pan, place it over the fire, and when quite hot lay in the cotelettes, fry nearly ten minutes (over a moderate fire) of a light brown colour; to ascertain when done, press your knife upon the thick part, if quite well done it will feel rather firm: possibly they may not be all done at one time, so take out those that are ready first and lay them on a cloth till the others are done; as they require to be cooked with the gravy in them...sauce over with a pint of the sauce Reform and serve.

    Sauce à la Reform

    Cut up two middling-sized onions into thin slices and put them in a stew pan with two sprigs of parsley, two of thyme, two bayleaves, half a blade of mace, and an ounce of fresh butter; stir them ten minutes over a hot fire, then add two tablespoonsful of Tarragon vinegar, and one of Chili vinegar, boil it one minute; then add a pint of brown sauce or sauce Espagnole, three tablespoonfuls of preserved tomatoes, and eight of consommé; place it over the fire until boiling, then put it at the corner, let it simmer ten minutes, skim it well, then place it again over the fire, keeping it stirred, and reduce until it adheres to the back of the spoon; then add a good tablespoonsful of redcurrant jelly, and half do. of chopped mushrooms; stir it until the jelly is melted, then pass it through a tammie into another stew pan.

    When ready to serve, make it hot, and add the white of a hard-boiled egg cut into strips half an inch long, and thick in proportion, four white blanced mushrooms, one gherkin, two green Indian pickles, and half an ounce of cooked ham, or tongue, all cut into strips like the white of an egg; do not let it boil afterwards. This sauce must be poured over whatever it is served with.'

    Robin Mcdouall was not, alas a fan: “Much ado about nothing, in my opinion..."

     


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