Just after the start of the new year, The Butty took a trip across the pond to visit the shining beacon of sandwich goodness that is New York City. And got a bit fat. Amongst the world-famous delis of Katz and Carnegie, the city plays host to more mouthwatering uses of bread and filling than you could fit into a month of lunches, never mind the few days of this visit. That said, one of the holiday’s finest was actually served up at breakfast, rather than midday, and came from the bagel joint round the corner from the hotel - Murray’s.
Murray’s Bagels is/are amazing, whether you’re talking about the bakery or its produce. While the ordering process is classic NYC (don’t even think about going near the counter unless you can rattle off your order in under 3 seconds) they make even the best London Bagels look like anaemic pretzels. The dough has a glorious, glossy sheen and the interior has a smattering of bubbles and a lovely, slightly chewy texture. They’re also enormous, as you’d expect for a city famed for growing upwards, not out - the height and girth of them is enough when they’re empty, but when stacked with fillings, they’re utterly formidable.
Having fallen utterly in love, and based on the fact that transatlantic delivery is normally a ridiculous proposition, a dozen stowaways were hustled back into the UK via hold baggage, and frozen, ready to create today’s homage to the West Village.
This bagel’s based on a classic recipe - cream cheese and salmon. In addition to heaps of both (the top and bottom slices are smothered with a thick, thick layer of Philly), there’s some chopped capers along with dill, lemon juice and thinly sliced red onion and tomato. A little salt and pepper completes things, with the final sandwich sitting at about 4” from top to bottom - as the footlong hotdog has proven, the imperial system hoses all over metric measurements when it comes to showing off with food.
So there you go - when in NYC, go get a bagel at Murray’s in the West Village. But remember, order fast, loosen your belt, and be sure to get another dozen for when you’re back in the country that bagels forgot.
The Butty was born with one simple goal: To bring back pride in the greatest lunchtime meal in the world – the sandwich.
The sandwich has lost its way. Once discussed in reverential tones amongst landed gentry, the butty has become a farce; a victim of its own popularity, crushed under the wheels of commerce as we dash from one meeting to another, grabbing lunch in a desperate, flailing attempt to satisfy our appetites with two slices of withered bread and a wet, unsatisfying filling. This is no way to live.
Amidst the massed ranks of ice-cold, expensive, tasteless junk that litters our supermarkets and chain stores, a deep-filled revolution is unfolding. We’re realising that we can do better ourselves – that with a little time and planning, fifteen minutes spent in the kitchen the evening before work can mean a joyous lunch hour the next day, laced with the envy of our colleagues and the dismay of the local sandwich shop, Thai takeaway and Italian caff. The packed lunch is back, and there’s not a soggy tuna sandwich or scotch egg in sight.
The Butty is here to lead and inspire – to encourage you to step away from the chill cabinet and the £3 meal deal, and to help you realise that you can craft something exceptional from a handful of fresh ingredients and a loaf of good bread.
It’s time to make a stand. But more than that – it’s time to make a sandwich.
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There’s busy, and then there’s busy. Over the last few weeks, it’s been a case of practicing what’s preached on here - making sure that time’s been taken to make and scoff a good lunch, even as all the world seems to be collapsing in around on you. You’ve missed the good, the bad, and the downright ugly, but needless to say, the sandwich has been the midday saviour that it always should be
Of course, that doesn’t matter to you guys - you’re owed a sandwich, not filler. This little puppy really is a product of its environment, in that it’s entirely scrounged from the local Waitrose between uni assignments, trips to lectures and periods of despair relating to word counts. It’s simple - a nice, fresh baguette, with a combination of prosciutto and salami making up the meat selection for the day. On top, there’s some of the creamiest mozzarella you’ve ever seen - tearing was attempted, but it was just too juicy. Definitely not one for the lunchbox, this would be mush after a few hours in tupperware. The greenery’s half a gem lettuce, and on top is a bit of a curveball - sugo ai peperoni, which claims to be a pasta sauce, but works nicely on here, giving a bit of a rich tomato and roast pepper flavour and going nicely with the milky cheese and salty meat.
Very much a make-and-eat number, as mentioned - you’ll no doubt find yourself in a similar spot, soon. Just remember that there’s no excuse for a bad sandwich, as long as your cupboards are stocked. Well, that or you have a posh supermarket round the corner from your flat. Either’s good.
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm. - Rabbie Burns
So, after a couple of years cavorting in the mean streets of the UK’s undisputed food capital, The Butty has upped sticks and moved to the first city of the Scottish empire, Edinburgh. To celebrate this joyous relocation, today’s sandwich is spearheaded by one of the most stereotypical and misunderstood foodstuffs in the world - the haggis.
First things first - yes, this is basically an offal butty. Made of the heart, liver, lungs and various other bits of the sheep, a haggis basically takes all the parts of an animal that most people would balk at eating, and shoves them all inside its own stomach with oats, onion and suet. It tastes amazing - the easiest way to describe it is like a coarse, moist mince with a deliciously earthy, spiced flavour (good haggis has a noticeable heat from the seasoning).
For this sandwich, the haggis is cooked for a good ninety minutes in the oven, wrapped in foil, and sitting in a pan of water to make sure it stays moist. You can get decent enough haggis in pretty much every supermarket these days - just be sure to get a whole one, rather than the ratty-looking slices.
Once the meat is cooked and you’ve slashed the bugger open to unleash its steamy contents, several big, heaped forkfuls of the innards go onto some well-buttered wholemeal toast. On top, there’s a few rashers of sweet US streaky bacon, and a handful of parsnip crisps - just use a peeler to shred a parsnip down to wafer-thin strips, coat with oil and bake in the oven until nice and crunchy.
The butty’s finished with a beetroot salad and a good spread of English mustard - it might be painful to use Sassenach’s Choice on such a Scottish sanger, but Coleman’s pairs perfectly with the earthy meat inside. If you want a little bit of extra sweetness, you can always add a little cranberry or redcurrant jelly.
Like the last sandwich on here, this really is great winter fodder - hearty, filling and warm. There’s a reason haggis has inspired poetry and has stuck around for over 500 years, and if you can handle the idea of filling your own innards with a sheep’s, then this will knock your stockings off. Pour yourself a dram, and get cooking.
Kudos to Deeny’s (@deenys on Twitter) who do an amazing haggis sandwich, and inspired this homecoming entry!
In the land of sandwich, there are quite a few that you could easily point to as being a bit ‘emperor’s new clothes’ - the posh crisps of the butty world, basically serving up the same taste, with slightly more pretentiously named ingredients. Of course, it’s worth shouting about provenance (you’ll see it all over this blog), but there’s no point in doing it if it doesn’t make any difference to the taste of what you’re eating.
It’d be simple enough to write the Croque Monsieur off as a classic example - a cheese and ham toastie in tarty knickers, as it were. But it’s so much more than that. The creamy béchamel on top, and fried bread beneath make this Frenchie a hell of a lot richer than your average cheddar / toast combo. It’s a meal, and a hearty one at that.
This effort actually breaks from convention a little. Replacing the ham inside is roasted pork loin, cut ridiculously thinly on a deli slicer - the taste is a little more savoury than ham, which can be a little sweet. On top of the pork: grated Gruyère, as is tradition - slightly strange, considering it’s a Swiss cheese, and this sandwich is as French as the Arc de Triomphe.
Having melted the meat and cheese together into a glorious, bubbling mass, supported beneath with the crustiness of a pan-fried slice of a good white loaf, the second slice seals the butty. On top, the béchamel is slathered on, before another visit to the grill renders it golden and magmatic.
It’s hot, it’s cheesy, and it’s probably a threat to your coronary health if consumed on a regular basis. Even if it’s not the idea lunchbox fodder, it’s exactly the type of thing you’ll want in your belly as the nights draw in.
Flatiron steak with chimichurri sauce
The steak sandwich an entry that’s been requested of this blog relentlessly over the last year. It’s one of the few hot sandwiches, alongside the cheese toastie and bacon sarnie, that you can guarantee virtually every omnivorous Brit on the planet has eaten at some point in their life. The classic nature is a problem - there’s certain expectations, and everyone claims their own version as superior. This steak was a response - a horrific, gristly, overcooked experience in a central London pub made it clear that it was time for The Butty to tackle this beefy mainstay.
First up - STEAK. You could blog about steak all the live long day, and still not even cover half of what makes it such an awesome foodstuff. Even while writing this, it’s clear there’s no way that the sandwich above is going to be the last variation on this meaty theme that you’ll see on here. At any rate, the meat in this beast is a butler’s steak, or flat iron, if you’re an American (or a glorious little London steak restaurant by the same name - check it out). It’s filled with a lovely amount of fatty marbling and very little gristle - exactly what you want for a tasty sandwich.
For this sandwich, the steak’s cooked medium rare - you don’t want it bloody as hell when you’re eating, or the bread will end up looking like a field dressing. Season it with salt and pepper, and chuck it into a screaming-hot dry pan, turning it regularly until it’s cooked to your preferred level. While that’s resting (vital for a juicy steak), you can knock up a Chimichurri sauce.
Chimichurri is basically just a whole bunch of flat leaf parsley (just the leaves); around eight cloves of garlic; a couple of red chillies (don’t use ferociously hot ones – this is about flavour, not heat); three teaspoons of oregano; about 75ml of red wine vinegar and 100ml of olive oil. You can blend it, but it’s better to chop it by hand – it gives a nice, coarse sauce rather than a green slurry. You can adjust the amount of olive oil to make it drier or wetter, but try to keep it about the same as a good pesto.
With some fresh ciabatta toasted and buttered and the meat rested, the steak’s cut into mouthful-sized morsels (nobody likes mauling at their sandwich like a miffed lion), and layered along the sandwich - on top, a liberal smattering of the Chimichurri and a small handful of rocket finishes things off.
A practical change that makes it easier to scoff, and a variation on the usual ketchup or mustard topping to make it a little more exciting to eat, but at the end of the day, it’s still the same steak sandwich you’ve always eaten. Just better in every way.
Duck egg French toast with bacon, sausage and brown sauce
Brunch may well be the greatest meal in the world. Allowing you to mash together elements of both morning and afternoon dining, served up at a time when you’re not at risk of dozing off on your plate. If the mood takes you, there’s even the option of a glass of something a little more potent than your usual Twinings. What’s not to love?
Brunch sarnies are no exception to all this - it’s a time when the usual rules can be cast aside, and some truly magnificent brekkie-lunch combinations can come together. This offering is leaning a bit more towards the breakfast side of things, but don’t let that put you off.
To start with, the bread isn’t just buttered or toasted - it’s French toasted. With duck eggs. The bigger yolks in these puppies mean the result is a bit richer than regular French toast, but don’t worry if you have to use hen’s eggs - it’s all good. The bread (a nice white tin loaf) is left in the mixture for as long as possible, soaking up all the eggy goodness before being gently fried in a mix of butter and oil until golden.
For the filling, some Oscar Mayer bacon is grilled just short of super-crispy, and stacked on liberally. The rest of the internals come from some fried sausagemeat, salvaged from several bangers with seriously high pork content (you want 90%+ or it won’t work). The sausages are sliced open and their meat dumped into a hot pan, before being broken up, seasoned with a little crushed chilli and fried until golden. Given this is a resolutely savoury sandwich, there’s no maple syrup - just some decent brown sauce, dribbled liberally over the meat.
It’s big, eggy and hearty, and given how much of it has spent time in a frying pan, it’s certainly no heart-healthy option for a Sunday morning. It is, however, ridiculously tasty… and goes worryingly well with a little hair of the dog.
American sandwiches have something of a mythical quality in the UK. If you’ve ever drifted towards Dave on a lazy Sunday, you’ll see Adam Richman of Man vs. Food fame, pounding through some inordinately large pile of meat and bread, invariably accompanied by a small lake of marinara sauce and more cheese than a small West Country dairy punts out in a week. They’re usually stodgy, and rarely subtle, but now and again, there’s a Yank tank that’s truly a think of beauty.
The Reuben is probably the most famous sandwich in US history, and has a history all of its own - no less than three conflicting stories exist around its origins, and it’s been a stalwart in the States for decades. Regardless of whether you think it was a grocer or one of two deli owners that came up with it, the regular version calls for US corned beef, which is essentially what we’d call salt beef in these fair isles, not the tinned crap we’d normally associate with that moniker in the UK.
This version subs that corned beef out for ridiculously lush sliverside pastrami, giving a magnificently moist meat, and technically making this into a Rachel. But stuff it - if the name’s good enough for Mishkin’s pastrami version (London’s finest purveyor of deli sandwiches), then it’s good enough for this blog. The meat’s steamed, heaped recklessly high, and loaded with sauerkraut. On top of this, there’s molten Emmental, grilled until it’s golden, bubbling and dribbling down through the meat, and a liberal smothering of home-made Russian dressing. America’s other great contribution to sandwiches, the pickle spear, finishes off a ridiculously loaded butty.
It might be a little bit obscene when you compare it to our gentrified, Anglicised perspective on sandwiches, but its absurdity carries right through to the taste and shameful satisfaction. Just remember that unless you’re normally a bit Floridian with your usual portions, then finishing it off might prove a challenge…
The Butty does The Lexington
Following on from the epic success of the Day of the Butty at Brewdog Camden, The Butty’s popping up again - this time, at The Lexington on Pentonville Road.
This Saturday (June 15th) from 6pm, you’ll be able to bag one of two sumptuous sandwiches, with fries, and the option of a carefully matched beer from the bar. There are no tickets, and it’s first come, first served - when there’s no more food, that’s it!
On offer, we’ll have:
The Reuben - Utterly gorgeous pastrami, served with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and home-made Russian Dressing.
Beer pairing: Widmer Brothers Pitch Black IPA from Portland, Oregon (6.5%)
The Fin - Oven roasted mackerel, cooked in a honey-whisky glaze with crushed fennel seed and red chilli, and served with pickled cucumber and dill.
Beer pairing: Kona Brewing Co. Big Wave Pale Ale from Kona, Hawaii (4.4%)
Each sandwich is £5, or £7 with fries, and the matched beer is available from the bar. Keep an eye out for a combo deal on the night!
See you there!
It’s summer, apparently. Well, June at any rate. The sun’s finally out, we’re not being peppered with shitty drizzle, and spending a day in the park isn’t an ambition reserved solely for those fond of a can or six of White Ace. No, it’s undoubtedly picnic weather, and to that end, it’s time to smack the taste out of the mouth of another crap supermarket sandwich. With the sun on your back and sweat on your brow, it’s the turn of the Ploughman’s to take centre stage.
There’s not been many veggie sandwiches on The Butty, but this really isn’t a compromise, even if you’re a devout carnivore. While the withered version in the chill cabinet holds a fairly ambiguous slice, whose cheesy credentials are limited to colour and texture, this doorstop is packed with some of Britain’s best. First off, there’s Montogomery’s, an unpasteurised belter of a mature cheddar that really tickles the roof of your mouth, and a strong, blue Bishop Cropwell Stilton that’s got even more of a punch.
To go with the cheese, there’s piccolo tomatoes, sliced cucumber and wafer-thin Pink Lady apple, all conspiring to give a fresh fruitiness that goes with the tang of the cheddar and cuts through the creamy Stilton. The whole thing’s finished with the only pickle that’s fit for the job - Branston. There’s a ton of home-made and artisan pickles out there that are utterly fantastic, but for a ploughman’s, the mass-market option works an absolute charm, especially when it’s spread over a slice of fresh, white cobb loaf.
It’s easy to think of the ploughman as a dull effort that you’d find in a dank, back-water Norfolk pub. As with so much on this blog, the key’s in the quality and interpretation of ingredients rather than meddling with the basic recipe itself. In this case, start with some good cheese - British, preferably - and the rest will fall into place.