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.
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.
Ham, salami and pepperoni with geuze cheese and chilli sauce
There’s a wee Italian deli round the corner from the office that knocks out some cracking sandwiches. Everyone behind the counter speaks Italian, and the boss scolds anybody that doesn’t get the pronunciation right in their order - it’s a proper joint. When you’ve got access to a place that does good lunchtime grub like this, it’s easy to sit back, hammer your wallet, and let someone else take care of things - even if you happen to have a blog that’s all about making your own damn sangers.
This sandwich is inspired by one of the hot, pressed meat and cheese focaccias from the deli - albeit with a few tweaks. First up, it’s cold, and not pressed… so, quite a big change, straight out of the gate! Why? Well, if you chuck focaccia in a panini press, it punches all the air out of it and makes it far too dense.
Next, the meat isn’t the Italian ham - it’s Belgian, and cut as thin as the deli slicer will allow. It’s also topped with some Milanese salami and a bit of fiery pepperoni for a salty, spicy kick. Finally, the cheese is slightly odd - it’s a geuze cheese, from Brussels, that uses a base of a lambic beer as part of the production process, rather than just using it as a wash. It’s a lot lighter than the provolone that’s in the deli sandwich, but it gives a creamy contrast to the salty meat and bread - you’ll hear more about this particular fromage in a later sandwich. On top, there’s a little salad and a blast of Sriracha to finish things off.
Ok, it’s pretty far from the deli original, but it takes the basic idea and builds on it with new ingredients and new flavours. Next time you’re in the shops, pick your favourite sandwich, and do it yourself. Just do it better.
When you’re searching for the perfect combo of comfort food and blatant innuendo, there really isn’t much out there that can compete with a meatball sub. Moist, succulent balls and sauce capable of driving an atheist to confession make this the sandwich equivalent of 50 Shades of Grey, albeit with a lot more guilt and a higher chance of inappropriately soiled trousers. Ooft.
Smut aside, this sandwich effort was for a special event. You don’t make meatballs in small numbers, and with about 1.3kg of casually seasoned pork and beef mince going into one batch, the 70 or so little hand-rolled nuggets were perfect party fuel for their destination on the nibbles table at a birthday in South-West London.
With the freshly-crafted balls sliding in to roast in the oven, the devil’s own marinara went on the hob. Triple-tomato at its heart, with a potent blend of passata, diced sun-blushed tomatoes and sun-dried tomato paste, the absurdly rich sauce then had a decent-sized block of parmesan grated in to thicken things up. With the coronary risk sitting squarely around a 9.0, a good slosh of red wine and all the meaty cooking juices from the oven-roasted balls helped to push it up towards a perfect, near-lethal ten.
After a good simmer in the marinara, the balls were moist, succulent and ready to plop straight into play. Foregoing the classic sub for a cheeky part-baked baguette roll (possibly the greatest guilty pleasure in the bread world), a trio of balls went in each, with nothing more than a generous smear of Lurpak beneath, and a little leftover parmesan on the top. Save the chives in the meat itself and some fresh basil in the sauce, greenery really has no place here.
Sure, shirts were destroyed and arteries took a bit of a kicking, but with thunder, lightning and driving rain hammering down on the capital, it’s exactly the type of food you need to take a good house party on into the wee hours. Next time we get tricked by the apparent end of winter, slap a big pot on the hob and abandon any concept of healthy eating - it’s messy, hearty shit like this that’ll get you through.
The Day of the Butty
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so far, few people have ever had the chance to pass judgement on the sandwiches you’ve seen on this site (save a few friends, and a lucky girl who’s had a good few of them for her lunch). This all changed on February 28th in Brewdog Camden - for one day only, The Butty took over a kitchen that had, until that point, only ever served the creations of Masterchef supremo Tim Anderson. Gulp.
Over lunch, pubgoers were given the chance to chow down on a trio of hearty sangers - including a Manchego, bacon and red pesto toastie that’s featured on this site in the past (see below) - before the main event packed out the bar in the evening.
Matched with a range of great beers selected by Brewdog’s very own Henry Hall (including a guest appearance from London’s very own Kernel Brewery), five courses of sandwiches were served up to a basement full of hungry Butty fans. Starting with a spicy jerk number, the menu wandered across the sandwich spectrum, following up with a mackerel baguette; a manchego and chorizo wedge; a classic Reuben and the nearly-famous Brewdog Brisket butty. It was a night filled with fantastic beers, and sandwiches that would make Scooby Doo smile.
The verdict? 200 sandwiches wiped out in 2 hours, and dozens of smiling, full and mildly pished guests suggest that The Butty’s not just about taking photos of food any more. When we say we’re bringing back the butty - we mean it.
The Butty would like to thank…
You all rock.
Pan-seared sesame tuna and fiery sweetcorn relish
There are a few notable butties that really drag the good name of the sandwich through the mud. Generally, they’re the rank, cheap ones that cost about a quid in the supermarket, or pop up from time to time on a tray when someone’s getting married, older or being laid to rest. Nobody in their right mind would point to them as their favourite, and frankly, It’s a shame - a damn shame, in fact.
The Butty has a seldom-discussed policy - No sandwich left behind - and it’s time to give it another airing. Previously, it’s been used to give the depressingly ubiquitous salmon and cucumber sarnie a new lease of life (Take a look), and today, it’s time to drag tuna and sweetcorn into the modern age.
First off - the tuna and sweetcorn combo is rank. The lack of texture from the soft tuna sludge contrasts horribly with the firm kernels of corn, giving little back than a slightly sweet tang, and the sensation of having just bitten through a ripe zit.
To counter this, the tuna itself has to come in a different form, with more bite, and more flavour. In this case, it’s rolled in sesame seeds and pan fried to seal the outside, leaving the centre pink and rare. Sliced thinly, the fish is served up with a little homemade sweetcorn relish - made with finely diced Habanero chilli, the flecks of pepper give the traditionally sweet relish a throaty kick. The whole thing’s finished with some wasabi leaves, and served up on thin, toasted sourdough.
About as far from the original as you can get, and certainly not within the £1 budget of its cold, clammy namesake. That said - If you want to do tuna differently, then you need to spend a little cash, make a little relish, and think outside the tin.
The Day of The Butty
I’ve taunted you, I’ve teased you, I’ve dragged it out for longer than is humane. And now, after all that, I’m just going to come out and tell you.
Brewdog and The Butty have decided to have some folk over for dinner, and we’d love you to come along.
From 7pm on February 28th, Brewdog Camden will be hosting the first ever Butty event - a five-course sandwich and beer extravaganza, giving you the chance to taste some of the fine sandwiches you’ve seen on this very blog, paired with some of the greatest craft beers ever to grace these fair isles. I’ll be on hand to talk you through the food, whilst Brewdog’s very own Henry Hall will be your guide through the beers he’s carefully selected for the evening. Take a look at the menu below if you’d like a sneaky peak…
Tickets are £25 (including sandwiches and beer tastings), and are available via email@example.com - we have a very small capacity for the event, so if you’re keen, be sure to get in touch quickly!
If you can’t make it in the evening, then don’t worry - come along during the day, when The Butty will be taking over the kitchen, and filling the menu with epic sandwich options.
Sandwiches and beer, all day long. We can’t wait to see you there. :D
Manchego, parmesan, bacon and red pesto toastie
It’s cold out. Actually, scratch that - it’s bloody freezing. It’s snowing up North and it’s not far from it in old London Town. It’s a day for staying in, not venturing out - for cozying up and plunging into a good book or a new season of your favourite TV show. Of course, you’ve got to eat, and what’s on your plate needs to marry up with your attempt at mild hibernation. Best bet? Lots and lots of bubbly, molten cheese.
Ok, so cheese on toast isn’t really a sandwich - no top slice, and your filling sits open to the skies above. Still, it’s in the ballpark, and it’s perfect for a brisk day like today, so shift your mind from fillings to toppings, and go with it. This cheesy beast features molten Manchego and parmesan, layered over smoked back bacon, all finished off with a rich red pesto and Tabasco on top.
Quick, hot, and as comforting as a duvet infront of a warm fire. Break out that boxed set, and fire up the grill - it’s time for a cheese dream or two.