Lazy jerk chicken and sweet red peppers
Spicy food’s as much about the challenge as it is the taste. That might seem a little sado-masochistic, but it’s true. There’s nothing more disappointing than laying into something you’ve grabbed at the shop, marked up with a terrifying number of chillies and warnings of its potentially face-melting properties, only to discover it barely tickles the tongue, rather than delivering a perfect, fiery dropkick to the face. Jerk chicken can easily suffer this fate.
Truth be told, this sandwich isn’t jerk chicken in the truest sense, but it’s a bastardisation of the finest quality. Firstly, there’s no charcoal cooking involved. Why? It’s November. It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s usually raining, so outdoor grilling is off the agenda.
Secondly, Jerk chicken traditionally uses Scotch Bonnet chillies, which sit between 100k and 350k on the Scoville scale - a regular green chilli will top out about 8k. It’s a spicy sauce. Due to an irritating lack of Boab’s Bonnets, as they’re also known, this sanger actually uses Bird’s Eye chillies, which have a slightly less explosive rating of between 100-150k. Don’t be fooled, they’re still entirely capable of causing some serious damage - hence the gloves.
Everything else is on the money. Along with the chillies (there were at least a couple more in the sauce by the end, due to continual tasting and fettling), the jerk blend is basically a mix of a few key spices, ground together - allspice; cinnamon; nutmeg and corriander seeds, along with thyme; garlic; some lime; ginger and some decent salt/pepper action. It’s worth trying out your own measures of each, but just make sure you put in a bit more allspice and cinnamon than the other spices. Your blend can either be rubbed into the skin dry, or wet - in this case, dark honey, Worcestershire sauce and a good glug of oil went in the mix, before the thighs were smothered and bunged in the oven.
The end result - once the chicken’s shredded off the bone, and mopped around in the jerk sauce - is absurdly moist and fragrant, with a spicy fire that really meddles with your sinuses and singes your lips. You’ll need a strong bread, like a dense bagel or a good, crusty baguette to handle the saucy meat, and a handful of sliced Peppadews to give a sweet twinge to the whole butty.
It’s not summer, and the weather sure as hell isn’t anything like the Caribbean, as you’re all too aware. Thing is, that just makes the roaring heat of a good, spicy lunch, and the slightly sweaty brow that accompanies it all the more satisfying. Just remember the chilli gloves - your girlfriend will thank you for it later.
It’s 4am, and I’m 18. I’ve staggered from a club in the centre of Edinburgh, out along Queensferry Road, arriving at the Stockbridge Esso garage just sober enough to know that I need some sustenance before heading back to my friend’s house to keel over. Being Edinburgh, with its ubiquitous lack of late-night fast food, the petrol station is my only option. Ten minutes later, I’m back in the street with my friends, continuing my epic trek back home, munching through a chicken caesar wrap, happy as larry.
This may well be the only time in known history that pleasure has been derived from eating a petrol station sandwich. In addition to the fact that they’re usually even worse than the crap you get in a supermarket, they’re always horrifically expensive. Thing is, this wrap is laced with sentimental value, so today’s takedown is all about bringing a bit of dignity and class back to this filling-station filler.
Starting with the chicken, a couple of breasts - well seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme - are oven cooked with a good slug of rapeseed oil for about 25 minutes, before being left to cool, and sliced very thin. This helps keep the meat tender in the sandwich, as breast normally dries out like a bastard. The caesar dressing is made from scratch, based on a Jamie Oliver recipe that uses creme fraiche instead of mayo, making it a little less heavy. Given it’s essentially a ton of parmesan, oil and cream, this is not something you want to be spreading on your lunch every day, unless you’ve got a gym regime like Mark Cavendish.
Dressing made, it’s spooned over a bowl of rough-cut gem lettuce and mixed together until it’s all over the leaves, before the salad gets layered over the top of the chicken, anchovies and prosciutto. A few extra shavings of parmesan on the top give another two fingers to any diet you may be on, and a spread of caesar under the top slice of the olive ciabatta adds a little more flavour, and a good bit of moisture.
As for the name of today’s sandwich? I suggest you look here…
Paprika chicken, bacon, avocado & sun-dried tomatoes
Last year, my flatmate caught me in the kitchen making a sandwich for my lunch at work the next day, and told me I should take a photo of it. I’d scored some discount pork tenderloin medallions on a random trip to the supermarket, and had bought so many I’d decided to chuck the leftovers into a butty. That photo went on Facebook, and the original Butty Wordpress blog came soon after. A few months, a couple of hundred Twitter fans and thousands of pageviews later, we’ve arrived here, with branding made by a colleague for a secret santa present, and a gleaming new Tumblr site. Ladies and gentlemen - sandwich lovers the world over - it’s time stand up, charge your glass and doff your cap, as we celebrate the fiftieth butty.
Like any celebration falling on a weekday, I didn’t plan anything special, but knew something cheeky, and most likely messy, would fall together at the last minute. After picking up a couple of Dover Sole at the supermarket, and finding myself forced to learn how to fillet them at 10pm, I figured I’d buggered it up entirely.
With m’lady having created a delicious mayonnaise for the occasion from scratch, and all the ingredients bought and paid for, I made the only call possible - accepting that it was going to be a late one, and firing up the oven like a sandwich-crafting champ.
The chicken thighs went in a baking tray with a good squeeze of lemon juice, a grind of pepper, and a good dusting of smoked paprika, before hitting the middle shelf of the oven until cooked through. With the bacon under the grill, the chicken was left to cool down, before being sliced up and scattered over some mayo-smothered bread. Checking on the sliced swine, the avocado was hacked up thickly enough to keep a bit of bite and was added to the sanger, along with some sun-dried toms and the now-cooked back bacon. Sweet, succulent, buttery, smoky… straight up mastication magnificence.
Fifty sandwiches ago, I had no idea where the hell that photo of my lunch was going to lead. Right now, I’m thinking about where things might be after another fifty butties, and to tell you the truth, I’m pretty excited about how deep this sandwich-filled rabbit hole might go.
Thanks to you all for reading, and stay tuned… things are just getting interesting.
Paprika-tarragon chicken with prosciutto & sun-dried tomatoes
After the whole pulled-pork epic last week, I felt at a bit of a loss about what I could possibly knock together that could follow in its illustrious, slow-cooked, cider-soaked footsteps. It took a series of wandered trips to the supermarket before I realised I was over-thinking things. We can’t live on pulled pork every day. Hell, even from a purely logistical point of view, we’d get nothing done, other than cooking, eating, and heading down a road leading inevitably to a national shortage of pigs, and an endemic of big, fat arses.
So this sandwich is a nice one to ease you back into the idea of day-to-day butty craftsmanship - there’s a bit of work involved, but you’re not going to have to sweet-talk your butcher or monopolise your oven for a third of a day.
At the core lies what’s fast becoming The Butty’s weapon of choice - chicken thighs. As thighs often are, these are rubbed - in this case, with a mix of paprika and tarragon, as well as a little black pepper, before going into the oven to roast through. With the chook cooked, the meat’s sliced and layered up on a couple of slices of toasted white farmhouse loaf, with a good spread of French mustard mayo. Finally, a couple of slices of prosciutto crudo, some sun-dried tomatoes and a couple of torn up baby gem lettuces go in on top, all capped with another slice of mayo-spread toast.
If the pulled pork is best kept for a special occasion, then this is the perfect come-down butty to bridge you back into the working week - quick and easy to make, fresh, full of spice, and still gutsy enough to piss off your colleagues. Job’s a good ‘un.
Caribbean chicken with salami
I’ll hold my hands up to the fact that this is yet another chicken sandwich, of which there have been a few in recent times. That said, the simple reason for it is that I’ve discovered how good chicken thighs are to use in sandwiches. They cost buttons, the meat’s so much more moist and tasty than a big breast fillet when cooked, and they don’t dry out to a mealy hell when you grill them. Realistically, they’re the perfect sandwich fodder, and today’s butty is chock full of them.
Three of these thigh fillets (cash value about £1.50), I rubbed them up with some Caribbean paste from the chef’s ingredients section in the supermarket – a great place to find all sorts of random sandwich inspiration, and for whatever reason, cheaper Thai curry paste than they sell with all the pre-made sauces a couple of aisles over. The paste is basically a mix of a lot of spices and tropical fruits, and has a sweet, spicy taste… that said, I think the three-chilli rating on the side of the jar is taking the piss a little. With the fillets smothered in the paste, I popped them under the grill, and sliced up some standard yellow pepper, rather than the Peppadews that I’ve been pounding on in recent times.
Bell peppers have a subtle, sweet flavour when raw, and add crunch in a sandwich, and combined with a few slices of salami, make a good topping for the chicken. Thighs cooked, the fillets were sliced and added as the base, with the sliced pepper on top and the salami covering them both – a final mound of salad finished things off. The bread is actually a bargain country loaf from Sainsbury’s, cut in half like a bread roll, then halved again to make a more manageable vessel for the chook filling – it’s all a bit Desperate Dan, but given the moist, meaty filling, it comes together in epic style – bristling with flavour and giving your jaw a good lunchtime workout.
Horseradish-crumb chicken with bacon, guacamole & salsa
It’s been pointed out on more than one occasion that this blog sticks firmly to the classic interpretation of a sandwich – two bits of bread with a load of fillings twixt those leavened slices. Why no rolls? Why no open-faces? Why no wraps? Truth be told, I’m just a loaf lover – a good bread is the key that holds together a quality sandwich, and with all the breads out there, especially amongst London bakeries, I’m spoiled for choice. But hell, sometimes it’s good to mix it up a bit, and as testament to that, I opted to go for a wholemeal option yesterday, but took a different path and rolled up a ridiculous wrap.
At the heart of this wholegrain weapon is chicken, which I’ve really been pounding on this week – thigh meat again, but with a bit of a twist. Given the Butty’s Finsbury Park homeland, I was inspired by a reader to do something in the vein of the nine fried chicken restaurants that operate within 500 yards of the station entrance (I shit you not). Now, being on a bit of a health kick, fried chook is definitely not something I’m willing to entertain in a home-made sandwich, as much as I do love a guilt-ridden chicken burger deal on the way back from a boozy night in Brewdog. So in this homage, I’ve taken the breaded option instead, using really crisp breadcrumbs to get a good crunch. Dipping the chicken in an egg and horseradish mix (a few teaspoons giving the chicken a nice little fiery kick) and smothering it in lemon, oregano and pepper crumb, they were oven-baked until the chicken was moist and cooked through and the crumb was crisp and golden.
Over to the wrap, and this was a serious build – aiming to use up as much of my home-made salsa and guac as possible, I was going for a side-splitter with this rollup. On the bottom, a big handful of Italian leaf salad, followed up with several generous spoonfuls of my homemade salsa, and a shredded rasher of back bacon. The crumbed chicken was scattered on top of this, with a big strip of my rough-mashed guacamole closing things out above. There’s no spread on this wrap – the moisture from the salsa and the guac and the succulent chicken is all you need – so combined with the fact that the meat’s grilled, there’s an abundance of fresh veg and that the filling’s wrapped in wholemeal, this really is the thinking, healthy man’s alternative to that shitty, oily chicken wrap you were thinking about grabbing from Generic Fried Chicken. I guess that what started out as an homage may well have turned into more of a two-fingered salute…
Fennel chicken with bacon, roasted red peppers & basil pesto
Like a hell of a lot of people my age, I am a big fan of pesto. Through uni, it was a meal in a jar – just chuck in a few spoonfuls with a big pot of penne (and maybe some bacon if the student loan’s just come in), and you’ve got a meal that’s done in about six minutes flat. I soon got fed up with the bland guff that comes in a jar, and like any true addict, got hooked on the hard stuff, moving on to the pricer, fresh pots in the chill cabinet. Still, the whole time I was gnoshing through my basil blend, I never bothered to make it for myself. Given the running theme of this week, I’m sure you already know what I did with the blender the other night.
Pesto – in the same manner as the guacamole and salsa – is really, really easy to make. The one I knocked up is a classic, green, basil pesto – made with fresh herbs and parmesan cheese. First up, I toasted a handful of pine nuts for a few seconds, just to get a bit of colour and flavour into them, and tipped them straight into the blender along with three packs-worth of supermarket basil (around 100g total, give or take), a handful of grated parmesan, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Once it’s all blitzed to bits, it should be wet, but not too runny – this one’s got a little less olive oil in it, as I wanted it to stay put in the sandwich. If you’re planning on putting it in your penne, then add a little more oil to allow it to flow around the pasta a bit more.
For the sandwich, it was another late-night grill sesh – two chicken thigh fillets, doused with a little bourbon and rubbed with crushed fennel seed, oregano and black pepper. Sliced thinly, these went in on the base, with a dry-cured rasher of British bacon sitting above, alongside some finely-cut roasted red peppers. On top: a few hearty spoonfuls of the fresh pesto, and a big clod of Italian leaf salad, with the whole thing sitting between two slices of a garlic & parsley flatbread I’d scored on the cheap from a trip to the local shop. Big, ballsy flavours in this bad boy, but all coming together to make one hell of a lunchbox feast.
Oregano chicken, salsa & guacamole
Half the fun of this blog has been trying to do things that I’ve not done before – I’ve slow roasted lamb shoulder; baked my own bread from scratch, and even made my own fish fingers. I’ve been lucky in that nothing’s really gone wrong so far either… it’s all tasted pretty good. Hell, the parsnip and fennel coleslaw I did a few weeks back was bloody amazing.
Last night, I went a bit nuts in the hunt for epic food – I’d bought all the ingredients to make some new sandwich fodder on Saturday, but after a boozy Sunday lunch and the subsequent food coma, I knew I wasn’t going to be needing anything for my dinner. Instead, I knocked together a guacamole. It’s an absolute piece of piss to make – mash up some avocados with lime juice, garlic, chili, corriander and red onion, season as you like, and that’s it. It’s a bit thicker and chunkier than the supermarket stuff, which I like, but you can blend the nuts off it if you’d rather have it smooth. Secondly, I did a spicy tomato salsa with chopped vine tomatoes (scoop out the seeds first, or it’ll be sloppy as hell). The rest’s pretty much identical to the guac surprisingly, although I did add a little olive oil for flavour, and a skoosh of tomato puree to lift the tomato taste.
With the sandwich, things were pretty simple by comparison – arse the whole lot in some toasted giraffe bread (or tiger bread, if you get your loaves somewhere other than Sainsbury’s), shove in some grilled chicken thighs, and garnish with a good handful of mixed salad. The thighs (a total bargain compared to breasts, and with more taste in my opinion) were done with a little oregano and some Worcestershire sauce, but the big flavours are going to come from the salsa and guac that’s on top. A big, ballsy butty for a Monday, made from scratch and as fresh as you can get.
Harissa chicken with roasted red peppers
It’s been a little quiet on here over the last week or two since the epic lamb shoulder made an appearance – it’s a sad fact that my real job sometimes puts the brakes on my sandwich endeavours, even if I have had time to rustle up something tasty to take to the office.
So, as a return to form, I decided to tackle chicken, and for the first time since Joanne McAdams got given a sarnie for her not-so-secret Santa back back in Christmas of 2010, I made one for someone else. Picking up a couple of chicken breasts from the shop, I pan fried them in rapeseed oil, before taking them off the heat and shredding them just as they were cooked through. Adding some harissa paste, seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika, this shredded meat was then returned to the pan, with a splash of bourbon added to ensure the chook had a nice sweet chaser on the tongue. All this lovely chicken was then plonked in a freshly baked wholemeal baguette, along with some torn,roasted red peppers, and a good handful of rocket.
Warmed up the next day, the greenery wilted a bit, but was an absolute cracker after a few minutes in the oven… if you’ve got a cooker at work, then go nuts.