A Healthy Chip Butty With French Fries, Marmite, and Protein
What Is a Chip Butty?
In the United Kingdom, the word “butty” refers to a sandwich made with buttered bread. A chip butty is a traditional treat in parts of the UK. It consists of white bread, butter—often thickly spread—and hot chips (French fries). The chips are stacked in layers and covered with tomato ketchup or brown sauce (HP sauce), according to the eater’s preference. Ideally, they are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. A traditional chip butty is loaded with carbohydrates, low in insoluble fibre, and high in saturated fat, but it tastes delicious.
I loved chip butties when I was a child and I still do. As an adult I make a healthier version that is more nutritionally balanced than the traditional chip butty but is still tasty. My version contains whole grains to provide insoluble fibre and is lower in fat than a usual butty. I add protein to the sandwich to increase its nutritional value. Eating this chip sandwich with a dark green salad provides a complete meal.
Ingredients for a Healthier Chip Butty
One nice thing about chip butty recipes is that they can be very versatile. All you need to make a traditional butty is bread, butter, chips, and a sauce. Different breads, spreads, sauces, spices, and extras can be used to vary the taste and improve the nutritional content of the sandwich.
Here are the ingredients that I use most often for my chip butties.
- Two slices of whole wheat bread
- Light cream cheese
- Marmite (small quantity)
- Low fat French fries
- HP sauce (small quantity)
- One egg
- Low fat vegetarian "meat" that is sold pre-cooked—two slices of bacon or ham or slices of sausage
There are some low fat frozen fries available, but the best kind are homemade oven-baked fries that have been sprinkled with just a little bit of a healthy vegetable oil, such as olive oil. Herbs and spices are a nice addition, too. You'll need about seven fries per butty, depending on the size of the fries and the size of the bread.
Nutrients in Eggs
The egg and vegetarian meat in my version of a chip butty provide protein. Eggs are a nutritious food. They contain cholesterol, but researchers say that in most people eating eggs doesn’t increase the cholesterol level in the blood.
A medium sized egg contains about 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. Only a small amount of this fat—about 1.4 grams—is saturated.
Eggs are a good source of B vitamins and also contain vitamins A and D. They are rich in selenium and are a source of iron as well. Two additional nutrients in eggs are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are good for eye health. These nutrients are believed to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. The macula is a small spot near the centre of the retina that provides the best vision.
Some eggs contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to have a number of health benefits. They may be helpful for the cardiovascular system and the brain.
What Is Marmite?
I like to add marmite to my chip butty to increase the flavour. Marmite is a dark brown and strong-tasting spread made from yeast extract, spices, and salt. I've eaten it since childhood and love the taste. Marmite is a vegetarian food but tastes meaty.
People seem to fall into two categories with respect to marmite—they either love it or hate it. Some of the haters might well turn into marmite lovers if they remembered to use a thin smear of the spread in their sandwiches instead of a spoonful. A thin layer of marmite can be very tasty; a thick layer can be overwhelming.
According to the BBC, marmite was included in the food rations for the soldiers who fought in World War One.
The History of Marmite
The label on a jar of marmite shows a large, covered cooking pot made of earthenware or metal, which is called a "marmite" in French. The earliest versions of marmite spread were sold in small earthenware containers. Even today the product is sold in containers that have a shape resembling a marmite.
Justus von Liebig, a nineteenth century German chemist, is considered to be the creator of marmite. He discovered that concentrated brewer's yeast could make a tasty food.
The Marmite Food Company was established in 1902 in Burton-upon-Trent, England. This company made a product resembling the modern marmite from leftover yeast provided by a brewery. The British version of marmite that is sold today generally contains added B vitamins—including vitamin B12—and is therefore more nutritious than other versions. Vitamin B12 is an especially important nutrient for vegans to obtain, since their diet usually contains a low level of this vitamin.
The tamarind plant (Tamarindus indica) is a tropical plant. The pulp from the elongated fruits is a popular food ingredient.
What Is HP Sauce?
HP sauce is a brown sauce made from vinegar, tamarind extract, dates, tomatoes, spices, salt, and a sweetener, which is usually molasses. The tamarind is a leguminous tree that produces fruits in the form of pods. The fruit is flavourful and has a sweet-sour taste.
HP sauce has a distinctive taste that is both savoury and sweet. Like marmite, the sauce contains salt, but this may not be a problem if the diet is otherwise low in salt and if the sauce is used in small quantities as a condiment. Some people like to cover their food with large quantities of HP sauce, though.
You'll notice that the bottle of sauce in my photo above has a label showing the Houses of Parliament. This is a significant image in relation to the history of HP sauce. In the late nineteenth century, a grocer from Nottingham named Frederick Gibson Garten created the first version of the sauce. He heard that his brown sauce was being served to MPs in the Houses of Parliament (or so the story goes), which gave him the idea for the HP name and picture.
The only HP sauce that I use is the classic variety. Nontraditional varieties including a fruity version and a barbecue version are also available, but I've never tried them. I love the classic version. As a child in the UK, I alternated adding HP sauce and tomato sauce (ketchup) to my chips. Today I prefer adding HP sauce.
Instructions for Making the Chip Butty
- Cook the frozen French fries according to the package instructions, or make your own fries.
- Hard-boil the egg while the fries are cooking.
- When the fries and egg are nearly ready, toast the bread slices.
- Spread each piece of toast with cream cheese and a thin layer of marmite. The marmite shouldn't completely cover the cream cheese (unless you like to spread it thick). If you've never eaten marmite before you might want to spread it on only one slice of bread until you discover how much you like to eat.
- Place one layer of French fries on one of the pieces of toast.
- Pour HP sauce on top of the fries. The sauce tends to come out of the bottle in dollops. Only a few dollops are needed to provide flavour.
- Place slices of hard boiled egg on top of the fries.
- Place the slices of vegetarian meat on top of the egg.
- Top with the other piece of toast.
- Eat and enjoy.
Sweet potatoes with orange flesh are often known as yams in North America. They are very nutritious and are loaded with beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A.
Some Possible Ingredient Substitutions
Many different ingredients can be added to a chip butty. Some ingredient substitutions that work well are listed below.
- Sprouted whole grain bread instead of regular whole grain bread
- Bread that is made from a mixture of whole grain flour and white flour
- Sweet potato fries instead of regular fries
- Fries made from purple, red, or yellow-fleshed potatoes
- French fries with the skin left on
- Butter, margarine, a vegan spread, or mashed avocado instead of cream cheese
- Tomato ketchup, a cheese sauce, or melted cheese instead of HP sauce
- A different type of vegetarian meat
You can also change the recipe in other ways, such as by:
- leaving out the egg and using a vegan spread to create a vegan chip butty
- leaving out the marmite, the HP sauce, and possibly the vegan meat if you are following a very low salt diet
- adding spices for flavour instead of sauces
- adding slices of mushroom, tomato, bell pepper, or onion
- adding leafy green vegetables such as salad greens (Peppery ones such as mizuna or arugula work well. Arugula is also known as rocket.)
The great thing about a chip butty is that you can make it your own, adding the ingredients that you like for a tasty or nutritious meal and leaving out any ingredients that you don't like.
- Nutrients in eggs from SELFNutritionData (This site gets its data from the USDA, or United States Department of Agriculture.)
- Lutein and zeaxanthin information from the American Optometric Association
- Benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from WebMD
- Facts about marmite from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
- Brown (HP) sauce information from the online version of The Guardian newspaper
- Nutrients in sweet potatoes (yams) with skin from SELFNutritionData
© 2012 Linda Crampton