British Chips and the Famous British Chip Butty
Known As Fries in America
This Article shows various ways to prepare, cook and serve the Traditional British chip (Fries in American) and how to make the famous British Chip Butty. I also take a peek into the history and traditions of the humble English chip and grapple the confusion of its name between the two Great Nations on opposite sides of the Atlantic; namely the 'chip' in Britain and 'fries' in America. I also take a quick look at the quirky English Law where English Chip Shops can't sell chips on Sundays whereas foreign 'Take Aways' can.
Simple Recipe for the British Chip Butty
The chip butty, first introduced in the North of England but popular throughout England and Scotland is a simple quick and very tasty snack, although quite unhealthy. To make a good chip butty the chips (French Fries) should be thick (not skinny) with plenty of salt and vinegar and the bread should be thick white slices generously spread with lots of butter or margarine; or alternatively (and more traditionally use a bread bap or large bread roll.
The best chip butty I've ever had is one I bought in a fish and chip shop when touring the Highlands of Scotland. It wasn't just that the chips were cooked perfectly but the bread, more of a long and very fat bap (soft and light) just wrapped itself around the chips, it was magic.
- One potato per person
- 2 slices of bread and butter per portion
- Wash and optionally peel the potatoes; one potato per person.
- Cut the potatoes into chips (French fries).
- Cook the chips in hot cooking oil for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown; and while the chips are cooking butter some bread.
- Place the cooked chips (French Fries) between two slices of buttered bread, Slice in half and server immediately as a delicious snack.
The Making of the British Chip ButtyClick thumbnail to view full-size
Name That Chip
Crisps, Chips, Fries and French Fries
First, when it comes to the shores on both sides of the Atlantic and in frying potatoes there is a distinctive confusion between crisps and chips. What American's call chips we in Britain call crisps, and what we call chips American's call Fries. Even in England there's a split personality over its name; go to your local chippie (Traditional English Fish & Chip shop), a Take-Away or many cafes and 'chips' is on the menu, go to a posh restaurant or hotel then its 'French Fries'; and if you travel to France they just call them ‘Fries’.
Preparation of the Chip
Different Options for Preparing the Humble Potato
- Potatoes should be cleaned and washed, and any bad bits, eyes if the potatoes are beginning to sprout and green parts of the potato should be cut out. The green you sometimes get in potatoes, which often occur if the potato was growing near the surface and exposed to sunlight, is full of toxin and should always be removed.
- Optionally, peel the potato; I don’t myself as the potato peel is good healthy roughage adding much needed fibre to the diet; and chips cooked in their potato skins are just as tasty as chips traditionally cooked with peeled potatoes.
- Whether you peel the potatoes or not cut them into chips, but not too thin; they should be between 10mm and 15mm or even 20mm (1/2 inch to inch). If the potatoes are very small slice them into thick circular scallop like shapes (scallopchips) rather than chipping them, about 10mm (1/2 inch) thick; they cook just as well and taste just as good.
- Potatoes are high in starch and water so rinsing them out and thoroughly drying them before cooking can reduce the risk of them being soggy when cooked. And if you want to be really whacky try cooking them as 25mm (1 inch) cubes rather than chips.
Deep Fat Fryer or Chip Pan
Always use Vegetable oil, much healthier. Traditionally, chips were cooked in lard (which does cook a good chip) but apart from being totally unsuitable for vegetarians lard is pure saturated fat and highly unhealthy whereas vegetable oil is high in polyunsaturated fats which is much healthier.
The oil should be preheated to the required temperature of 180 degrees Celsius (Centigrade) before putting the chips in and the chips cooked until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes, but check after 10 minutes not just by looking but take a chip out and taste it, but remember it will be hot so don’t burn yourself; then continue cooking until done.
A deep fat fryer is ideal for cooking your chips, with a sealed lid there’s no risk of the oil spitting out or boiling over (provided you don’t overfill the fryer), the thermostat ensures the correct temperature is maintained, and it’s much safer than a chip pan. Unlike a chip pan it can’t easily be knocked over or pulled over; whereas a chip pan can be pulled off the hob by the handle or dropped if carrying it from the hob to serve up. Other than that a chip pan cooks chips just as well and potentially better if the lid is left off in that water moisture from the potato can escape reducing the risk of the chips being soggy.
The deep fat fryer is also handy if you want to make quick pseudo ‘Roast Potatoes’; but if you do you’ll need to part cook the potatoes first by either boiling or microwaving them so that they are cooked all the way through and the all that needs to be done in the Deep Fryer is just to brown and crisp them up.
Serving up Your Chips
Versatile Food Which Goes With Just About Anything
Chips are very versatile, they’ll go with just about anything you serve up even with other potatoes; there’s been occasions when we’ve had a little mashed potato leftover from the previous day which has been quickly swallowed fried and served with just a few chips, fried eggs and baked beans.
My favourite is fried egg and baked beans, sometimes we’ll substitute the baked beans for tinned tomatoes or peas and instead of fried egg will do the eggs as hard boiled (if having salad and chips) poached or omelette; sometimes using the mashed potato from the previous day in the omelette along with a little cheese and perhaps chopped tomato, with the mashed potato being quickly reheated before adding to the omelette.
For a simple and quick snack to have in front of the TV the Chip Butty is an ideal choice.
Traditionally in England chips have always been served with salt and vinegar and in the working classes Tomato Sauce commonly used.
Whacky Chip Recipe
Cubed Chips and Potato Omelette Served With Baked Beans
My wacky chip recipe on this occasion served with potato and veg omelette as outlined below (for detailed instructions read the articles above):-
- Prepare the potatoes for chips and you would normally prepare chips.
- Cut chunky chips, between about 15mm and 25mm (3/4 inch and 1 inch).
- Dice the chunky chips to make cubes, or as near cubes as the shape of the potato allows.
- Cook the cubed chips as you would normally cook chips.
The image here shows cubed chips served with potato and veg omelette made with mashed potato and veg leftover from the previous day. Although you could serve these cubed chips with any dish that you normally serve chips with. If however you want to know how to make the potato and veg omelette shown here then the procedure I used is:-
- Take the scraps (mashed potatoes and veg) from the fridge an preheat either by quickly frying in a frying pan or warming up in the microwave.
- Thinly slice one tomato.
- Grate a little cheddar cheese.
- Beat four eggs.
- Preheat a large flat frying pan (can be preheated while you are making the preparations above but don't let the oil get too hot for too long e.g. fire risk).
- Also preheat the grill.
- When the oil is hot pour the beaten eggs into in the frying pan to start cooking the omelette.
- Shortly after adding the eggs to the frying pan add the preheated potato and veg scraps on top and quickly spread-out with a back of a fork.
- Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
- Arrange the slices of tomatoes around on top of the cheese (you could also include a few precooked mushrooms).
- Once the base of the omelette is lightly cooked remove the frying pan from the heat and place under the grill for a few minutes to finish cooking.
- Remove from the grill once the cheese has melted and is a golden brown; then slice into portions and serve.
The purpose of finishing off the omelette under the grill rather than flipping it over as you normally would do for an omelette is that when topping it with lots of ingredients it just gets too bulky to turn and finishing off the top under the grill gives a nice finish; try it sometime and enjoy.
The Alternative to the Chip Butty
If you want to try a ‘naughty but nice’ savoury treat as an alternative to the chip butty described above then you can’t go far wrong by trying a crisp sandwich, a favourite treat of mine which I indulge in occasionally; just once or twice in a blue moon.
With the confusion between the words crisps and chips between America and Britain I’d be interested whether this would be called a chip butty in America?
Making a Crisp Sandwich Couldn’t Be Simpler
- Like the chip butty generously butter two slices of white bread (or use margarine).
- Empty a small packet of crisps onto one of the slices of bread.
- Place the other slice of bread on top and press down.
- Cut the crisp sandwich as you would normally cut sandwiches e.g. in half, triangles etc., then eat and enjoy.
A graphical view of the process for preparing a crisp sandwich is shown in the images below.
The Making of a Crisp Sandwich (English Crisps)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chips or Fries
Do You Call Them Chips or Fries?
History of the Humble British Chip
The Working Man’s Diet
The chip first made its appearance in England in the early Victorian period, often as a back street enterprise by working class families, cooking the chips in their own kitchen and selling them to the passing public from their front gardens; as a means to bring in much needed income to survive. The Victorian period was harsh times for many working class families and many cottage industries sprang up in the back streets of inner cities and towns at this time as a means of scraping a living by poor families. This service was popular with passing trade, especially labourers making their way to and from work, mainly because it was a cheap source of good nutritious food for hard working labourers.
The first proper fish and chip shop in England was opened in London in 1860 by Joseph Malin. The main issue at the time was health with these back alley food outlets lacking hygiene in the preparation, cooking and serving of food from people's homes. Needless to say legislation was eventually introduced to improve hygiene and by the Edwardian period 'fish & chip' shops were springing up all over Britain.
We recently had the pleasure of seeing one such Edwardian 'fish & chip' shop fully functional at Beamish, a living museum of the North East, England. An authentic reconstruction of an Edwardian 'fish & chip' shop including two fully restored 'coal fired' Edwardian Fryers where visitors to Beamish can buy chips cooked the traditional Edwardian way. Being a vegetarian chips cooked in the traditional way is not my cup of tea as, until the mid-1970s, chips were traditionally cooked in lard rather than vegetable oil. However, to be there and to see this fantastic reconstruction and restoration of an Edwardian chip shop is in itself was a pleasure. The above photo (taken while on holiday while we were visiting Beamish) shows a view of this Victorian colliery village where the Edwardian chip shop has been reconstructed.
Chips from 'Fish & Chips' shops had always traditionally been a cheap food and therefore a substantial part of the working class diet right through until the 1980s when prices started going up and subsequently they've become more of a luxury or treat food.
Also, during the 1970s and 1980s Fast Food 'Take Away' started springing up in competition with chip shops offering chips on their menu. One quirk of the law which has remained with us to this day is that whereas the traditional English Fish and chip shops are not allowed to trade on a Sunday by law; whereas foreign fast food outlets e.g. Chinese and Indian 'Take-Aways' can sell chips on Sundays.