Flask ceviche, onion tart and pork tonnato sandwiches: Max Halley’s picnic recipes


Weather’s good? You need to get out? Meeting friends in the park but aren’t sure what to make for lunch and you want to look as cool as Christmas? Fret not – I got you!

Thermos flask ceviche
My dear friend Ben Benton made me this when we first began to plan our new book, Max’s Picnic Book. You need to make it at least two hours before you want to eat it.

Prep 15-20 min
Marinate 2 hr
Serves 4

4 hake fillets (about 500g in total), skinned and cut into 1cm-thick slices
The juice of 3 limes
1 red chilli, chopped into tiny pieces (I’d go mad and use a habanero, but I’m an absolute badass)
1 bunch coriander, stalks very finely sliced, leaves put in a plastic container
1 passion fruit, top cut off and flesh and seeds squeezed out into a sieve set over a bowl, then stirred and stirred until only the seeds remain in the sieve and all the juice has been collected
1 nice, deep red, ripe as all hell tomato, cored and chopped into small chunks
1 big four-finger pinch salt
2 baby gem lettuces, separated into leaves and put in the same container as the coriander leaves, with a wet piece of kitchen towel draped over them, then sealed
1 empty plastic food box and a spoon

Throw everything apart from the coriander leaves and lettuce into a flask and give it a gentle shake. In the park, crack out the lettuce, tip the flask into the empty plastic box, spoon some of the ceviche into a lettuce cup, scatter some coriander leaves on top, shovel it in and thank God you’re alive. Any leftover ceviche liquid (leche de tigre) should be drunk afterwards, not least because it’s a famously good hangover cure.

An onion tart
This is my Mum’s Famous Onion Tart Recipe, which I will admit, before the great theft of 1990 (and the removal of some cheese), was previously better known as Elizabeth David’s Famous Onion Tart Recipe. Cold, or just warm, it is one of the finest things in the world, and enjoys a fruitful relationship with either garlic mayonnaise or Tabasco, but I’ll leave the condiment choice to you. You’ll need a deep 2ocm quiche tin.

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 40 min
Serves 4

60g butter
1kg brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
A sprinkling of flour
1 x 500g packet supermarket shortcrust pastry (all butter, if possible, but don’t worry)
2 large eggs, ideally free-range, beaten

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan for which you have a lid. Add the onions, season with salt, then get everything nice and hot, but not colouring much, if at all. Turn down the heat to low (but not the lowest), put on the lid and cook for about 40 minutes, stirring relatively regularly to make sure they’re not catching, until the onions collapse into a lovely goo, then set aside to cool.

While this is happening, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Flour a worktop, then roll out the pastry to the thickness of £1 coin and use it to line a deep 20cm quiche tin, leaving it to hang over the edges to allow for some contraction during cooking (that said, you may not need the entire block of pastry, so save any excess for another use). Prick all over with a fork, place a circle of greaseproof over the base, fill with baking beans or rice, and blind bake for about 15 minutes, until cooked firm but not too coloured.

Once the onions have cooled to just warm, stir in the eggs, add black pepper to taste (be bold), then scrape the lot into the pastry case and bake at 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 for 30-40 minutes, until the top is a beautiful golden colour. Trim off any excess pastry around the edges, if you wish, then leave to cool almost completely before slicing and serving. Wahey for onions.

A pork tonnato sandwich
This. Is. Amazing.

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 40 min
Makes 1 massive sandwich, to serve 2-3

1 big sploosh white-wine vinegar
1 tsp peppercorns
1 huge pinch of salt
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp fresh marjoram or oregano leaves, stalks reserved
1 large pork tenderloin, trimmed of sinew and cut in half (not lengthways)
250g tinned tuna (drained weight – ie, from about 2 x 145g cans) – the best quality you can manage – chopped and chopped until completely broken down
About 6-8 tbsp mayonnaise (you need enough to make a runny-ish sauce)
The juice of 1 lemon
1 ciabatta, cut in half lengthways
3 seven-minute boiled eggs, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 tbsp little capers (soaked, if salted)
12 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
Ready-salted crisps (whatever brand you prefer)

Put the vinegar, peppercorns, salt, onion, garlic, bay and herb stalks into a large saucepan and lay the two pieces of pork on top. Fill the pan with water to cover, and bring to a boil. The second it boils, take the pan off the heat, skim off any scum that rises to the top of the liquid, cover the pan and don’t touch it for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the tuna, mayonnaise and lemon juice in a small bowl, until well combined.

Once the 90 minutes is up, lift the pork from the liquid and cut it into 5-6mm slices.

Now, build the sandwich. Spread all the tuna mayo generously over the two cut sides of the ciabatta (save any leftovers in the fridge for more sandwiches tomorrow). Lay the slices of pork evenly over the bottom half of the sandwich and top these with the sliced egg. Sprinkle over the capers, followed by the marjoram/oregano leaves, and top with the anchovies. Crush enough crisps to cover the base of the sandwich and sprinkle over the top. Pop on the lid, give it a bit of a squish, wrap in foil, head for the park, then decide if you’re willing to share.