Max Halley’s sandwich recipes: Never have a boring lunch again

Max Halley knows how to make a great sandwich. With these recipes from his new book, now you do too

Prudence Wade
Wednesday 08 May 2024 06:00 BST
From Coronation fried chicken to hot cross buns with ice cream, take your sandwich game up a notch
From Coronation fried chicken to hot cross buns with ice cream, take your sandwich game up a notch (Robert Billington/PA)

Sandwich expert Max Halley thanks chef Carl Clarke for contributing the fried chicken element of this dish.

“Much as I’d like to palm the chicken element of this sandwich off as my own, I can’t, because it’s not mine, it’s Carl’s and it’s THE BEST,” he says.

“If you want to make this easier, make the easy bits, then buy some chicken Kyivs instead of frying the chicken and whack one of them (cooked, obvs) in instead. Watch out for that boiling butter though, and mind that T-shirt.”

Coronation fried chicken sandwich

Go all-in and fry the chicken yourself, or take the shortcut and chuck in a chicken Kyiv instead
Go all-in and fry the chicken yourself, or take the shortcut and chuck in a chicken Kyiv instead (Rob Billington/PA)

Makes: 1 sandwich


1 brioche or burger bun, cut in half

3 generous tbsp Coronation Chicken Sauce (see below)

Small handful of Bombay mix (finer London Mix is better if you can get it – the CoFresh brand is excellent)

1 x Carl Clarke’s fried boneless chicken thigh (see below)

1 heaped tbsp lime-pickled onions (see below)

Sprinkling of nigella seeds (if you’ve got them)

1 heaped tbsp shredded iceberg lettuce mixed up with a regular tbsp of finely chopped coriander and mint

For the Coronation sauce (makes enough for 2 sandwiches):

2 heaped tbsp store-bought mayonnaise (I like Hellmann’s)

2 heaped tbsp full-fat Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp mild madras curry powder

1 tsp red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

For Carl Clarke’s fried chicken (makes enough for 4 sandwiches):

4 big boneless chicken thighs, skin on if possible

2L flavourless oil, for deep-frying

For brining the chicken:

284ml buttermilk (that seems to be the size of the containers supermarkets sell)

½ tsp fine sea salt

½ tsp MSG powder (optional)

For the wet bit of fried chicken:

1 free-range egg

120ml whole milk

For the dry bit of fried chicken:

50g plain flour

65g rice flour

20g cornflour

½ tsp fine sea salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the lime-pickled onions (makes enough for 4 sandwiches):

1 large red onion, peeled and finely sliced

Juice of 1 lime

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp nigella seeds (optional)


1. For the Coronation sauce: Mix all the ingredients together. As always, give it a taste. Bit flat, up the curry powder and vinegar. Lacking depth, bit more salt and pepper. Too rich, maybe a drop of lemon juice or again a splash more vinegar. How easy is that?! And so much better than all those fancy ones. And none of that almonds and raisins rubbish – it’s not a chocolate bar, it’s a chicken sauce, what were they thinking? This will keep for three to four days, at least.

2. For the fried chicken: To brine the chicken, whisk the buttermilk and salt and MSG (if you’re using it) together in a glass or plastic bowl or a Tupperware or something. Submerge the thighs in it and stick it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Turn the thighs over every now and again if you remember. When you want to cook the chicken, make the wet bit by whisking the egg and milk in a bowl until completely combined and set aside. For the dry bit, combine all the ingredients in another bowl, whisk them all together well, using a dry whisk, and set that aside too. Take the chicken thighs out of the buttermilk, give them a shake and dip them, one by one, into the flour mix and then into the wet batter, then back into the flour mix. Carl says to work/squeeze the coating around the thighs with your hands so it has a texture ‘almost like cornflakes’. Carl double-fries these babies, so I’m gonna tell you how to do that, but quite frankly, at home, once is probably enough, so skip past this bit to the last paragraph, unless you wanna really go for it. Set your deep-fat fryer to 140C, or if you’re frying in a saucepan, you know the drill: take a large, high-sided pan and heat the oil to 140C which is the temperature a piece of bread sizzles and goes golden in about 40 seconds (as opposed to the usual 20). Fry the thighs two at a time, depending on the size of your pan/fryer, for seven minutes, then take them out, put them on a rack and ramp up the heat in the oil (like you’re making French fries). This time heat the oil up to 180C – when a piece of bread dropped into the oil sizzles and goes golden in 20 seconds. Fry the chicken again, this time for three to four minutes and rest back on that rack to cool a little while you ready all the other bits for Coronation Chicken Fried Chicken BANGER! If you’re only frying once, heat your oil to 180C from the off and fry the chicken for about seven minutes until it is cooked through and over 70C (158F) inside. If your fried thighs are long and flat, you might wanna cut them in half once they’ve been fried and stack ’em on top of each other in your sarnie.

3. Put the sliced onion in a Tupperware with the lime juice and salt and massage them all together. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Lid on, and shake, shake, shake. That’s it. The longer you leave them in the refrigerator (three to four days) and the more regularly you shake the hell out of the tub (five times a day?), the more insanely lurid pink and lip-puckering they’ll become, which is a good thing. I have been known to keep these at home in the refrigerator for weeks and they sometimes start to fizz and ferment, which is fun, and delicious. They are also great (but no way near AS great) and WAY less pink if you don’t touch them again after making them. If your lime is a bit hard, give it a good firm roll on your chopping board under the ball of your hand before cutting it, you’ll get oodles more juice from it that way. If you want to make these even livelier, add a sliced red chilli and you can always switch the lime for lemon. Using the method above (and with loads of violent shaking – every 10 minutes?), the onions will be tasty and usable after two hours if you’re in a rush. Just before you eat these, you can mix the nigella seeds through them. Only do it just before consumption though, otherwise they’ll swell and lose the pleasing smokey pop/crunch thing they have going on.

4. Make the sandwich: Slather the inside top and bottom of the bun in the Coronation chicken sauce and sprinkle the London/Bombay mix all over the top.

5. Put the fried thigh on the bottom and cover it in the pickled onions.

6. Sprinkle the nigella seeds (if using) all over those, then the lettuce and herb mix, put the lid on and you’re done.

Tuna melt toastie

This dish takes your average tuna and sweetcorn sarnie to the next level
This dish takes your average tuna and sweetcorn sarnie to the next level (Rob Billington/PA)

“The idea for this hot little pocket of heaven came to me while eating an allegedly great tuna melt in Elephant and Castle. While eating it, I thought to myself, ‘God, I wish this was a toastie and not all floppy’,” Halley remembers.

And so the tuna melt toastie was born – and Halley says this recipe makes a bit too much filling, giving you the perfect excuse to make another sandwich afterwards.

Makes: 1 sandwich


1 not-posh tin of tuna (unless you fancy one), in water or oil, emptied into one side of a large sieve and drained in the sink for at least 10 minutes

¼ onion, cut into tiny chunks, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained in the sieve

5-6 pickled jalapeño slices, cut into little chunks, drained in the sieve

½ big gherkin, grated and put in another bit of that sieve

1 heaped tsp tinned sweetcorn (full sugar), drained in the sieve

¼ celery stalk, cut lengthways into 3-4 pieces, then into little chunks

Splash of malt vinegar

4 tbsp Hellmann’s mayo

3 tbsp your best extra virgin olive oil

2 slices of Hovis-type, supermarket white bread

75g grated supermarket mozzarella

Salt and pepper


1. Put the drained tuna in a bowl with the onion, jalapeños, grated gherkin, sweetcorn, celery, malt vinegar, a big pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper and 3 tablespoons of the mayo. Mix everything together with a fork and, once combined, a tablespoon at a time, mix your tastiest olive oil into the tuna mix. Be sure to completely combine each spoonful of oil before adding the next, or Kenji López-Alt (whose little trick this is) will be very cross indeed, I should imagine.

2. Spread the remaining tablespoon of mayo on one side of both the slices of bread and put one of them mayo-side down on the work surface in front of you. Sprinkle half the mozzarella on it. Put some tuna mix on top of that and spread it evenly all over the sandwich, leaving a little gap round the edges. If you can, echo the shape of the toastie’s pockets, with less in the middle, if you know what I mean, but no worries if you don’t.

3. Put the rest of the cheese on top and put the other piece of bread on, mayo’d side up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, mayo works better on the outside of toasties than butter. It’s made of oil and egg, making it brown beautifully, crisp well and taste fantastic. Using a spatula, or your hands, put the sandwich in the machine, shut the lid and wait until it’s hot as hell and a delectable colour.

Hot cross bun with salted caramel ice cream

This is basically what happens when a chef optimises an ice cream sandwich
This is basically what happens when a chef optimises an ice cream sandwich (Rob Billington/PA)

We’ve all had an ice cream sandwich before – but this takes things to the next level.

Don’t just save this dish for Easter, as it’s delicious all-year round.

Makes: 1 sandwich


1 hot cross bun (whatever your favourite is – I like them all, but not so much when they have additions of chocolate and things), plus an extra ½ a bun

1 tbsp caster (superfine) or light brown sugar

A squeeze of pomegranate molasses or REALLY old balsamic vinegar

1 huge scoop of salted caramel ice cream


1. Preheat the oven to 140C (275F). Didn’t see that coming in an ice-cream sandwich, did you?

2. Toast the hell out of the extra half a hot cross bun in the toaster, let it go cold and blitz it to little chunks in a food processor. Put those on a baking tray and sprinkle all over with the sugar, mix it all up and bang the tray in the oven. Every 10 minutes get the tray out and push all the crumbs round with a spatula. Do this for about 20–30 minutes, then tip the crumbs onto a piece of greaseproof paper, scraping everything off the tray with the spatula. Let them go cold and pop them back in the food processor for another quick whizz until they’re mostly the size of really big breadcrumbs. They should be super crunchy and delicious, not burned.

3. Take the fresh, whole hot cross bun and cut a slit most of the way into it along one of the sides. You’re making a pocket in it. Open that up as best you can and squish the insides a bit with your finger. Drizzle the pomegranate molasses or old balsamic inside.

4. Take a tablespoon of ice cream at a time, roll it in your cold, hot-cross bun crumbs, pressing some into it, then spoon the ice cream inside the bun. Keep going like this until you can’t get any more ice cream in. Pop this on the shelf of your freezer for 10 minutes to firm everything back up a bit. Get it out and squeeze and mould the bread (carefully, without crushing it or driving the ice cream out somewhere). Last thing is to roll the exposed ice cream on the front in more of the crumbs and get stuck in.

‘Max’s World Of Sandwiches’ by Max Halley and Benjamin Benton (Hardie Grant Books, £25).

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