Chest of sandwiches

This is the ultimate picnic recipe, one that Myrtle Allen has been making decades. The original recipe is in her re-released book, The Ballymaloe Cookbook, originally published in 1977 by Gill & Macmillan. It's also great for children's parties. You slice and open the top of a loaf of bread, like a treasure chest, then cut the inside out, slice the inside piece and make layers of sandwiches, then refill the 'chest' crust of the loaf with all the sandwiches, close the lid, and, hey presto: you will dazzle everyone with your picnic prowess!

To make the chest of sandwiches, you need to cut a 'brick' of bread from the inside of the loaf. When you're finished, you'll be left with a rectangular 'brick' of crustless bread (with which you can make the sandwiches) and a hollowed-out loaf (the chest).

First, you'll need to cut the bottom of the loaf away from the crust. To do this, insert a bread knife into one long side of the loaf, just above the base. Push the knife through the bread, but don't allow the knife to pierce the crust on the far side. Without making the cut through where the knife was inserted any bigger, work the knife, in an arc shape, inside the loaf, then pull the knife out.

Next, make the lid of the chest by cutting through one of the the top long sides of the loaf and both short sides - leave one long side uncut to act as a hinge. When you open the lid, if it looks to be in danger of falling off, keep it propped up from behind with a couple of jars or something similar.

Finally, with the lid open, cut the bread away from the four sides, just inside the crust, cutting down to within 1cm (about ½in) of the bottom crust. Carefully ease the 'brick' of bread out - it should leave an empty chest behind. Cut this 'brick' of bread into four long horizontal slices, and make two long sandwiches using the softened butter and the fillings of your choice. Cut each long sandwich into 4 or 5 smaller sandwiches, press them together firmly, then put them back into the chest. Close the top of the chest with the lid and wrap the chest in cling film - don't worry if it gapes slightly, this is because of the extra bulk of the sandwich fillings. The sandwiches will keep well like this throughout the day, as long as there's nothing soggy, such as tomato, in them.