I’ve had some dreadful Caesar salads in my time and I’m sure you have too – overly creamy and rich, heavily salted, made with poor-quality ingredients and manufactured dressing. Done well, however, this salad can be a real delight. I think the magic really lies in the dressing – it makes such a big difference using a homemade one. The leftover dressing can keep for up to a week in the fridge and is wonderful in sammies or wraps, with potato salad or as a dip.
If you’re pressed for time, you could just use a cooked chook and just scatter chunks of it on the salad. Serves 4.
Basil Caesar Dressing
1 free-range egg yolk
1 whole free-range egg
2 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
200ml canola or rice bran oil
2 tbsp mayonnaise
4 anchovy fillets
1 tsp sugar
1 cup fresh basil leaves (or 1 x 25g-40g packet)
4 free-range eggs, poached or soft-boiled
3–4 chicken breasts, (I like cooking with the skin-on – it adds moisture and flavour)
1 cup chopped bacon (large pieces)
½ loaf ciabatta (or similar), thinly sliced or cut into cubes
3/4 telegraph cucumber, halved lengthways, seeds scraped out and shaved into slices with a peeler
2 baby cos lettuces, leaves washed
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
Optional salady extras: Cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion, spring onions, avocado, sprouts etc.
Preheat the oven to 210c fan bake.
To make the dressing, whizz the eggs, lemon juice, sugar and garlic in a food processor until well combined and pale, about 1 minute. With the motor running, add the oil very slowly in a thin stream until it is all used up. The dressing will thicken. Add the mayonnaise, anchovies and basil, and process until well incorporated and smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice to thin it down if need be. Keep covered in the fridge until you need it.
(Note: If you don’t have a food processor/blitzer, just leave out the egg and oil – instead, chop all the ingredients as finely as you can (you can use a mortar and pestle) and mix it into 1/2 a cup of salad cream or mayonnaise instead. Thin it out with lemon juice and a little oil if need be.)
Heat a large frying pan with a big splash of olive oil over a high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and cook, skin side down, for about 3 minutes or until the skin is golden and crispy. Turn over and cook for another couple of minutes. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish, and bake uncovered, in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and rest in the baking dish for 15 minutes, loosely covered with foil.
Cook the bacon pieces until crispy in the same pan you cooked the chicken in. Drain on paper towels.
While the chicken is resting, coat the ciabatta cubes in a little olive oil and season with salt. Arrange on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 5–10 minutes or until golden on the outside and still a little soft inside. Keep an eye on them!
To serve, toss the lettuce leaves and cucumber with about 1 tablespoon of the dressing (and any extra salad goodies you have added). Arrange on a serving platter or bowls.
Slice the chicken breasts thinly and arrange on top. Place an egg and bacon on top, then sprinkle the salad with the croutons, and a few extra torn basil leaves if you like. Drizzle with extra dressing and serve.