Some days you feel like you really want to cook; there could be no finer ambition in life than to joyfully wash, chop, sauté, season and serve – the joy of the labour, the creative verve, ah, bliss. Other days, not so much. This is one of those cheeky little lunches that works a treat, takes virtually no time to make but feels, looks and tastes like a culinary artist has been busy at the pan rattling arcane skulduggery for more than a moment; keep schtum and no one will ever know any different. This version of this classic salad, not Italian at all but invented at the hotel Caesar in the good old US of A – is simple to throw together, will work equally well with either smoked duck or smoked chicken and as it is technically a salad you can even get away with it past the ministry for excessive fun.
You can leave out the anchovies if you want, but then you may as well just give up on life.
Serves 2 for lunch, maybe 3 or 4 as a small starter
The salad dressing;
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic, finely chopped, amend that, very, very finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon French mustard
good quality anchovy fillets, chopped
Light olive oil
Plenty of black pepper
A sprig of flat leaf parsley
A dash of ketchup
A goodly sprinkle of finely grated parmesan cheese, or even better, a hard local goats cheese. Set the rest of the cheese aside for shaving over the salad later….
Make a simple dressing by beating the egg yolk, chopped garlic, lemon juice, mustard, ketchup and chopped anchovies together in a bowl. Then slowly drizzle in enough oil, whisking all the time, to make it thicken slightly and balance the acidity of the lemon juice. Season well with black pepper. Add in a little of the finely grated cheese, taste the dressing, think about it for a minute or two, adjust the seasoning, add a little more oil if it needs it, finely chop the parsley and stir that in, taste it again, get to know it a little. If you are making this in advance, it is interesting to note how the flavour will change and soften a little over time, but I digress.
For the salad;
Croutons, – just tear up some good bread and bake in the oven with salt, pepper and olive oil
Washed, very well drained fresh and crunchy Lettice leaves – I like those red versions of the little gem but any good crunchy leaf will do, in the winter you can do this same salad with raw Russian kale and smoked rabbit, I love a good seasonal variation.
Shaved hard goats’ cheese, sheep’s cheese or mature cheddar at a push
1 Pack of smoked duck from the friendly chaps at Chesil smokery
Assemble your salad in a serving dish, starting with the leaves, followed by some of the cheese, then the croutons and plenty of the dressing drizzled over. Adorn with the sliced smoked duck meat and some more shavings of cheese, more anchovies, finally, and place a good dollop of the dressing right on the top. I often save back a few croutons to crumble over the top and almost always fail to resist the opportunity to plunder the herb bed for a few chef-y sprinkles of the chive, parsley or marjoram variety, often all three.
If you feel the urge, I have been known to embellish this salad further by adding some avocado chopped to the dressing, but please, let us be clear about this, there is no place for a tomato in a Caesar salad, ever.
Best enjoyed with a well chilled crisp and dry cider.