Ixta Belfrage’s recipe vegan for miso ‘caesar’ salad with sesame-maple croutons

I’ll admit that it’s a bit of a stretch to call this a caesar salad, inverted commas or not, because it doesn’t contain the anchovies, egg and parmesan that are synonymous with that infamous dressing. Having said that, I guarantee that it’s both delicious and also not far off the mark flavour-wise (make it to believe it). The sweet, spicy, sesame-crusted croutons are a bit of a revelation, which is why it’s handy that the recipe makes more than you’ll need. The dressing is thick and creamy enough that it could double as an aïoli for sandwiches or chips, in which case be creative with how you flavour it: add saffron, lime zest, paprika or any number of spices, for example.

Toss the salad with the dressing so the leaves are all coated, if you like, but I prefer to have it underneath, so it’s less claggy, and also means each bite is a little different. To bulk things up, add some marinated tofu to the mix – toss it with, say, crushed garlic, soy, maple syrup, perhaps a little chilli and some sunflower oil, and leave to steep for an hour.

Prep 15 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 2

For the dressing
150g unsweetened coconut yoghurt – I use the one made by the Coconut Collaborative
1 tbsp (20g) white miso paste
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove
, peeled and finely grated or crushed
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
Black pepper
– about 15 twists of the grinder
⅛ tsp fine salt

For the croutons
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp white sesame seeds
1¼ tbsp maple syrup
1 garlic clove
, peeled and finely grated or crushed
1¼ tsp pul biber or aleppo chilli flakes (if you prefer milder heat, start with less and work your way up)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
½ tsp fine salt
¼ tsp chipotle chilli flakes
(for extra heat; optional)
Black pepper – about 15 twists of the mill
200g sourdough, crusts on and cut into 1½ cm cubes

For the salad
½ cucumber, halved lengthways and seeds scooped out
120g little gem lettuce (1-2 heads), base trimmed and leaves separated
5g basil leaves
5g chives
, chopped into 3cm pieces
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 tbsp lemon juice, plus extra to serve
¼ tsp fine salt

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl until the miso is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth, and set aside.

Put all the crouton ingredients except the bread in a large bowl, mix well, then add the bread and stir to coat. Spread out on a large, flat, greaseproof paper-lined oven tray and bake for 14-16 minutes, tossing the croutons once halfway, until crisp and golden brown all over, then remove and set aside.

Cut the scooped-out cucumber halves into slices at an angle, add to a bowl with the lettuce leaves, basil, chives, olive oil, lemon juice and fine salt, and toss.

Spoon the thick dressing on to a lipped platter and spread it out. Top with the salad, making sure the dressing below is visible in places and around the edges. Squeeze over a bit more lemon juice, drizzle with oil, then top with some of the crouton and sesame seed mix and serve with the rest on the side.

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