When blogger Ed Smith of Rocket and Squash says in the introduction to this, his first foray into print, that side dishes are ‘often the best bit’ of a meal, it’s difficult to disagree. After all, what’s a steak without chips?
For the most part, Smith looks beyond the obvious – he suggests scorched sweet potatoes with sobrasada butter to go with that steak – and gleefully raids the global larder to brighten up kale and edamame with miso and sweet chilli and add spicy depth to mushrooms with za’atar. Left field ideas like adding yeast to cauliflower puree to provide ‘an (enjoyably) cheesy mustiness’ or coating corn on the cob in gochujang mayo and coconut make for an enjoyable and stimulating read.
It’s a particularly well organised book, with recipes not only grouped into four chapters covering greens, leaves and herbs; vegetables, fruits, flowers and bulbs; roots, squash and potatoes and grains, pulses pasta and rice, but also listed in three directories headed ‘What’s your main dish?’, ‘Where is the side dish prepared?’ (i.e. on the counter, on a hob or in the oven) and ‘How long does it take to make’. That means it’s easy to identify the ideal recipes to suit what’s on your menu, your kitchen set up and time available.
‘Alongside’ suggestions at the end of every recipe make it simple to pick two or three sides that pair with each other to make a meal in themselves (‘I think as eaters we’re creeping away from the idea that there must always be a standout piece of meat or fish in a meal’, claims Smith) or to match with a main course.
There are a few missteps. Smith doesn’t bring anything new to over-familiar dishes like boulangere potatoes, colcannon and cauliflower cheese and some of the recipes including broccoli with tarragon and agretti with olive oil are so simplistic that they hardly warrant inclusion. But overall, Smith has come up with more than enough inventive ideas to ensure that cooks won’t leave his debut effort on the side.
(This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine)
Cuisine: modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars
Buy this book
On the Side: A sourcebook of inspiring side dishes