When blogger Ed Smith of Rocket & 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? They are also an important source of revenue for a restaurant, providing an ideal up-selling opportunity, so a whole book dedicated to side dishes is an invaluable resource for chefs.
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, brightening up kale and edamame with miso and sweet chilli, and adding spicy depth to mushrooms with za’atar. Leftfield ideas, like adding yeast to cauliflower purée 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 – greens, leaves and herbs; vegetables, fruits, flowers and bulbs; roots, squash and potatoes; and grains, pulses, pasta and rice – but also into three directories, headed: ‘What’s your main dish?’, ‘Where is the side dish prepared?’ (ie on the counter, on a hob or in the oven) and ‘How long does it take to make?’, making it easy to identify the recipes to suit the main courses on your menu.
‘Alongside’ suggestions at the end of every recipe are two or three complementary sides that 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).
There are a few missteps. Smith doesn’t bring anything new to over-familiar dishes like boulangère potatoes, colcannon and cauliflower cheese, and some of the recipes, including broccoli with tarragon, or agretti with olive oil, are so simplistic that they hardly warrant inclusion. But overall, he has more than enough inventive ideas to ensure that chefs won’t leave his debut effort on the side.
By Andy Lynes
If you like this, you may enjoy these
The Side Dish Handbook
Side Dishes Cookbook
Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables
Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg