Our Verdict: On The Side

Maureen: What did you think?

Kirstin: I loved it.

Maureen: I loved it too, but it’s a book that works well in tandem with something else. But there were some brilliant recipes in it. What were some of favourites?

Kirstin: The peppers! They looked pretty too!

Maureen: I thought the indexes were genius. It was so clever to organise it with suggestions as to what the main dish should be. It really made the book work.

Kirstin: The indexes were worth the weight of the book in gold.

Maureen: That’s what I meant about it working with another book, because you’d think of what main you wanted to make, and then you’d turn to the index and see what he’d suggest to go with it. The recipes themselves were different enough, too, that it made the book worthwhile.

Kirstin: I liked it. I think I’ll use it more in the winter, when we make roasts and big meals with lots of sides in the winter. It’s a good entertaining book, too, which we do more of in the winter.

Maureen: It’s more a weekend book, that’s for sure, when you have the luxury of time to plan out an entire elaborate meal with a few sides.

Kirstin In 20 years I can see this being a dog-eared copy and I know it’s going to be on the shelf.

Maureen: Definitely the high rotation shelf for me. I like that it’s a slightly different book. It makes sense to do a whole book just on sides. They do tend to be forgotten.

“On the Side”
Overall Grade (A- F): A (Kirstin) A (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Roast Romano Peppers Maureen: Boulangere Potatoes
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A
Any disasters? Kirstin: No, apart from naming Hasselback Potatoes Hasselblad Potatoes. Maureen: No.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf, high rotation. Maureen: Same Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: Yes. It would be a good Christmas gift, because it’s original.

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Our Verdict: On The Side

“Boulangère Potatoes” from “On the Side”

One of our traditional Christmas Eve dishes is potato dauphinoise. What’s not to love? Cream and potatoes, lovingly roasted until they are as soft as a pillow on your fork. (If you’re curious, I use this recipe from Nigel Slater. Works like a dream every time.) The only downside is it’s a very rich dish. So rich, in fact, that it’s one of our Christmas treats. Goodness knows I could eat it all the time, but I know that wouldn’t be prudent. So we save it as a special treat.

But along comes Ed Smith and these boulangère potatoes. Just like potato dauphinoise, but without the richness of the cream. The rest of the method is nearly identical, save for using chicken stock instead of cream.

What a result. Absolutely delicious. One caveat though: this is very much a “make only when you have a few hours” [read: the weekend] dish. Once you get through slicing 1.5 kilograms of potatoes really thinly– we use either the food processor the mandoline, depending on who’s doing the slicing– you then have to bake it for more than hour. So it takes some time and love. But it’s totally worth it.

Ed’s top tip is to return to the oven throughout baking and pushing down the potatoes with a fish slice (or a spatula would work too), which leads to the layers being deliciously compact and all the more soft.

Highly recommended. And not just for Christmas Eve.

If you’d like to try this yourself, cooked.com has the recipe here. 

“Boulangère Potatoes” from “On the Side”

“Dijon-Dressed Green Beans” from “On the Side”

There’s not much you can say about green beans. On this particular night, I made them because we were trying out three new sausages from Dring’s Butchers, and I thought we really ought to have something green alongside the meat and the mash.

The opinion on this was divided along age lines: the adults liked them, the teenagers did not. They both said they prefer our usual green bean combination with butter and lemon. I don’t know why that is, but there we have it. I would make these again, but maybe only for adults.

“Dijon-Dressed Green Beans” from “On the Side”

“Honey, Thyme and Lime Butter Corn” from “On the Side”

I made a version of this for the first Thanksgiving I cooked myself. Thyme and corn make a really nice combination, and if memory serves people liked it. (In the end, this corn dish got supplanted by the shoepeg corn peanut soup that I now make instead, but that’s a story for another time).

As I tasted this while cooking it, I thought, “This will be good.” I thought that, up until the point that I added some honey. That’s where things went wrong. As you are adding more sweetness to SWEET corn (the clue is in the name), it’s a bit redundant and unnecessary. It actually was just too sweet for all of us.

Otherwise, I would make this again only if I stopped following the directions just before adding the honey.

(For what it’s worth, we had this with beefburgers, using Ruby Tandoh’s method, which is still ACES.)

“Honey, Thyme and Lime Butter Corn” from “On the Side”

“Roast Romano Peppers” from “”On The Side”

Kirstin: Harissa chicken is one of our favourite dinners for entertaining. I have my go-to side dishes that I make with it; cherry tomato and rocket salad, roast new potatoes, broccoli and beans. And of course the green olive and preserved lemon accompaniment. And labneh. But I digress. My point is; I saw this as an opportunity to try something new with one of our favourite recipes and I thought these peppers might be the thing. Turns out I was right. And the juicy Romano peppers were particularly delicious with the chopped capers. Rather than stuffing the peppers with lots of tomatoes, it was just two per slice which was just right. I’d make this again. And again. Delicious.

And for the record, possibly even better the following day…

“Roast Romano Peppers” from “”On The Side”

“Black Bean, Coriander and Lime Rice” from “On the Side”

Maureen: It’s burrito night!

All: Huzzah! (Well, perhaps it wasn’t this exact word, but everyone loves burrito night, so there was joy in the air.)

Maureen: I need to tell you, though, no Cowboy Rice*.

All: WHAT? [Que outrage.]

Maureen: I just thought it might be an idea to try something else.

Andrew: Why? Why do we have to try something else? Why mess with perfection.

Maureen: Listen, it’s not the end of the world if we just try something new. What do you think?

Nicholas: Well, it’s not cowboy rice.

Maureen: Obviously. It kind of reminds me of the rice you get from Chipotle. I like it.

Tim: It is good, but it’s not better than cowboy rice.

Andrew: Nothing is better than cowboy rice.

Maureen: Moaners, the lot of you. I don’t see how I’ll ever be able to cook this again when you have cowboy rice in your heart.

*Cowboy rice is a mainstay in our house. It is called that because it originates from a cowboy cookbook that Tim brought back for me when he visited Texas once. It is delicious. I’ve just looked to see if I could find a recipe to link to it, but all the versions online are different to the one that I make. Basically, you fry an onion into a load of butter, fry up the rice a bit, add oregano, thyme and a bay leaf, add enough chicken stock for it to absorb, cook it for 30 minutes, and you have our cowboy rice. Delicious with everything, but especially burritos.

“Black Bean, Coriander and Lime Rice” from “On the Side”

“Spiced Roast Carrots” from “On The Side”

Kirstin: What an incredibly easy way to make carrots that much tastier. These carrots had added cumin, coriander and fennel seeds to make them spicy. I couldn’t find any heirloom carrots despite a cycle to our local farmer’s market (but where I did find the last of some lovely Kent cherries and a gorgeous primula). And there is definitely a knack to slicing long carrots lengthwise! I’m already planning on making these a regular feature of our roast dinners. Delicious.

“Spiced Roast Carrots” from “On The Side”