Recently, I was sent a review copy of the On the Side cookbook, a brand new book from Ed Smith, a UK-based food writer, blogger, chef and now cookbook author. On the Side is a compact and very good looking cookbook filled with 140 different side dish recipes and tips that will “make your pulses, roots, vegetables and greens dazzle in their own right”. We’re talking things like grilled green tomatoes with oregano and chilli, celeriac baked in a salt and thyme crust, carrots with brown butter and hazelnuts, chorizo roast potatoes, and sweet potato and rosemary hash-rosti. Hungry yet? How about this delicious red rice with beetroot, feta and wild oregano:
On the Side has been endorsed by renowned chef Yotam Ottolenghi who says it’s “Full of recipes I want to cook and eat”. I agree with this sentiment and am excited by a book that is filled with so many great ideas of what to eat with that piece of steak, chicken or sausages.
So, if you’re looking for a handy source of inspiration for what to cook on any given day of the week or when you’ve got friends coming around or even when you’ve been told to bring a side or a salad to someone else’s dinner party, On the Side is the cookbook for you.
In addition to checking out the book, I also had the chance to ask Ed some questions about the On the Side Cookbook and his journey as a food writer and cookbook author. Here’s how it went.
Hi Ed. Thanks for taking part in this e-interview! I love your blog – it’s the perfect mix of eating out and eating in. What inspired you to start it?
I started the blog whilst working as a corporate lawyer in a large International firm. I’d always loved cooking and eating out, but found that I was eating at my desks most evenings and rarely making restaurant plans at the weekend. So I started the blog as a reason to make sure that I cooked something new every week, and went to the new restaurants I was recommending others book into. It was also a creative outlet — a break from witness statements and regulatory reviews.
Awards aside, what have been your best blogging/food writing moments or highlights?
Writing a book has got to be up there! Actually, more specifically the photography process for the book. I styled all the photos and on the 18 or so days that we had shoots, it really felt like the “perfect day in food” — picking up last minute groceries, cycling across a park to my photographer’s studio, cooking and styling all day, ultimately for the purpose of creating a book.
Again, writing a book. And this time more specifically the amount of washing up I had to do over the course of it.
What advice would you give to a brand new food blogger or food writer?
Don’t start a food blog or pursue a career in food writing for any reason other than a love of food and a desire to write. You can tell the blogs that are actively after freebies or world domination; and generally they’re not very good … much better to have integrity and to just be good. Good things may follow if so. And if not, it doesn’t matter.
Congrats on the cookbook too – there are so many delicious recipes in the On the Side cookbook and it really is a great source of inspiration for people cooking either just for themselves or when they’ve got company. Do you have any favourites or any recipes you cook the most often?
Thanks! I use the shaved fennel and tarragon salad ALL the time. Also: the butter beans with tapenade and courgettes; the green tomatoes with salted celery and chervil; and any of the radicchio items.
Are there any recipes your friends and families come over for particularly?
Gratin-style dishes always seem to go down well — there’s a beetroot and horseradish one, sweet potato and porcini, and of course potatoes boulangere.
Did you find it difficult coming up with 140 different side dishes?
Nope. I handed my recipes in at the start of 2016 and now have recipes and ideas for at least another 140 more!
And how did you find the cookbook creation process as a whole? Was it more challenging than you expected? Or a lot more fun?
Apart from all the washing up (see above), it was great. My editors at Bloomsbury gave me a pretty free reign — which was a lot of responsibility and work, but ultimately means the book is very definitely mine. I’m proud of the result.
Would you do it again? And if you’ve got plans for another cookbook, do you have any ideas what the next one will be?
Yes, yes, and I can’t say right now …
And lastly – just for fun – if you could only cook with five ingredients for the rest of your life what would they be?
GOOD question. Fennel, anchovy, pork, butter beans, tomatoes.
The On the Side cookbook is published in Australia by Bloomsbury and is available now.