On the Side by Ed Smith

Do not let the unassuming cover fool you, On the Side: A Sourcebook of Inspiring Side Dishes is a stunningly photographed cookbook packed with tempting recipes that we all want to cook and eat. This title also made the top ten best of the best cookbooks of 2017 from information gathered from UK sources and I now know why!

Smith left his career as a lawyer to train as a chef in 2012. There seems to be a great deal of that type of thing happening (business professionals turning toward food careers). Presently, he is a food writer and Creative Director of British cured meat wholesalers and retailers, Cannon & Cannon, based in London's Borough Market. Smith also authors the food blog Rocket & Squash.

In On the Side, the humble side dish is brought front and center, where it should be. How many of us would be happy with just turkey or ham on the table during the holidays with no bowls of steaming potatoes or roasted vegetables? Not me. I want Sweet potato, celeriac and porcini bake, Curry leaf, cashew and coconut rice, or Spiced roast carrots on my plate.

140 plus recipes are spread out over four chapters: Greens, leaves and herbs;  Vegetables, fruit, flowers and bulbs; Roots, squash and potatoes; and Grains, pulses, pasta and rice. A recipe directory entitled What's your main dish? takes the guess work out of which side would best complement your main dish. Where is the side dish prepared is another directory that specifies: counter, hob, oven, or hob and in the oven. Big family meal and the oven is full? Check out that directory for a side that can be made on the counter (no cooking) or on the hob (stove top). Lastly, How long does it take to make?  indexes the recipes by time committment from less than 15 minutes through more than an hour. 

This is a book I will turn to time and again. I just received the title on Saturday and knew I wanted to make something straight away. The Roman rosemary polenta was my choice to serve my Steak pizziaola and what a perfect choice it was. I used an additional 1/4 cup of milk and two tablespoons of butter (warmed together) to loosen the polenta before serving. The essence of rosemary was subtle and truly magical in the polenta. My husband and son were crazy about the dish but I cannot use the words Andrew used to describe it (if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen his declaration). It was rated NSFEYB (Not suitable for Eat Your Books). 

Special thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for providing the original version of this fantastic recipe to share with our readers. Next time I will follow through and make the polenta cakes, if I can stop myself from eating the polenta right out of the pot.


Roman rosemary polenta
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These rosemary-infused squares of set-then-baked polenta are, to me, more satisfying than polenta 'chips', which never live up to their name. I'd serve them with almost any tomato sauce-based dish, but also next to chargrilled lamb chops, chicken thighs in a cheesy sauce or as part of a meat-free medley. There's a bit of work involved, but the first two steps can be done in advance of eating. Also: it's worth it.

The instructions below are to suit polenta that hasn't been pre-cooked. If you have the instant or quick-cook type, follow the instructions on the packet, replacing the water with milk, then pick up the method when the cheese and butter are added.


  • 800 ml milk
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 150g polenta
  • light olive oil, for greasing
  • 70g butter, cubed
  • 80g parmesan, grated
  • sea salt


Put the milk and 2 of the rosemary sprigs in a large saucepan, bring to a rapid simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 25 minutes, then discard the rosemary.

Sprinkle the polenta into the pan in a slow, steady stream, stirring continuously. At first it will seem as though there's far too much milk, but after 3-5 minutes the polenta will swell and thicken. Continue to stir vigorously, almost without interruption, for 10-15 minutes over a low heat. Once the grains are less visible and the polenta starts to become smooth, reduce the heat to very low and cook for 10 minutes more, beating it frequently. Add some extra water to loosen the mixture if necessary.

Meanwhile, line an approximately 20 x 20cm baking tray with baking parchment and grease the paper with 1 tablespoon oil. When the polenta is cooked, smooth and slick, add 40g of the butter and 60g of the Parmesan and beat well, season with salt, then pour it into the lined tray. Use a palette knife or the back of a spoon to push and smooth the polenta into the corners to an even depth of around 3cm. Leave to cool, then put in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Once the polenta has cooled and set, turn it out onto a clean work surface and cut into 5cm squares. Place these smooth-side up on a larger lightly oiled baking tray (or two), leaving a little space around them. Preheat the oven to 250°C.

Strip the leaves from the remaining rosemary and chop them very finely. Melt the remaining butter and pour or brush this over the polenta squares. Sprinkle the rosemary over the top, then finish with the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool and firm up for 5 minutes before serving.

Roman rosemary polenta recipe excerpted from On the Side by Ed Smith, Bloomsbury Publishing 2017© and used with permission. Photos here by Jenny Hartin. 

The publisher is offering two copies of this book to EYB Members in the US and UK. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on March 22nd, 2018.


Steak pizzaiola 
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To the left is the polenta with my version of Steak pizziaola. A few of you asked for my recipe and I'm sharing it here for you.

3 lb. beef chuck roast 
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 large cans (28 oz each) of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning mix 

1 teaspoon of salt *or more to taste
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Depending on the acidity of the tomatoes - 1/2 tsp of sugar
2 tablespoons of olive oil 
2 tablespoons of butter
Salt and pepper to season the meat before searing 

Preheat the oven to 325F

Fifteen minutes before searing the meat, take the roast out and pat both sides with a paper towel to remove any moisture (so that you get a nice sear)

In a large shallow dutch oven add the olive oil and two tablespoons of butter and turn the temperature to medium high. Salt and pepper both sides of the meat generously. When the butter is melted and the oil is hot, sear the meat. Five minutes on each side. Don't peek - I set the timer and walk away because I have been found guilty of peeking. 

Once seared, scoot the meat over a bit. Add a little more olive oil, if needed, and toss in the garlic, onions and Italian seasoning and cook for a minute or two.  Add the two cans of crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and stir. Let come to a simmer and watch out for that bubbling sauce so you don't get splattered.

Cover the pot and place in the oven to cook for anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. This always changes for me - after 2 hours I check the meat with a fork for tenderness and to see if the pot needs more liquid. Yesterday the roast took the full 3 1/2 hours to become fall apart tender and I needed to add 1/2 cup of water (or 1/2 cup of beef broth if you have it) to loosen as it thickened as it cooked down. Serve over pasta or over this delicious polenta. 



  • Siegal  on  2/13/2018 at 7:40 PM

    I want to try deep fried Brussels

  • Execchef1225  on  2/13/2018 at 8:29 PM

    Asian greens

  • Sueskitchen  on  2/13/2018 at 9:36 PM

    The polenta and ragu for sure

  • AnnaZed  on  2/13/2018 at 10:12 PM

    Chard with chilli, shallot and cider vinaigrette

  • heyjude  on  2/14/2018 at 2:10 AM

    French-ish Peas

  • sarahawker  on  2/14/2018 at 8:01 AM

    Gochujang mayo and coconut corn on the cob

  • annmartina  on  2/14/2018 at 9:04 AM

    Bacon and buttermilk cabbage

  • lpatterson412  on  2/14/2018 at 1:29 PM

    Coconut Jasmine Rice!!!

  • lean1  on  2/14/2018 at 1:48 PM

    Radicchio with a smoky blood orange and maple dressing sounds great!

  • ktwalla  on  2/14/2018 at 2:17 PM

    Chorizo Roast Potatoes

  • lebarron2001  on  2/14/2018 at 2:52 PM

    Sweet potato and rosemary hash-rösti

  • janv  on  2/14/2018 at 3:14 PM

    Chickpeas with garlic oil and spinach (

  • cookn  on  2/14/2018 at 4:40 PM

    Charred Fermented Cabbage

  • Mariarosa  on  2/14/2018 at 5:50 PM

    Roast cauliflower with chickpeas and lemon tahini!

  • EmilyR  on  2/14/2018 at 9:31 PM

    Courgettes with soy, sesame, mint and chilli

  • lapsapchung  on  2/15/2018 at 6:59 AM

    Chorizo roast potatoes - I'm salivating at the thought

  • ravensfan  on  2/15/2018 at 12:50 PM

    Deep-Fried Brussels Sprouts

  • Marcia1206  on  2/15/2018 at 8:26 PM

    That steak pizzaiola looks so good! I don’t need to look further!

  • Scotsman61  on  2/16/2018 at 9:33 PM

    Chorizo Roast Potatoes

  • jmay42066  on  2/17/2018 at 3:33 PM

    Bacon and buttermilk cabbage

  • rchesser  on  2/17/2018 at 4:12 PM

    Roast cauliflower with chickpeas and lemon tahini

  • JenJoLa  on  2/17/2018 at 6:44 PM

    French-ish peas

  • kmn4  on  2/17/2018 at 7:19 PM

    Rosemary and chestnut sprouts

  • Livia  on  2/18/2018 at 12:00 PM

    The Baby pak choi with sticky garlic and ginger sounds like a treat

  • Livia  on  2/18/2018 at 12:01 PM

    The Baby pak choi with sticky garlic and ginger sound like a treat

  • FireRunner2379  on  2/18/2018 at 4:54 PM

    I'd like to try the recipe for Deep-fried Brussels sprouts!

  • Foodycat  on  2/19/2018 at 8:12 AM

    I want to eat all of it, but I'm going to make the sweet potato, celeriac and porcini bake this weekend.

  • sgump  on  2/19/2018 at 12:05 PM

    Quick-pickled diakon sounds neat--I like the addition of mint in the marinade.

  • lgroom  on  2/19/2018 at 1:30 PM

    Have to try the deep fried Brussels sprouts.

  • Dannausc  on  2/19/2018 at 4:53 PM

    Cabbage with juniper butter

  • hibeez  on  2/20/2018 at 8:53 AM

    I love that there is a main dish directory! for recipe, I'd go with Chorizo Roast Potatoes.

  • anniette  on  2/22/2018 at 6:15 AM

    Anchoiade Mashed Potatoes with Bacon and Buttermilk Cabbage, please!

  • ebs  on  2/23/2018 at 8:55 PM

    So many delicious sounding recipes ! Rosemary and chili roast squash is one of many I would try

  • mpdeb98  on  2/24/2018 at 7:52 AM

    Sweet potato and rosemary hash-rösti

  • clairew137  on  2/25/2018 at 3:42 AM

    Rosemary and chili roast squash

  • LaurenE  on  2/25/2018 at 2:13 PM

    gochujang mayo and coconut corn on the cob

  • PennyG  on  2/25/2018 at 3:45 PM

    Sounds interesting ... Deep-fried Brussels sprouts!

  • rachael_mc  on  2/25/2018 at 5:15 PM

    creamed chard gratin

  • HermionieG  on  2/25/2018 at 6:03 PM

    Smoky ratatouille

  • southerncooker  on  2/25/2018 at 9:19 PM

    Oh after looking at some of the index I need this book. Bacon and Buttermilk cabbage caught my eye imitatively as did the chard recipes.

  • clappc  on  2/28/2018 at 7:37 AM

    Roman Rosemary Polenta, honestly. Something about polenta just always calls my name!

  • lynneskip  on  2/28/2018 at 2:47 PM

    Charred Fermented Cabbage

  • fbrunetti  on  2/28/2018 at 7:19 PM

    Shaved fennel with tarragon

  • Sfgordon  on  2/28/2018 at 7:28 PM

    It all sounds amazing but I would start with okra chips with cumin salt!

  • Cryambers  on  3/1/2018 at 10:33 AM

    Roast cauliflower with chickpeas and lemon tahini

  • ket06e  on  3/1/2018 at 11:59 AM

    Deep fried brussels sprouts sound interesting!

  • choppergirl  on  3/2/2018 at 9:39 AM

    Spiced roast carrots

  • sunset34  on  3/2/2018 at 7:45 PM

    Purple spruting brocoli with tarragon - thanks

  • t.t  on  3/3/2018 at 1:56 AM

    Eseeola Lodge spaghetti squash Parmesan

  • maestra  on  3/3/2018 at 4:26 PM

    Yeasted cauliflower puree sounds amazing! That would be the first of many recipes to try.

  • RSW  on  3/4/2018 at 10:25 AM

    Kale, Romanesco, Parmesan and pine nut salad

  • Laura1  on  3/4/2018 at 4:33 PM

    Roast cauliflower with chickpeas and lemon tahini

  • Shelley.b  on  3/4/2018 at 5:43 PM

    Spiced roasted carrots

  • shellee  on  3/5/2018 at 10:52 AM

    Charred Romanesco -olive oil and lemon dressing

  • PollySBA  on  3/7/2018 at 4:07 PM

    Deep fried brussel sprouts you say . . . okay

  • Jenamarie  on  3/8/2018 at 9:19 AM

    Maple and pecan roast squash

  • cake17uk  on  3/9/2018 at 12:37 AM

    Mine would be Creamed sweetcorn with feta - sounds so good!

  • lauriesk  on  3/9/2018 at 3:34 PM

    I would try the spiced, roast carrots.

  • lilham  on  3/9/2018 at 4:47 PM

    Quick cucumber and daikon kimchi

  • Nancith  on  3/9/2018 at 9:01 PM

    Sweet cauliflower greens--I've always hated throwing away the cauliflower leaves.

  • DesiKim  on  3/9/2018 at 9:46 PM

    Wilted spinach with coconut, ginger and pink peppercorns sounds very interesting

  • sweetmarah  on  3/9/2018 at 10:22 PM

    Rosemary Polenta

  • Incohatus  on  3/9/2018 at 10:44 PM

    Braised cabbage & kale

  • Coffeebean  on  3/9/2018 at 10:57 PM

    Coconut Jasmine rice

  • sequoia55  on  3/9/2018 at 11:40 PM

    Charred Fermented Cabbage

  • Agaillard  on  3/10/2018 at 2:55 AM

    Such a hard choice! I think pink radicchio with pear and almonds sounds really good - I dislike kale, cannot digest a lot of vegetables (like cabbage which I love so still eats sometimes), so at least those were out: But man chosing between all the rest was hard! Maple and pecan roast squash, yeasted cauliflower puree, roasted romanesco ...

  • dewdneyk  on  3/10/2018 at 3:14 AM

    Spring greens in shiitake dashi - got the spring greens today so going to make it for dinner

  • PeavineBlues  on  3/10/2018 at 7:41 AM

    Garlic oil pea shoots

  • BrandonGM  on  3/10/2018 at 8:14 AM

    Rosemary and chilli roast squash

  • MarshaG  on  3/10/2018 at 8:19 AM

    Rosemary polenta!

  • Poppyjoey  on  3/10/2018 at 8:40 AM

    Chorizo Roast Potatoes

  • tararr  on  3/10/2018 at 9:43 AM

    Deep Fried brussels. But I am making the Rosemary Polenta this week now (thanks for the recipe above!)

  • Joy001  on  3/10/2018 at 10:03 AM

    Roast cauliflower with chickpeas and lemon tahini sounds delish!

  • Dmartin997  on  3/10/2018 at 11:02 AM

    Cauliflower cheese.. I love cauliflower.

  • Julia  on  3/10/2018 at 1:03 PM

    Bacon and buttermilk cabbage.

  • TanyaD  on  3/10/2018 at 5:30 PM

    Spring greens in shiitake dashi

  • RickPearson54  on  3/11/2018 at 4:36 PM

    Creamed chard gratin

  • hc_bailey  on  3/11/2018 at 8:08 PM

    Aubergine puree

  • cellenly  on  3/13/2018 at 8:30 AM

    gochujang mayo and coconut corn on the cob

  • Ishtar  on  3/14/2018 at 7:57 AM

    Beetroot gratin

  • HomespunHouse  on  3/16/2018 at 2:41 PM

    Roman rosemary polenta

  • mkcorban  on  3/21/2018 at 5:35 PM

    Butter beans with sage

  • Teruska  on  3/21/2018 at 6:12 PM

    Hasselback potatoes with bay and caraway and the creamed kale and, and, and...

  • Karla123  on  3/21/2018 at 6:19 PM

    Spelt grains with wild mushrooms would please my palate!

  • MusicCityMissy  on  3/21/2018 at 9:15 PM

    WOW I don't think I have ever seen so many side dishes that I wanted to try but the first one that just jumped out at me was the okra chips with cumin salt.

  • orchidlady01  on  3/22/2018 at 5:22 AM

    Roman rosemary polenta

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