Side dishes

Corn with girolle mushrooms


Growing up in the United States, we enjoyed corn on the cob all summer long. Shucking corn on the cob was a chore I never minded, and we ate the corn with funny plastic corn-shaped holders on either end.

All that came to an end during the years I lived in France, where corn is mainly something to feed to animals. Or possibly to drain out of a can to put in a salad.

I’ve enjoyed eating fresh corn again since moving to the UK. While I grew up eating corn boiled, with a pat of butter, I now prefer my corn on the cob grilled, with just a sprinkling of sea salt.  Or, as we move towards autumn, I love eating corn cut off the cob and gently pan-fried with some fresh girolle mushrooms.

Corn with girolle mushrooms (inspired by an Alice Waters recipe in Chez Panisse Vegetables)

3-4 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut off the cob

100 g fresh girolle mushrooms

1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon coconut or vegetable oil for pan-frying

1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped

1-2 tablespoons olive oil for dressing

a squeeze of lime juice

1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves

salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4 as a side dish

Rinse the girolles in a colander, then wipe any remaining dirt off with a paper towel. Slice into small bite-sized pieces.

Heat the coconut or vegetable oil in a skillet and add the garlic. As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle, add the girolles and cook over medium heat. When the girolles have started to brown, add the corn and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the corn is just cooked (taste to be sure). If the corn starts to burn while cooking, add a few drops of water.

Allow the corn and girolles to cool for 10-15 minutes. Add the avocado, lime juice, and coriander leaves, then add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Corn is not GAPS-friendly and is often not tolerated by followers of the GFCF diet, so this recipe will not be for everyone. That said, even the most vegetable-averse children often like corn, so it can be a useful “gateway vegetable” to teach children about getting more color onto their plate.

Side dishes

Carrot salad

carrot salad

During the many years I lived in France, carrot salad was something of a staple. I never actually made it myself, but would pick up a barquette de carottes rapées at the charcuterie on my local market street along with some cold cuts to serve as a weekend lunch that was more about shopping than cooking. The carrot salad was something I liked and enjoyed but never got terribly excited about.

Then one day my friend L brought a homemade carrot salad to a BBQ at a mutual friend’s house. Now, L is an amazing, professionally-trained cook, so I was quite surprised she would bring along something so ordinary. Until I tasted her salad, which was fresh and flavorful and incredibly moreish, with just the slightest kick of spice. Naturally I hounded her for the recipe.

I now make carrot salad very regularly, and not just because the nearest French charcuterie is a Eurostar ride away. It’s a lovely accompaniment to grilled fish or lamb chops, and the recipe can easily be scaled up to feed a crowd. Or to ensure leftovers.

Carrot salad (adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters)

750 g carrots

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

a small pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you like it hot)

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

4 tablespoons of your best olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

Serves about four people.

Peel and grate the carrots – I use the grater disk of my food processor for this but you could also use a box grater or mandolin. If the carrots appear watery I like to drain them in a colander for about 15 minutes, but feel free to skip this step.

Crush the garlic into a bowl and add the salt. Mash together, then add the cayenne pepper, vinegar and olive oil and whisk well.

Toss the dressing with the grated carrots and taste. If it is at all bland or dry, add a pinch of salt or a drizzle of olive oil. Add the chopped coriander leaves and toss just before serving.

Side dishes

Courgette (zucchini) with tomato and pancetta


As a child, I never enjoyed zucchini. Then when I was eleven, I spent a summer in France and came home excited about the new vegetable I had tried…courgette!

Even today I have a slightly love/hate relationship with courgette, as it can be just so terribly bland. This ragout of courgette with tomato and pancetta is anything but bland, however. This is a substantial side dish that goes well with lamb or chicken, or a firm white fish such as monkfish. It also makes a fabulous topping for pasta, polenta or even bruschetta. I always try to make extra so I can serve it as a side dish one night and a pasta topping later in the week.

I usually don’t bother salting the courgette to release liquid. If your courgette is particularly watery, remove the lid to finish cooking and allow the excess liquid to evaporate.

Courgette (zucchini) with tomato and pancetta (adapted from Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

100g diced pancetta

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

500g courgettes (about 3 large or 5 medium), washed and diced

a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped (or basil if you prefer)

salt and pepper to taste

Feeds 4-6 as a side dish

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the onions and sweat for five minutes. When the onions are beginning to soften, add the diced pancetta and cook for another five minutes, stirring from time to time, until the pancetta has browned slightly. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes stirring constantly, then add the diced courgettes and cook for another five minutes.

Empty the tin of chopped tomatoes into the mixture and bring to the boil. Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes stirring from time to time. Add the oregano and stir through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately or reheat later.