Side notes: your comprehensive guide to side dishes

Side dishes: what qualifies as one, how do you choose a good pairing, and when can I eat it as a main meal? Chef Thomas Mumford answers all of these questions, and more.

Not quite fitting into the traditional three courses of meals – entrée, main and dessert – side dishes have nonetheless woven their way into the fabric of our menus. Essentially, they are a joyful excuse to order yet more food for the table. But the side dish is a difficult thing to define: it can be hot, cold, healthy, cheesy, fresh or fried. A side dish can be anything you want it to be.

So, what is it? When should we order one, and how do we ensure a good pairing? When is it acceptable to have a side dish as a main (or it that a trick question?)? We took these questions to Thomas Mumford, Head Chef at Black Hide by Gambaro in Treasury Brisbane, who gave us a comprehensive guide to the humble interloper. He also shares three of his favourite side dish recipes.

To your mind, what makes a great side dish?

A great side has to complement the main dish without overpowering the whole experience. Anything can make a great side if prepared correctly!

It’s always difficult to choose a side dish to complement a meal – there are so many types. Do you have any advice for side dish pairing?

Personally, I look for sides that have contrasting elements to the main meal. At Black Hide we use acid in many of our sides to help cut through the richness of the highly marbled Wagyu that is on the menu. On the other hand, I like to pair some of the leaner cuts of meat with a rich side, such as pumpkin or roasted bone marrow. 

What are some iconic side-main pairings?

For me, it has to be steak and potato. We have spent a lot of time perfecting the Wagyu-fat-roasted, garlic-and-rosemary potatoes that go well with all of our steaks. 

What is your go-to side?

Dining out I’ll always choose a salad. So simple – yet, when done well, so good!

What is your favourite side dish as main meal?

Mushy peas always have a real nostalgic element for me. I could easily have a bowl of them for the main meal and be content!


Roast Jap Pumpkin with Garlic Yoghurt and Brown Butter


  • 1 Japanese pumpkin
  • 150mL unsweetened natural yoghurt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 20-30g salted butter
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Set oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Keeping the skin on, remove the pumpkin seeds and wash the skin. Cut into wedges about 4cm thick, coat in extra virgin oil, and season with salt and pepper. Lay the wedges flat on a baking tray and bake for roughly 20 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender. It should be nice and caramelised.

While the pumpkin is cooking, take the yoghurt, garlic clove, lemon and salt. Put the yoghurt into a bowl, finely grate half of the garlic clove into the yoghurt, and season with lemon and salt to taste. You can add more garlic if you like – tasting is key as you continue to add the garlic.

For the brown butter, heat a small frypan till hot then add the salted butter. You’ll need to swirl the pan, letting the butter foam and brown. Once it is golden brown and has a nutty aroma, pour it over the pumpkin, leaving some for the final assembly.

To assemble, put the wedges of pumpkin into your favourite bowl, spoon over the garlic yoghurt, then drizzle the remaining brown butter over the yoghurt.

Green Vegetables with Lemon Dressing

For green vegetables:

  • Broccoli, cut into florets with stem peeled
  • Leeks, washed thoroughly, cut in half lengthways then cut into 6cm pieces
  • Green beans, stems removed
  • Savoy cabbage, outside leaves and core removed then cut into large triangles

For lemon dressing:

  • 1 lemon
  • Tsp Dijon mustard
  • 100mL olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

First, make the lemon dressing by blending the lemon, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper together. For the vegetable, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add your vegetables and cook for approximately 1-2 minutes. Strain and toss in the lemon dressing. Serve and eat while hot.

BBQ Corn with Chilli Butter, Feta and Lime


  • 4 cobs of corn
  • 50 g feta
  • 1 lime
  • 40g butter
  • Chilli (any chilli will do)
  • Garlic

Boil the corn for two minutes and set aside to cool.

To make the chilli butter, mix the butter with chilli and finely grated garlic to your taste. Season with lime juice, salt and pepper.

Heat up your BBQ, coat your corn in olive oil and char on the BBQ. Once cooked, cut into individual-sized pieces, toss in chilli butter, and serve topped with feta and extra lime wedges.