3 sides your guests will be asking for the recipe

Last week I posted some delicious veggie side to add to your ‘side dish’ repertoirePadron peppers, Barbecued carrot, ricotta and toasted pecans & Green beans with crispy chickpeas

So, in this, my last post in my series of three ‘Sensational Sides,’ I wanted to add some slightly different sides you can pull out of the bag and that have become some of my favourite recipes.

Which include a little bit of an American BBQ influence and an unusual but incredible fresh salad using watermelon.

And don’t forget to look up my tips on how to pull off a successful barbecue.

They are simple tips but can take you from zero to hero on the barbecue status.

Oh, and look up the post for Mexican Street Style corn and grilled cos lettuce – two more simple sides I did a while back.

3 sensational sides

Watermelon, tomato and feta salad

This is a sweet and super refreshing summer salad.

And I honestly thought it sounded a bit ‘wrong’ mixing watermelon with tomatoes.

But it really does work and the dressing makes it a big winner.

This recipe will serve around people.


  • 1 baby watermelon (about 1 – 1.5kg)
  • 1/2 cups fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced 
  • 250 – 350 g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice or lemon
  • 1 tsp pure honey
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Crumbled feta


  1. Remove the rind from watermelon and cut the flesh into 1 1/2-inch-thick triangles and arrange on a large platter.

2. Scatter with fresh mint, red onion and halved cherry tomatoes.

3. For the dressing: Mix the olive oil, fresh lime juice, pure honey, and sea salt and black pepper in a bowl. Drizzle over the platter (just before serving) and crumble over with crumbled feta.

American-style pinto bean bake

This takes a small amount of planning i.e. you need to soak your pinto beans overnight.

The cooking element then takes approx 1hr but it’s pretty much pop it in the oven and forget about it for 45 mins, then lid off for another 15 mins.

This dish will serve approx 6 people.

  • Main ingredients
  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups of bacon, cooked and diced
  • Optional: 1/4 tsp (or more) of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to add heat to the beans
  • The sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup black treacle (aka molasses) – substitutes = 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar or honey
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried mustard


Prep the day before

  1. Rinse the beans and pick out any damaged beans. 
  2. Pour 1.5l of water into a large saucepan and put on a high heat bringing the water to a boil. Then remove the pan from the heat, add the beans and cover the pan and let the beans stand overnight.

The next day

  1. Place the beans over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans until they are tender (approx 1hr).
  2. Preheat the oven to 160 C (or 325 F).
  3. Now, drain the beans, keeping 1/2 cup of the liquid.
  4. In a frying pan over medium heat, add the oil and diced onion and pepper and saute for approx 5 mins. (*add in the cayenne or chilli flakes and mix in if you want heat).
  5. Take a large casserole dish and layer the cooked, drained beans with the cooked onions and peppers and the diced bacon.
  6. For the sauce: In a bowl, mix in the 1/2 cup of the bean liquid you kept with the rest of the ingredients, then pour over the bean mixture.
  7. Now, put a lid on your casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes ( 160 C / 325 F).
  8. After 45 mins, take the lid off and bake for another 15 to 20 mins.
  9. Serve.


  • If you are short on time, replace the sauce ingredients with barbecue sauce.

Rick steins confit tomato tarte tartin

I saw this on one of Rick Steins French food jollies that he embarks on.

It looked simple, rustic and impressive so I gave it a whirl and haven’t stopped making this dish since.

The longest part of this recipe is the doing confit tomatoes but you literally whack it in the oven on 100 C and leave it for 2 – 2.5 hrs then pretty much assemble and cook for 20 mins.

The results are worth the time.

This recipe serves approx 2 – 3 people so scale up for more.


  • Puff pastry (buy it from the supermarket. If frozen, make sure you take out earlier that day)
  • 500g  tomatoes halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, bashed but left whole
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 1½ tsp balsamic vinegar – I use the more sticky balsamic for this dish
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. To confit tomatoes, cut in half and place the tomatoes, cut-side up, in a roasting tin just big enough to hold them in one layer or I use an oven-proof frying pan. Season with salt and pepper and add the garlic clove and thyme sprig among the tomatoes. Now pour over the oil and balsamic vinegar.
  2. Cook the tomatoes in the oven for 2–2½ hours.
  3. Once cooked, let cool for a bit then carefully drain all of the oil away thoroughly from the tomatoes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 C/180 C Fan/390 F.
  5. Now in the tarte tartin tin, you’re going to use, rub the inside of it with a cut garlic clove and arrange the confit tomatoes, cut-side down, over the base. Season with salt and pepper and add a little more sticky balsamic.
  6. Roll out the pastry into a circle a little larger than the tin to allow for shrinkage and place it over the tomatoes and tuck the edges of the pastry into the dish and prick a few holes with a sharp knife to let the steam out. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty around the edges.
  7. Bake the tarte for 25–30 mins, until the pastry has risen and is golden and crisp.
  8. Remove the tarte from the oven and leave to cool a little.
  9. Carefully cover the tin with a plate and invert to turn the tarte out. You may need help as this can make or break your lovely dish. Also, don’t worry if a few tomatoes are out of place, simply rearrange them.
  10. Serve.

Alternative option

I use an oven-proof frying pan to confit my tomatoes. But instead of transferring them from the frying pan to a tarte tartin tin, I simply and very carefully, drain off the oil, then using tongs, turn the tomatoes so the cut-top is now facing onto the bottom of the pan (*this means when you flip it out at the end, it’s pretty).

I then, simply roll the pastry to cover the tomatoes as above and pop the whole oven-proof pan into the oven.

**don’t forget that the handle can get extremely hot! I made this mistake too many times… grabbing the handle to take out of the oven – ouch!*)