Climatic changes are disrupting otherwise tight trophic interactions between predator and prey. Most of the earlier studies have primarily focused on the temporal dimension of the relationship in the framework of the match–mismatch hypothesis. This hypothesis predicts that predator's recruitment will be high if the peak of the prey availability temporally matches the most energy-demanding period of the predators breeding phenology. However, the match–mismatch hypothesis ignores the level of food abundance while this can compensate small mismatches. Using a novel time-series model explicitly quantifying both the timing and the abundance component for trophic relationships, we here show that timing and abundance of food affect recruitment differently in a marine (cod/zooplankton), a marine–terrestrial (puffin/herring) and a terrestrial (sheep/vegetation) ecosystem. The quantification of the combined effect of abundance and timing of prey on predator dynamics enables us to come closer to the mechanisms by which environment variability may affect ecological systems.