Ribs are a meal that defiantly bear a cross to the face of etiquette and utensils; like a sanguivoriphobe (Google it, it's an actual thing) to a blood sucker - they are not welcome here. There's something liberating about pulling meat off bone with your teeth - throw into the scene a spread-eagled woolly mammoth rug and a couple of tusks as leaning posts and I could well be making dinner for a pair of grunting Neanderthals. You'll find rib sauce systematically migrate across your face, further reaching with every bone you gnaw and suck dry as you throw back to the ways of our ancestral cavemen and get your muzzle in amongst all that juicy meat - embrace it.
Sticky, chewy, sweet and sour, these ribs are impossible to resist and tick all the boxes for any animalistic tendencies you fancy exercising, with a little bit of added finesse when it comes to flavour. The glaze is packed full of vibrant citrusy notes and the sweetness from the honey counteracts the spices very well. The secret is to get the ribs really well caramelised before adding any of the other ingredients. As they braise in the oven, all that colour turns into the most amazing flavour with a hint of the Orient. This recipe is one from Gordon Ramsay's book Ultimate Cookery Course.
Sticky Pork Ribs
1 kg pork ribs, separated
Sea salt and black pepper
3-4 fat garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
5 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1-2 tsp dried chilli flakes (to taste)
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 whole star anise
4 tbsp runny honey
150ml soy sauce
2-3 tbsp rice vinegar
300ml Shaoxing rice wine or medium dry sherry
5 spring onions, sliced
400ml chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Season the ribs with salt and pepper, pushing the seasoning into the meat. Heat a roasting tray on the hob with a little olive oil and brown the ribs for 5-10 minutes until they are coloured on all sides.
Tip If you don't have a roasting tray that can be used on a hob, you can colour the ribs in a large frying pan instead.
Add the garlic, ginger, chilli flakes, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise and honey and continue to cook over the heat for 2 minutes until the honey begins to caramelise. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar and Shaoxing wine and bring to the boil, simmering for 1 minute. Taste and adjust the flavours, adding more vinegar if necessary. Add the spring onions and stock and bring to the boil.
Tip If the above was done in a frying pan, now transfer all of the contents into a roasting dish that's been heated up in the oven.
Place the roasting dish back in the hot oven and cook for 1 hour until tender, turning the ribs halfway through the cooking time.
Remove the pan from the oven and place back on the hob (or tip the contents back into the large frying pan). Heat the marinade and reduce for 8-10 minutes until the sauce is thick and syrupy. Turn the ribs in the sauce to ensure they're fully coated. Serve - with napkins.
If you can't quite manage that amount of protein in one hit, leave any remaining ribs sitting in their sticky marinade for a day or two which will help develop their flavour. When you come to finish them off, give them about 20 minutes in a hot oven to ensure they're well heated through.
These rich ribs work very well with some fresh spring rolls; how we ate them and the next post to be added - watch this space.