Monday, 22 November 2010

Caveman Cooking - BBQ Ribs

No matter how much I love the aubergine, and many other vegetables for that matter, I am no vegetarian and I do love meat. I was vegetarian once; as a teenager. My mother fed me pilchards and TVP (textured vegetable protein - which tastes as bad, if not worse, than it sounds). Needless to say, I only lasted a year and my veggie spell was broken by some cheap beef burgers at a friend's birthday party. I think we were watching Evil Dead 2 at the time, so perhaps not the best movie to accompany my first bit of meat in 12 months, but it still went down well!

So caveman cooking. Is there anything more 'cavemanish' than BBQ Ribs? The BBQ has always been the man's job hasn't it? I think it's the fire that interests them. Certainly my husband will show far more excitement at the prospect of grilling a burger over some smoking charcoal than just shoving it under the grill. Maybe the obligatory BBQ beer also helps!

Unfortunately, Britain in November is chuffing cold so a BBQ was out of the question on this occasion so I had to make do with oven baked ribs instead. Of course, I got them from the market. 1.5kg for less than a fiver. Can't complain. The butcher even chopped them up for me; although later I wish he hadn't!

There's plenty of recipes out there for ribs, and of course, I didn't need to stick to BBQ. Chinese ribs are also pretty good. But, after checking out a few recipes, and following the method in this ehow article, I devised my plan.......

1.5kg pork ribs
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp hot chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 garlic clove - diced
Jar BBQ sauce - 300mls or so

Apparently, before cooking ribs, you should peel a membrane sheet from them before cooking. Here is a helpful video showing you how to do it; something I wish I had watched before buying the ribs as mine were already chopped. I spent a good half hour or so peeling the membrane from each individual rib! Next time, I'll either ask the butcher to do that pre-chopping, or just buy them as a sheet. Whether you chop them before cooking or not will depend on how you wish to serve them. You might want to slice them into chunks of, say, five ribs so that you can serve a mini rack of ribs on each plate.

That done, the next step is to prepare a rub.  I was inspired by this rub for pork chops and used black pepper, paprika, hot chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, caster sugar and a garlic glove. I have also seen recipes using brown sugar and cumin so I think that the combination is something to experiment with. I rubbed the spices onto the ribs and just left them in a big bowl, covered with cling film, in the fridge for a few hours; overnight would have been better, but I wasn't so prepared this time! If you're keeping the ribs in their sheet form then I'd put them into a dish and cover, or maybe just wrap in kitchen foil. Apparently the garlic and salt in the rub helps to tenderise the meat so the longer you can leave them, the better.

When you're ready to cook, take a baking tray and line in tin foil - this just helps keep the tray clean and saves on some serious scrubbing later! Place the ribs in the tray;  I had just enough room to squeeze them in without any overlap. Then pour over the BBQ sauce. Now this is where I let myself down, not only did I use a shop bought sauce, it was a simple one from Aldi.  Don't get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the sauce as such, but I should have made my own! There are so many recipes for BBQ sauce out there, and the majority of them seem to be based on ketchup, sugar, garlic, onion, mustard and soy sauce. No difficult ingredients so no excuse for me not to make my own next time!

BBQ Ribs

You don't need to completely cover the ribs, just make sure that a bit of sauce covers each one. Then cover with foil and place in an oven at 140c for 2-3 hours. Unfortunately the low temperature works well for the ribs, but not really for any accompaniments. 140c is far too cold for baked potatoes or chips; either of which would have worked perfectly with the ribs. I tried mash, but as I use a recipe where you bake the potatoes first (something I am sure that I have taken from the God Heston Blumenthal, but I can't find anything on the net to link the recipe), the potatoes didn't cook fully in the 3 hours (I really did think that 2-3 hours in the oven would have at least cooked the potatoes, if not actually baked them). So the mash was a disappointment as there was the odd raw lump of potato here and there. Maybe I'll make it earlier and heat it up in the microwave next time, or a cold potato salad could work well.

So, 2-3 hours later the ribs should be tender. Start checking after 2 hours. As soon as you're happy, take the ribs out of the baking tray, pour the juices from the tray into a saucepan and heat to thicken. In the meantime, put the ribs back in the tray and into the oven, uncovered (still at 140c). Once the sauce has thickened, and it will need to bubble away for 10 minutes or so to thicken properly, pour it back over the ribs. Switch the oven to a medium grill and let the ribs brown off, again uncovered, under the grill for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through. Then serve with salad and some form (!) of potato.

I made this for 4 and there was plenty. Gavin, the husband, had left overs for his lunch today too. Everyone seemed to enjoy, despite the disappointing mash, and the dish really did bring out the carnivorous side of another former vegetarian who happily crunched away on the cartilage! Overall, the dish was a success, and one I will repeat!

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