My mother always loved pork. She wanted a pet pig long before Esther the Wonder Pig became a thing on the internet. She’s 91 and still going strong, so pork looked after her.
And spare ribs? That soft, fatty meaty mouth feel is a gourmand’s dream. Here’s a recipe I’ve been playing with for a long time. As with all our recipes, put your own spin – be our guest. That is the wonderful part of cooking – the mercurial, sometimes perfect moments we create in a kitchen! Crackling? Mmmm mmmm.
1 ½ Kg pork spare ribs (our butcher here has incredibly meaty ones with little bone which are more the Asian style cut)
2 teaspoons sweet or smoked paprika
A small pinch of chilli flakes, or ½ red chilli sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 cups stock
¼ cup red wine
1 chopped brown onion
3 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 apples, coarsely chopped into 4 large pieces each
½ cup tomato puree or passata
1 dessertspoon honey
Okay, here’s the thing: Most recipes will tell you to pretty much throw all this together and stick in a slow cooker or a low oven for hours. Fine for others, but not me. I really don’t like the taste of spices that haven’t been fried off – they can taste bitter and powdery. And I always cook the crackling separately so I get crisp, crunchy crackling every time. Easy!
So first? Cut the rind off each rib, and stretch across a rack on a baking tray, and salt well. Mix the spices together, with a good dose of salt and rub dry into the pork. Let stand for about 30 minutes, then heat a large pan with the oil, and fry the ribs for a few minutes on both sides to cook the spices and release the aromas. Remove them and place in a slow cooker or baking dish.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan, cook gently and add this to the meat. Next, deglaze the pan with the red wine, on high heat, then add the stock, vinegar, tomatoes, honey, mix well and pour over the pork.
Place the apple pieces in and around the dish, add a little water if you prefer a lot of gravy, and cook in a slow cooker on low for 6 – 8 hours, or in a low oven – 120degrees for 4 hours.
Check your rind. It will have water droplets on the skin the salt has pulled out, so wipe them dry, rub with a little oil and salt again. Put them in the oven to dry and crisp. Do not grill – too hot and heavy! And turn the oven on 200 degrees to crisp them up for ten minutes at the end before you serve.
Check the meat. The fat will sit on the top and you can remove with dry bread, patting it on top of the sauce, or skimming with a spoon if you wish. If you like the fat, it will mix rather nicely with the sauce.
Taste before you serve, and adjust the seasoning to suit, if the tomatoes weren’t particularly sweet, a pinch of raw sugar fixes that. Serve with brown rice, for a nice nutty counterpoint, cauliflower puree and stirfried bok choy speak to me, just fry the bok choy in a little oil and lemon juice.
Do you have a favourite rib recipe you’d like to share? Please do!