I have a dilemma: I like slow-cooked food, I like to cook whenever I can, but I seldom have more than half an hour after getting home before I’m so hungry I can’t wait any longer. My favourite way to get around this problem is to prepare the slow-cooked stuff in several separate stages. Pork ribs (spare ribs) adjust well to this approach, benefiting from a three stage process:
- Marinade – flavour the meat
- Braise – cook with liquid to dissolve the collagen into gelatin, and make the meat tender
- Glaze – caramelise the meat and create a sticky glaze
There are two ways you can go with ribs (although many would disagree and say there are many more than that): Chinese-influenced or American-influenced. My most recent attempt saw me take the Chinese route, following a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s “Forever Summer”. To adapt this to a different flavour, simply play with the spices and liquid in the marinade. You can also make the marinade a ‘dry rub’, by tossing the ribs in spices and salt, and then adding liquid just before braising.
- 16 pork spare ribs (around 1.5kg)
- 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
- 5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- 2 star anise
- 1 stick cinnamon, broken in 2
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 4 spring onions, roughly chopped
Divide the ribs between 2 large freezer bags. Mix together all the marinade ingredients, and divide between the bags. Seal up the freezer bags and squish everything around. Put into a container and leave in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
The next evening, empty the bags into one or two roasting tins – give them enough room to sit in one layer. Cover and seal with foil – you want to keep the steam in. Heat the oven to 180C, and cook for 1 and a half hours. Allow to cool before putting in the fridge.
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp five-spice powder (see note)
On the third evening, put the ribs, uncovered, back into a cold oven and heat to 200C. After 10 minutes, remove the ribs and gently toss in the honey and five-spice. Glaze for 30 minutes, turning once. Sprinkle with finely chopped spring onions and chillies to serve.
Note: I didn’t have any five spice powder when I made this, so left it out. I have since looked it up and found that I could have made it myself with my spices-only coffee grinder. To make it, toast and then grind together: 2 tbsp peppercorns (Szechuan, or substitute black), 2 tbsp whole cloves, 2 tbsp fennel seed, 2 cinnamon sticks and 6 whole star anise.
Who doesn’t like slow-cooked food? You just whack it on, and forget about it. Until the burning smell wakes you from your siesta.