Dig into delicious ribs

Sat, Mar 3, 2012, 00:00

Recommending a restaurant can be hazardous, but so far, Hawksmoor in London has not disappointed, so I can safely try out their famous rib recipe – leaving room to chop and change some ingredients, writes DOMINI KEMP

IT’S A GREAT feeling when you recommend one of your favourite restaurants to a friend and find they mirror those feelings right back at you after their own successful journey down some culinary lane. An esoteric bond is duly created that is then nurtured by endless conversations about this dish and that, the decor, the lovely waitress, the cool music . . . You can share, swap and reminisce, licking your lips whilst remembering each glorious bite.

Conversely, when it all goes horribly wrong, one can suddenly feel like a fool, with no taste and a dodgy sense of judgment. This is all compounded by the fact that if you work in the industry, there is a perfectly understandable expectation that you should be “in the know”.

Luckily, I have recommended London restaurant Hawksmoor in Covent Garden to several people at this stage, and all have come back smiling and grateful. I’ve even received a few gushing texts mid-bite, which is a true sign of gratitude. The recommendations have been made to Michelin star chefs right the way down to, well, basically anyone who asks – except vegetarians, as Hawksmoor is a carnivorous place and, despite taking their side orders quite seriously, this is no place for people who don’t eat meat.

I haven’t had one negative report back yet, so I felt justified buying the restaurant’s book (Hawksmoor at Home) and testing out their famous rib recipe, which was full of wonderful combinations of herbs and spices. The list of ingredients can seem a bit endless, but most of them you’ll find in your cupboards and, to be honest, swapping this for that won’t make much difference.

The book recommends using pork belly ribs, which are quite fatty so do need a huge amount of time to render down. You can get “spare” or “baby back ribs”, as the Americans would say, but they’re a bit leaner or meaner. Anyway, ask your butcher to cut the ribs into individual ones as this means more of the surface gets coated in unctuous marinade, which is what sells these guys.

Both recipes serve 8-10, because if you’re going to the trouble of making this marinade, then it’s worth doing for a large gathering. Get someone else to bring over the salad and hey presto: a grand party feast to enjoy.

Don’t get too hung up if you’re missing stuff: I added plenty of ground black pepper after roasting the spices, as I didn’t have any whole peppercorns. Likewise, I used regular Tabasco and a spoonful of sweet smoked paprika instead of the smoked Tabasco sauce, which seems to be new to the market. Honey instead of maple syrup . . . the list of things to swap goes on and on.

The accompanying rainbow salad is a hybrid of bright colours and strong, bitter flavours, a perfect backdrop against the fatty and succulent pork. It would also be lovely with some grilled salmon which could stand up to its mustardy dressing.

Delicious ribs

Serves 8-10