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

2 tbsp fennel seeds

2 tbsp black peppercorns

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

1 onion, peeled and grated

6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

60ml sunflower oil

60ml apple juice

1 chilli, de-seeded and sliced

60ml maple syrup

60ml smoked Tabasco sauce

3 tbsp English mustard

2 tbsp Maldon sea salt

60ml molasses

125ml ketchup

185g apricot jam

Small jar of anchovies, drained

1 apple, peeled and grated

2 kg pork ribs, cut into single ribs

Dry roast the fennel seeds along with the peppercorn, cumin and coriander seeds. Do this by putting them in a small frying pan over a gentle heat. Shake them about and when starting to give off a good smell, remove from the heat and chuck into a food processor.

Meanwhile, heat the onions, garlic and sunflower oil. Then add the apple juice and let it bubble and simmer away until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add to the spice mix in your food processor. Blend well and then add in the chilli, maple syrup, smoked Tabasco, English mustard, salt, molasses, ketchup, apricot jam and anchovies. Blend until well mixed. Stir in the apple.

Cool this down and when it hits room temperature, spread over the ribs, coating them well. Leave them to marinate overnight if you can.

Preheat an oven to 150 degrees/gas 2. Bake for about four hours, turning them over occasionally and covering loosely with foil if they look like they’re getting burnt in patches.

After about two hours, the marinade can seem to separate. If this happens, just add in a splash of water – about 50ml – and shake it about to emulsify again. Baste as much as possible and by doing this, you’ll whisk the marinade back together again.

When the ribs are well cooked and the meat is very tender, glaze them well and either blast in the oven on 200 degrees/gas 6, until charred and crisp in parts or do this under a grill or barbecue.

Bitter rainbow salad

Serves 8

4 heads chicory, sliced

2 bags radishes

2 oranges, segments

Big bunch chives and coriander, finely chopped

Dressing

2 tsp wholegrain mustard

2 tsp dark brown sugar

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

100 ml olive oil

Juice of 1 orange

Juice of 1 lemon

Black pepper

Mix the mustard, sugar, soy and Worcestershire sauce together. Very slowly, add the olive oil and you’ll find that it will emulsify, as though you were making a runny mayonnaise. Once all the olive oil is added, season with the lemon and orange juice and lots of black pepper. If you’re going to prepare the radishes ahead of time, slice them and then put them into a bowl of cold water with juice of half a lemon to stop them from going brown. Then dry them and toss with the dressing and other ingredients.

DOMINI RECOMMENDS: Best gourmet treat in the city? It has to be the €30 two-course lunch in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. You not only get two sublime courses, but magnificent bread, an amuse bouche and lots of polite, young, French staff attending to your every need. A fantastic experience in one of our finest restaurants.