Whilst in my late teens, I spent eight months living across the pond. I spent time in various parts of the States and also a few months in Canada. Whilst staying with a wealth of extremely hospitible family and friends (...and friends of friends and brothers of friends of friends etc), I was introduced to all sorts of exciting new flavours all of which I lapped up great pleasure. During those months I developed passions for certain foods that will remain with me until I depart this earth. Peanut butter is one such love. I didn't understand peanut butter until I went Stateside. We just didn't really ever have it at home. I figured that it sounded a bit... wrong. These days I can't actually have peanut butter in the house. I love the stuff so much that I can eat it neat from the jar with such relish that I could finish the pot in one sitting. Dangerous.
Key lime pie is another obsession. I also developed a disturbing addiction to 'Ranch' dressing and maple butter. Perhaps my favourite discovery though was the sheer joy to be had in gnawing on rack of deeply sticky ribs.
I don't really know why it was that I'd never had ribs until I went to the States. Ribs are in plentiful supply over here, of course. But we never had them growing up at home. At school they were never on the menu either. I remember well my first rib experience. I had the lot, in all its sticky, gooey glory. Not just the ribs but also the corn, the 'slaw' (...that's coleslaw to those Brits among us) and even some barbecued baked bean type things. The plateful looked daunting and extremely un-ladylike. I was momentarily unsure how to proceed. I gingerly took my knife and cut into the sticky pork. One bite and there was no looking back. I'd hit the jackpot. Down with the knife and fork, the ribs were in my greedy fingers and banished were all thoughts of being ladylike.
Oddly enough, despite my love of ribs, I'd never cooked them myself. I was sure that I would be unable to perfect the sticky glaze and that I'd be left feeling unsatisfied. It had been playing on mind though, of late, having bookmarked some time ago a post by Wendy about the most perfect sounding plate of ribs. On returning to the post, I realised that I was lacking the key ingredient required to re-create Wendy's dish. I was crushed. I knew that I could get most likely get hickory salt over here (hers came from Peter at Kalfogas, along with the recipe) but I also knew that I couldn't get it in my local shop and that I'd got my heart set on ribs for supper that evening.
In my despair, I turned for comfort to Nigella. She offered the required words of comfort. The words in question were 'oozy' and 'sticky'. I was sold.
The recipe in all its original glory can be found in 'Feast'. My version has a few adjustments as I was cooking for one and didn't have all the ingredients to hand. The final result was spot on - not only were these suitably sticky but the meat was melt-in-the-mouth and the flavour aromatic and satisfyingly spicy.
As for the number of ribs you want to eat - I leave that to you. The marinade is about right for two people.
Rather good ribs
Baby back ribs (approx 300g per person??)
1 star anise
1 small stick cinnamon, broken into shards
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
3 cm piece of fresh ginger, finely sliced
juice and zest 1/2 a lime
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tbsp groundnut oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 tablespoon molasses
60ml pineapple juice
1. Place the ribs in a large freezer bag and then fill up with marinade ingredients. Chop the onion into eight and throw in along with the star anise, cinnamon, chilli, and ginger. Next mix together the lime, soy sauce, oil, molasses and pineapple juice. Pour into the bag. Tie a knot in the bag and squodge the whole lot together. Pop in the fridge for at least two hours or, ideally, overnight.
2. Pre-heat oven to 200C. At same time, remove ribs from fridge to allow to come to room temperature. Pour entire contents of bag into a roasting tin and place in oven for one hour, turning once halfway through.
3. When nicely browned on each side, you are done. Serve with the obligatory 'slaw'. Homemade is obviously preferable.