FACTOID: short ribs are the back of the ribcage, near the flank and sirloin bits, and the meat is on top of the bones. Back ribs – rather confusingly – are from the front end near the tasty rib-eye stuff, and the meat is between the bones. There’s a higher bone to beef ratio with back ribs but they’re subsequently cheaper - the racks below were £3 each from Ginger Pig in Hackney - and, with all that lovely fat, have bags of flavour. Nose to tail kids, nose to tail.
Serves two very hungry people (or one slightly less hungry person four times)
For the ribs
2 racks of beef ‘spare’ ribs
2 red peppers, roughly sliced
15 shallots, peeled
2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic
The stems from a bunch of coriander
1kg vine tomatoes – you can go for fairly big ones, they don’t need to be tiny – cut in half
1 scotch bonnet chilli
2l beef stock
A massive, massive cooking pot, suitable for the oven
Spices and stuff
2 chipotle chillies
3tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
2tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp turmeric
3 star anise
6 bay leaves
3tsp sea salt
1tsp ground black pepper
To finish the sauce
Large bunch of coriander
1 scotch bonnet chilli – without or without seeds as is your preference, I included them
2tsp caster sugar
Juice of 2 limes
Heat the oven to 150 degrees C / gas mark 2.
Chop the racks in half by following the edge of one of the central bones with your knife.
Split the chipotles in half and flatten them before tipping them seeds and all into a hot, dry frying pan. Toast for a couple of minutes – be sure to stick your nose above the pan and inhale the deliciously evocative smoky pepper smells – then remove from the pan.
Add a massive glug of olive oil to your massive, massive cooking pot, and gently cook the peppers, shallots, celery, carrots, garlic and coriander stems until they start to soften and smell sweet. Chuck in the spices and stuff, and cook for a further ten minutes. This bit also smells ace.
FACTOID: turmeric isn't really used for flavor – it tastes a bit gross – but is an excellent coagulant so keeps meat all moist and juicy, thus its prevalence in slow cooking and BBQ dishes.
Add the tomatoes to the pot, and leave them to get a bit squishy for ten or so minutes.
Add the stock along with 1 scotch bonnet chilli, then add the ribs, maneuvering the contents of the pot so that everything sits obediently just below the surface (you might need a smidge more liquid).
Butter rice is essentially just an excuse to add even more butter to life. Rice is THE best carb and no one will convince me otherwise, and forcing it to absorb delicious, delicious butter is adds a subtle but welcome layer of additional food sexy. You can cook this between 30 minutes and an hour before you want to serve - it'll stay nice and hot.
Put a pan of water onto boil and rinse the rice under cold running water for a couple of minutes. Add the salt to the water, then add the rice. Give it s stir, let the rice sink for a couple of seconds and pour off all but 2cm of the water. Add the butter, stir again before putting a lid on the pan and turning the heat down to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes then turn off the heat. DO NOT lift the lid or it’ll go all wrong. Just leave it alone until you serve, okay?
Back to the ribs
When the braising time is up, carefully remove the ribs from the pot. Skim the fat from the liquid, then boil rapidly and reduce by 1/3 - this took around 15 minutes. Add the sugar and scotch bonnet, blitz the lot, and pass through a seive. Add the coriander and lime juice, blitz again and taste - I added a fair amount of salt at this point. You'll have LOADS of sauce, but it's okay - it doubles as a spicy soup, or can be frozen in batches for future times.
Heat the grill as high as it’ll go – this would be FABULOUS on the BBQ but alack! I don’t own one – baste the ribs with the skimmed-off fat and sprinkle with salt. Stick them under the grill for a couple of minutes each side, until the fat sizzles and they’re nicely browned. Serve them with the butter rice, sauce and - if you can be bothered – some guacamole.