Barbecue Ribs and Homemade Baked Beans

Barbecue ribs are hardly something new, and I’m not claiming to be doing something unique with them here. But they give me a chance to sing the praises of marinading and slow cooking. Ribs aren’t a cut of meat where you look at them beforehand, inspect them, and imagine they are a prime cut that you are going to get a lot of meat from, but when given time and attention, they can turn into a very worthy meal. If you are not a confident cook, food like ribs, which benefit greatly from marinading and slow cooking, are a great place to start, as they don’t require a lot of effort, you don’t need fancy equipment, and the results will impress if you are cooking for others. All that is required is to rub some spices into the meat the night before, put the meat in the oven at a low temperature, then wait. I’m sure even the least enthusiastic cooks could accomplish that.

Homemade baked beans always seemed the perfect complement to ribs. Almost like a bean hotpot, you get earthy, warm flavours, while bulking up the less-than-filling ribs. Canned baked beans, like Heinz and Branston, are so ingrained in the British culinary landscape- I think I remember QI suggesting that the British consumed over 90% of the world’s baked beans. We almost think of them as an ingredient in themselves- I might make sausages, wedges, and beans, and not give baked beans a second thought as part of the meal. But the homemade version is really worth trying, again very straightforward to make, and will impress guests (and your own stomach).

Barbecue Ribs

I’ve included a recipe for barbecue sauce here, which I have made a handful of times- it’s a real winner. You may not want to make as much sauce as the recipe provides, and this recipe will make a whole load of ribs, but quantities are easily halved. But if you don’t have time to make it, or the resolve, a store-bought sauce will do well too. Similarly, you can use a barbecue spice mix instead of making your own. All recipes here are adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s America.

Spice Rub:
1tsp fennel seeds
2tsp paprika
zest 1 orange
1tsp dried thyme
1tsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic
Barbecue Sauce (makes 500ml):
1 onion
10 cloves garlic
2 chillies
10 sprigs fresh thyme
10 sprigs fresh rosemary
small bunch fresh coriander
10 bay leaves
1tsp cumin seeds
2tbsp fennel seeds
2tsp paprika
6 cloves
zest and juice of 2 oranges
200g soft brown sugar
6tbsp balsamic vinegar
200ml tomato ketchup
2tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2tsp English mustard
200ml apple juice
1tsp sea salt
1tsp ground black pepper
1 quantity barbecue rub
1 quantity barbecue sauce
500ml apple juice
4 racks pork ribs, approx 400g each

1. Make the spice rub. Place all of the spice rub ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
2. Make the barbecue sauce. Finely dice the onion, peel the garlic, and de-stalk and the chillies. Fry in a pan with olive oil until browned. Meanwhile, place the thyme, rosemary, coriander, bay, cumin, fennel, paprika and cloves into a blender and blend until smooth. Toss the spices in with the onion mix and add a little more oil, the orange zest and juice, and the brown sugar. Stir well and boil for a few minutes until the mixture becomes a little thicker. Add in the rest of the ingredients to the pan, and reduce until at the required consistency.
3. Marinade the ribs. The night before, dunk each rack of ribs into a bowl containing the apple juice. Coat the wet ribs with the spice rub- really rub it in to get the flavours into the meat.
4. Cook the ribs. Heat the oven to 130ºC and place the ribs in for around 3 hours. About an hour before you want to eat them, take the ribs out of the oven, coat the ribs in the barbecue sauce, then put back in the oven.

Baked Beans

Serves 6-8. Again, adapted from Jamie’s America.

4 onions
2tsp paprika
2-3 dried chillies
4x400g tins pinto or cannellini beans
2x400g tins chopped tomatoes
4 bay leaves
2tsp dark brown sugar
8 rashers streaky bacon
125g stale bread
100g grated cheddar
1tsp dried rosemary

1. Fry onions and bacon. Roughly dice the onion and fry in a pan with the paprika. Finely slice the chillies and add to the onion. In another pan, cut the bacon into small chunks and and fry until brown.
2. Make breadcrumb mix. In a blender, make breadcrumbs from the stale bread. Add the cheddar and rosemary and mix until homogeneous.
3. Bake the beans. Pre-heat oven to 180ºC. Put everything except the breadcrumb mix into a large casserole. Cook for around 1hr30, then sprinkle the breadcrumb mix on top. Return to the oven and cook for another 45 minutes.


Ras-El-Hanout Lamb Skewers and Cajun Chicken Burgers

Saturdays for me are usually just as busy as other days. Working, sorting out paperwork, sports or social activities- the day always seems to fill itself up. So when I plan a barbecue, like I did this last Saturday, I don’t often have as much time to create interesting food as I would like. Now sure, I could just buy some pre-prepared food- Marks and Spencer do a particularly nice barbecue range- but buying pre-prepared food never feels right to me. As most barbecue recipes are not much more than cooking various meats, I should be able to come up with something quick and easy, but also with a lot of flavour.

Here are two recipes for barbecuing that I have used for a few years: ras-el-hanout lamb skewers and cajun chicken burgers. Ras-el-hanout is a Moroccan spice mix, typically made up of cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chilies, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric. One of the main uses for this spice mix is in the Moroccan dish tagine, traditionally made with lamb, so I’ve also paired the spice mix with lamb to try and bring out a similar flavour profile. The cajun chicken burgers make good use of the blank canvas you get with chicken, and the greek yoghurt and rocket provide contrasting flavours and textures. Both of the recipes get a lot of their flavours from marinating, so you’ll need to prepare the meat a good amount in advance, but preparing the marinades is the most of the effort required in the recipes. These two took me all of fifteen minutes: quick and easy enough for a Saturday morning.

Ras-El-Hanout Lamb Skewers

400g lamb neck fillet
2 tbsp ras-el-hanout spice mix (another Moroccan spice mix will do fine)
100ml olive oil
1 red pepper
2 red onions

1. Chop up the lamb into skewer-sized pieces. Put the lamb into a bowl with the ras-el-hanout and olive oil. Mix well, and leave to marinade for 8 hours or overnight.
2. If you are using wooden skewers, about an hour before you want the skewers, soak them in water. This will prevent them burning on the barbecue and the meat sticking to them.
3. Cut the red pepper and onions into skewer-sized pieces. Put the lamb and pepper pieces onto the wooden skewers.
4. Barbecue until the meat is well cooked.

Cajun Chicken Burgers

Ingredients (for each burger- simply scale up for more burgers):
1 chicken breast
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ciabatta roll
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 handful rocket
1 sandwich bag

1. Put the chicken breast inside the sandwich bag. Use a rolling pin to flatten the chicken breast into a burger shape. Be careful you don’t break the edge of the sandwich bag doing this.
2. Add the paprika, cumin, coriander, and olive oil to the sandwich bag. Rub the spices into the chicken, and leave to marinade for 8 hours or overnight.
3. Barbecue the meat until it is well cooked. Assemble the burger by adding the cooked chicken, Greek yoghurt, and rocket to the ciabatta roll.