Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cola spare ribs

First published Canberra Times 17 August 2011. Each year, as Canberra approaches the end of winter, we are sent a slightly warmer spell of weather that lulls us into believing that the big chill is coming to an end. It was during this winter hiatus that I fired up the barbecue to cook these jammy ribs.

We are also selling our house and I didn’t want to dirty my clean oven. Given that the weather was only tricking us, it’s looking like some shivery dinners coming up for the next little while for us.

I first tried these pork ribs while we were on holidays last year in Mission Beach, North Queensland, and was surprised to come across them again while we were in France. I’m told they are very popular in France, eaten during the summer months, cooked in the outdoor ovens.

As I am not a big fan of cola, I was pretty sceptical when I found out how these ribs were cooked. With cola’s reputation of stripping paint, cleaning concrete and car engines, I had nasty visions of it eating holes in my stomach. But in saying that, I’ll give most things a go. Because you cook the ribs in the cola liquid, then discard it - probably not worth getting twisted in knots about the whole cola thing.

The ribs are pre-cooked in a cola, cinnamon and star anise liquid. It’s not surprising that this trio of flavours matches the pork perfectly. I also added a knob of ginger and some black pepper and a small amount of orange juice to give only a slight sweetness without being overly cloying.

They need to be prepared in advance, so make plenty of extras. They will keep cooked in the fridge for a few days, ready to reheat when you get home from work. I teemed this with a crunchy noodle salad that cuts through the sweetness of the pork nicely. This is great picnic or watching the footy food. The ribs are best eaten with your fingers with lots of paper serviettes at the ready.

2kg pork spare ribs
1.5 litres of cola
4 star anise
½ cup of orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
small knob of ginger
cracked black pepper

Marinade1 small glass of sherry
2 tbsp of honey
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
few drops of sesame oil
½ cup of tomato sauce
juice of ½ lemon
2 fresh or dried chillies

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the pork ribs, with the cola, star anise, black pepper, salt, orange juice and cinnamon in a large, deep, ovenproof casserole dish over medium heat. Bring to the boil. Transfer dish to the oven for about 2 hours or until the pork is tender when tested with a knife. Remove pork to a plate and cool slightly. Discard the cola liquid.

If any of the ribs have curled up, make a short slit with a sharp knife in between the ribs and they will flatten out.

To make the marinade, whisk ingredients together in a bowl. Place the pork ribs in a large ceramic or glass dish, and pour the marinade over. Cover pork with plastic wrap, and set aside in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat a covered barbecue to medium heat. Cook the pork spare ribs with the cover down for 10 to15 minutes, basting during cooking with the marinade. Photo by Steve Shanahan

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