Until very recently, trying to buy beef short ribs in the UK would elicit a puzzled look from your butcher, even if you asked for them by their English name of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. An explosion in the number of barbecue joints has helped to build interest in traditional American barbecued and smoked dishes such as this. You can now find ready-to-eat versions in most supermarkets and you’re less likely to be met with a butcher’s quizzically raised eyebrow.

Short ribs are beef spare ribs with the bones cut to about 15 – 20cm in length. They need long, slow cooking to ensure that they are meltingly tender, but both the ribs and the sauce can be made ahead of time and frozen so that when you need them they can be barbecued to smoky, glazed perfection.

Barbecue Short Ribs

  • For the short ribs
  • 6 beef short ribs with plenty of meat attached, about 3 kg in all
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 2 onions
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 parsnip
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • Water
  • Salt
  • For the barbecue sauce
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 red Thai chillies, finely chopped (add more or less to suit your taste)
  • 400 g passata
  • 100 ml ketchup
  • 150 ml corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons of muscovado sugar
  • 75 ml blackstrap molasses
  • 50 ml dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of hoi sin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey
  • 3 teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 100 ml cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke
  • 2 beef stock cubes, dissolved in 200 ml of hot water
  • 300 ml pale ale
  • 40 g dark chocolate
  • 50 ml bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil

To make the ribs

  • Put the ribs into a stock pan and cover with cold water to a depth of about 5cm. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  • Skim off any scum until it stops rising.
  • Add all of the vegetables and 2 tablespoons of salt. Put the lid on the pan.
  • Allow to simmer gently for about 3 hours.
  • Allow the pan to cool and carefully remove the ribs. They can be frozen at this point.
  • Strain and freeze the broth as a base for soups or sauces.

To make the barbecue sauce

  • Fry the chopped onion, garlic and chilli in 2 tablespoons of oil until they have softened. Add the paprika and cumin.
  • Add the ale and wait for the bubbles to disappear.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the bourbon, and simmer gently for 20 – 30 minutes.
  • Leave the sauce to cool then add the bourbon.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / gas mark 4.
  • Arrange the ribs in a roasting tin, coat with half of the sauce.
  • Cover with two layers of tinfoil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the tinfoil, turn the ribs, baste them with the sauce, replace the tinfoil and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until hot and sticky.
  • These ribs can be served as they are or barbecued to give them a smoky char. Baste them with the sauce as they grill.
  • Serve with saffron corn mash, coleslaw and extra barbecue sauce.

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