The great outdoors: Just let rib

Bonfire Night gives us all a great excuse to eat heart-warming rib stickers like these, says Mark Hix
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Whether you go out to a firework display to celebrate Bonfire Night, or stay in sitting around the fire with hot toddies, it's a good excuse to gather some friends together, give the kids sparklers and make the grown-ups spritzers. It's also a good opportunity to cook some heart-warming food. This year I found myself going to my larder for inspiration. As you can probably guess, I get sent lots of samples of different food, and one of the most adaptable ingredients I have received is Fergus Henderson's Trotter Gear (see recipe, right), which is the ideal base for a warming winter stew. And my Buffalo Trace marinade (see p68) was destined to lacquer some sticky, slow-cooked beef short ribs.

We are now well into the pumpkin and squash season, so a spiced-up pumpkin soup, blended to silkiness, went down a treat at a recent autumn garden party I held at home. A new shelter at the end of the garden offered us the perfect space to stoke up the fire and ply friends with various winter warmers – and it gave the smokers a place to hang out, too.

Trotter Gear with prunes and bacon

Serves 4

Fergus Henderson's "unctuous" Trotter Gear is now on sale at Selfridges and other good food stores (e-mail info@trottergear.com for a list of stockists). The nights are getting cold and Fergus's concoction of slowly cooked pigs' trotters makes a fantastic base for this stew, which gains flavour every time it's re-heated.



1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A good knob of butter
200g chunk of smoked streaky bacon, pancetta, or uncooked ham, cut into rough 1cm chunks
A couple of sprigs of thyme
1 bag (250g) of Trotter Gear
1 litre chicken stock

16 no-soak prunes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper



Gently cook the onion and bacon in the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan for 2-3 minutes until soft, add the Trotter Gear, thyme and stock, bring to the boil and simmer with a lid on for 1 hour or until the bacon is tender. Add the prunes then continue simmering without a lid for about 40 minutes or until the stock has reduced and thickened.

Spiced pumpkin and ginger soup

Serves 4-6

Pumpkins and squashes always benefit from being spiced up a bit and this is a perfect warming soup to serve on Guy Fawkes Night. Pumpkins can be a little overwhelming and their size often deters shoppers from lugging them home unless they are throwing a big party.

Squashes such as butternut and onion squash etc will do an equally good job and take up a lot less room in the shopping basket. You can vary the spices to suit your taste and use anything from cinnamon and cardamom to caraway.



A good knob of butter
1 small leek, roughly chopped and washed
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
30g root ginger, scraped and finely chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
1 small chilli, chopped
A few sprigs of thyme
1kg ripe yellow pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1.5 litres vegetable stock (or a couple of good quality stock cubes dissolved in that amount of boiling water will do)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted



Gently cook the leek, onion, ginger, cumin seeds, chilli and thyme in the butter in a large saucepan until soft. Add the pumpkin and vegetable stock, bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Blend in a liquidiser until smooth, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Re-heat the soup and adjust the consistency with a little vegetable stock or water if necessary and re-season with salt and pepper.



Buffalo Trace barbecued beef short ribs

Serves 4

I'm glad that the fellow who took on my old flat in Shoreditch still gives me inspiration for this column. Stuart Ekins, of Inspirit Brands, often sends me suspicious-looking bottles to play around with, one of these being Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon. Just as a little taster, he also sent through a bottle of Buffalo Trace marinade, and, rather like the Trotter Gear, this seemed like an appropriate moment to put it to good use.

Now, as the actual marinade itself is not that readily available, I'm giving you the recipe here; the bourbon can be found at www.specialitydrinks.com as well as Waitrose, Harvey Nichols and specialist drinks stores.

Barbecue marinades are very much a question of trial and error, and they can be made to your personal taste. This fine bourbon certainly tempted my taste buds, both in and out of the marinade.

Beef short ribs, often referred to as Jacob's ladder in the US, are literally the bones and meat above a rib roast. The meat has that delicious taste of a rib of beef with the right amount of fat that keeps it moist during long cooking.

1-1.5kg beef short ribs, cut to about 12-14cm

500ml Buffalo Trace marinade, or below:



For the marinade

100ml Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon
250ml apple juice
5tbsp soy sauce
The juice of 2 limes
6tbsp clear honey
3tbsp Worcestershire sauce
A few drops of Tabasco
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed



Mix all of the ingredients together for the marinade and mix with the ribs in a non-reactive container, such as a plastic container or a glass or stainless steel bowl. Cover and store in the fridge for 24 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Place the ribs and marinade in a roasting tray with a cup of water (about 250ml) and cook for about 2 hours, basting and turning every so often until the ribs are tender. If the ribs are colouring too much, cover with foil. Take to the bonfire in a covered plastic container or tiffin box, and serve with coleslaw.



Meatballs with butterbeans

Serves 4

Children love meatballs – grown-ups too – but they seem to have disappeared from menus these days; maybe the hamburger has taken over. Meatballs are real comfort food and will easily partner rice, spaghetti, mash or creamed polenta.

Vegetable oil for frying
Flour for dusting

For the sauce

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped oregano leaves
A couple of good knobs of butter
1tbsp flour
A glass of red wine
300ml beef stock
1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g can of butter beans, drained and rinsed



For the meatballs

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tsp chopped thyme leaves
1tsp crushed fennel seeds
1tbsp olive oil
300g coarsely minced pork belly or shoulder with at least 20-30 per cent fat
300g minced veal or beef
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper



For the sauce, gently cook the onion, garlic and thyme in the butter for 2-3 minutes. Add the flour then gradually stir in the red wine and stock to avoid lumps forming. Bring to the boil, add the tomatoes, then simmer for 30 minutes. For the meatballs, gently cook the onion, garlic, thyme and fennel in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes on a low heat; leave to cool. Mix with the other ingredients and season. Make a little tester by moulding a flat patty shape and pan frying for a minute or so on each side. Correct seasoning if necessary. Mould into 24 or so round meatballs and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and cook on a high heat for a few minutes, turning them so they brown evenly. You will probably need to do this in two batches or use two pans. Drain the meatballs on kitchen paper, then add to the sauce with the butter beans and simmer for about 20 minutes. Season the sauce more if necessary and add a little water if it becomes dry. You can store the meatballs for a couple of days in the fridge if you don't want to use them all straight away.

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