Five Spice Rib Ragu


ast night we had the pleasure of cooking for some family friends who can always be relied upon to offer up a humble and sincere appreciation for food which makes them ideal guests. Not only am I not usually one for trying out a new dish for the first time at a dinner party but I often wonder why people do decide to venture into the unknown with pressure of for hungry guests. However, if I was to experiment on anyone for the first time, these guys would be right on my list. With some much needed tweaking in regards to flavour (sorry Nig’) from a recipe from Nigel Slater’s diaries, some added Chinese influence to this recipe turned into a winner.

Serves 6 easily

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 50g butter
  • 4 racks of baby pork ribs (just over 1kg) cut into 3 rib pieces
  • 250g mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 generous handful of dried wild mushrooms
  • 800ml hot beef stock
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 star anise
  • 1tsp five spice paste
  • 1 heaped tbsp flour
  • 1 heaped tbsp softened butter
  • Pappardelle/tagliatelle pasta of choice (enough for 6)
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Being by soaking the dried mushrooms in the hot beef stock for about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large casserole dish with a splash of olive oil and brown the ribs all over to caramelise the outside and release their flavour. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the finely chopped carrots, onions and celery to the dish and cook for about 15 minutes until beginning to soften. Add a touch more oil if needed.
  4. Add the chopped mushrooms and continue to cook until these are soft too.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the wild mushrooms from their soaking liquid and add these to the pan and cook for a few more minutes along with the cinnamon, star anise and the five spice paste. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Return the ribs to the pan and cover the whole thing with the beef stock and bring to the boil.
  7. Now you can either simmer this on the hob, covered, for about 3 hours, or I prefer to pop it into a low oven (135°C.) for about 3 hours or so until the pork is tender and just the slightest touch of the ribs will loosen them enough to pull out the pan by hand.
  8. After the required time, remove and discard the ribs using a pair of forks to leave the tender pork. They should just slide out. Taste and season as required.
  9. Increase the temperature to 200°C and return the ragu to the oven to brown the top, reduce the sauce and let it thicken for about 30 minutes or so. If, after 30 minutes, it still needs to be a little thicker, simmer the pan on the hob. Then, mix the 1 tbsp of plain flour and 1 tbsp of butter together in a small bowl to form a paste and whisk this into the sauce. The flour will thicken the sauce without it going lumpy and the butter will add a nice gloss.
  10. Cook your pasta in lots of salted water while the ragu keeps warm on a low heat. Drain and toss with a little olive oil and seasoning. Serve with a generous helping of ragu and a scattering of parsley.

This was lovely served with a green salad of rocket and watercress, crispy shaved fennel and celery and dressed very gently in lemon juice and good extra virgin olive oil for freshness.

WINE: Pasta with a roasted ragu meat sauce suits nothing better than an Italian red. Try something such as the Agricola Punica, 2013 Montessu from Sardinia available at Armit Wines

Jess - Montessu