I’ve had a particularly spooksome week:
(Who knew that crazy ballerinas with lesbian-tenancies could be so malevolent and terrifying?)
(Just sheer, skin-crawling, insidious creeps. I’ve only just started to sleep through the night again. Without the light on. Actual fact.)
Let’s not even venture near the bizarro-world that is my private life this week. That is a oddball vortex that I don’t wish upon anyone.
When it came time to make my third of my food challenges, I was confronted with more nightmare territory: butchering up ribs. It went a bit 127 Hours for a brief time in my kitchen, I can tell you that readers.
Had I been more organised and less blindly optimistic, I would have realised that my lack of a cleaver and my puny lady-sized upper-arm strength would be massively inadequate for snapping pork ribs into dinky 5cm bits. But being the blind optimist that I am, the silver lining of this whole sorry tale is that I have learnt that raw bone marrow is not a pretty thing to look at. So, leaving my ribs uncleaved, I soldiered on (slightly dubiously) with Leon’s braised pork rigatoni recipe.
Despite the long cooking time (definitely not weekday dinner territory) and the trauma with the aborted cleaving attempt, I can tell you that this is worth it. This will change how you think about pasta and already, it feels like any other pasta dish will fall short of the benchmark that this has now set.
You start with pork ribs, paprika, oil and garlic and an excuse to use a Le Creuset casserole dish (should you be lucky enough to own one). Slow roast your ribs so that the meat is browned and crisped on the outside and sizzling with the heat of the paprika. Add in stock and tinned tomatoes until the meat is so meltingly tender that it falls off the bone. Finally, the coup de grace – dried pasta added just before the end, so that it soaks up the rich and silky sauce resulting from the tomatoes, stock and meat juices simmering down.
What you have when you finally remove your dish from the oven is pure comfort. It’s the kind of food that you daren’t eat whilst wearing white and that you will definitely and surreptitiously pick at every time you wander back into the kitchen. It’s not much to look at, I admit but I fell upon this like an arid traveller upon an oasis and I’m not sure how much of it was to do with the spicy waft emanating tantalisingly from my oven for hours or just my general greed. Know this, I am a girl who rarely eats things without a side salad, vegetables or accompaniments of some sort. I ate this in bowlfuls, on its own, in silent raptures and didn’t think once of how it would be better with a crisp side salad. That’s how good this is.
Note: The aubergine obsessive in me will throw meaningful glances at you for your go at this recipe because, well, I cannot think of anything that cannot be enhanced by the presence of aubergine. You know that silkiness that comes with adding aubergines into curries and stews? And that Baba-Ganoush-smokiness from a roasted aubergine? That right there, is why you should add aubergine to this.