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‘Proper Black’ Barbecoa braised short beef ribs

I’m quite pathetic when it comes to cooking meat. I just don’t have it in me. Unforutnately neither does Jack – don’t tell him I said that though. The thing is, we just don’t tend to buy it. I’ll happily order a meat dish at a restaurant because I know it’s going to be so much better than my attempts.

But when the email from Barbecoa arrived in my inbox telling me about a fantastic competition called #BBshortrib, I couldn’t resist. All I needed to do was pick five short ribs up from Barbecoa Butchers on Friday 10th February, cook them over the weekend and take them to be re heated at the restaurant on the Monday evening. It all sounded easy.

As usual, I was slightly unprepared with my recipe but I knew I wanted to do something a bit different. I had a feeling that lots of entrants would be BBQing them, or braising them in red wine. So I did something a little different – I braised them in ‘Proper Black’, a delicious dark pale ale from St Austell Brewery in Cornwall. The ale is black as stout and powerful hops dominate the restarained chocolate and coffee notes from the carefully selected roasted malt. This bottle had been sitting in my cupboard waiting to be consumed but rather than drinking, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do something a little different.


During the cooking process, we almost burned down the kitchen, yes really. The pot that we were using cracked and hot oil seeped out onto the extremely hot hob. When we moved the pan away, huge flames exploded. Luckily we slid the pan back over the fire, which restricted the oxygen supply. My boyfriend shouted ‘throw some water over it’ and I screamed noooooooooo. I knew that fire marshal training would come in handy one day… After some googling, we found the best ways to deal with a fire in the kitchen:

1) Throw a damp towel over the flame
2) Cover the flame with baking power
3) Place a lid on top of the burning pan
4) Use a fire extinguisher (yes, I’ll just go and get that from under the stairs then…..!!!)

After we (and the fire) had calmed down, we carried on and produced something utterly delicious. Thick, syrupy and rich, the sauce was to die for. The meat was tender and I was wondering why we don’t cook meals like this very often. Unfortunately we were unable to eat much of it as we had to reserve it for the all important judging the next day but the little bit we tasted whet our appetites!

We were all set on the Monday, Jack was going to bring the ribs with him after work (he works from home) and I was going to meet him there. But disaster struck – at 5pm I still had not heard from him. When my phone went off shortly after, I knew something was wrong. Jack had been in a meeting all day away from home unexpectedly and there was not enough time to go home to pick them up and arrive at Barbecoa on time. The ribs were stranded in the fridge and we had to pull out. Disaster.

I followed the competition on Twitter and was unsurprised to see that most had cooked BBQ short ribs. I wish we could have gone, it looked like a lot of fun. At least we got to enjoy our ribs for dinner that evening and I’ve decided that I’ll be taking a trip back to Barbecoa to explore other cuts and broaden my meaty repertoire.

Proper Black braised Barbecoa short ribs (adapted from David Lebobitz)


5 short ribs
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
350ml Proper Black pale ale
10 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons Chinese or Japanese rice vinegar
50g dark chocolate
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

For the hoisin sauce (makes what is needed for recipe)

4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp molasses or 1 tablespoon honey
2 tsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 garlic clove , finely minced
2 tsp sesame seed oil
1 tsp chinese hot sauce (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


1. Rub the ribs generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large roasting pan and fry the short ribs until each side is very dark
2. Remove the ribs from the pan, then turn off the heat and deglaze the pan with the pale ale. Scrape up the browned bits stuck to the pan with a firm spatula, then stir in the garlic and ginger
3. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C
4. Add the ribs back to the pan and mix in the vinegar, chocolate, and chili powder
5. Cover and let simmer for 3 hours, turning the short ribs a few times while they’re cooking. The ribs are done when they’re fork-tender and falling off the bone.
6. Meanwhile, make the hoisin sauce by mixing all of the ingredients together and whisk until well blended
7. Once ribs have simmered, remove the lid, stir in the hoisin sauce, place in the oven, reduce the heat to 150 degrees C and cook for another 30 minutes

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