Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs (includes Instant Pot Pressure Cooker method)

Who doesn't love a sticky spare rib from the BBQ, with tender, slightly charred meat that falls off the bone?

Well, there's definitely a knack to it! I've not always been a fan of spare ribs, having been given my fair share of over-cooked ribs with dried out, 'cottony' textured meat clinging stubbornly to the bones, and therefore it wasn't something I chose to cook very often. However, there came a point where I learnt that the secret to cooking *really* good spare ribs on the BBQ (or indeed under the grill) was all in the pre-cooking - low and slow (or the equivalent in the pressure cooker, as I have now discovered!) to ensure tender and succulent meat, which just needed a quick spell to give that characteristic, caramelized deliciousness on the outside.

Not only will this recipe give you delicious ribs, you also get an incredibly tasty Thai-influenced sweet and sour sauce to serve alongside - and unlike many sweet and sour sauces, there are no refined sugars, ketchups or artificial ingredients in it, it's all natural! If you're having a BBQ, it's easy to prepare these ahead, and then just warm the sauce through when you're ready to go.

1kg spare ribs will serve four to six people as a starter, or as a main with another dish of similar proportions (e.g. with one quantity of my Sticky Sichuan Chilli Chicken Wings - recipe here).

Calories: For those counting, a quarter of the ribs (served with sauce) is approximately 593 calories, and a sixth is 395 calories. [Calories shown in square brackets]


  • 1kg pork ribs (cut into singles, or small portions) [1,670 calories]
  • 3 shallots, or 1 small red onion [21]
  • 4 garlic cloves [24]
  • Large knob ginger (2-3inches) [7]
  • 2 large red chillies [12]
  • 1 tbsp oil [124]
Sauce ingredients
  • 150g/ml pineapple juice [75]
  • 100g/ml light soy sauce (or tamari, if gluten free) [52]
  • 100g/ml rice vinegar (or you could use apple cider vinegar) [15]
  • 80g honey [261]
  • 75g tomato puree [75]
  • 50g/ml lime juice [11]
  • 2 x 15ml tbsp fish sauce (nam pla) [14]
To garnish (optional)
  • 2-3 spring onions (scallions), sliced on the diagonal, thinly [7]
  • Fresh coriander [2]
Useful equipment
If you're cooking these on the BBQ, life is a lot easier if you put them all into one of those large grilling 'baskets' with a long handle (the rectangular ones, which secure the food in between two wire racks with a clip), so you can turn them all over in one go!

1) Mix together all of the sauce ingredients (I find it easiest to just weigh each one in to a jug sitting on some scales, and zero the scales each time, to save on pots).

2) Finely chop the shallots or onion and set aside. Crush the garlic, peel and finely grate the ginger and deseed (unless you want it hot!) and finely chop the chillies.

3) (Instant pot: Set to 'saute' on high/more) In a pressure cooker, or large oven-proof dish saute the shallots or onion in the oil for a few minutes until softened, then add the garlic, ginger and chillies and cook for another couple of minutes until fragrant.

4) Add the sauce ingredients and ribs, give a stir and then...
Pressure cook: Bring to pressure then cook on high pressure for 20-25 minutes depending on size/thickness of ribs (Instant Pot: Put lid on 'Sealing', press 'Manual', then reduce the time to 20-25 minutes depending on thickness of ribs). Natural release.
Oven or hob cook: Bring to a simmer, then place a lid on (or cover with foil) and simmer for about an hour and a half, or put in a low oven at gas mark 3 / 160C / 140C fan, until just tender.

5) Separate the ribs from the juices and set aside. Skim any excess fat off the top of the juices, then reduce the juices over a relatively high heat (Instant Pot: Simmer on saute, 'more') for around 10-15 minutes, or until reduced to a tasty sauce (you will have somewhere under 500ml, once reduced).

6) Reserve the majority of the sauce to serve alongside the ribs, and use a small bowl for basting the ribs before BBQing (or grilling / broiling) until slightly charred. Give them another brush with the sauce before serving for a lovely sticky glaze, then sprinkle with sliced spring onions, and coriander if desired!

If you don't want to BBQ or grill the ribs after cooking them, you could brown the ribs in the pan before cooking in the sauce, remove once tender and keep warm, then reduce the sauce and serve together.

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