The butcher had a glorious row of pork ribs the other day – a long rectangle of meat with everything I could ask for: neatly scored skin to puff and crackle in the oven; bones to gnaw and plenty of fat in which to roast a few potatoes.
The cut is merciful in price in comparison to loin and leg, and eats just as well cold, with crystals of sea salt and ribbons of pickled cabbage at its side.
I made a loose paste of garlic, soy, Chinese five spice and chilli flakes, brushing it over the fat and down into the cut edges of the meat. The paste darkens and caramelises in the base of the roasting tin. Let it down with a splash of water, wine or stock, giving you juices to trickle over the meat. You can add a handful of partially boiled potatoes to the tin to roast in the juices.
The fat is both sweet and savoury, and comes to life with a sharp salsa. I used peaches, turning them with crisp cherry tomatoes and lime juice as sharp as a pin. Oh, and a squeeze from the sriracha bottle to add depth and heat.
If decent peaches prove to be elusive, you could use slices of orange or grapefruit instead.
There are many bunches of grapes around at the moment, some of them the sweet and honeyed muscat. I put a couple of bunches in the oven, sprinkled with sugar, then upended a small glass of brandy over them. Half an hour later they emerged wrinkled as black olives, surrounded by an intense inky moat of juice, which we ate first with a spoon then mopping it up with our fingers.
Roast pork, peach salsa
Ask the butcher to score the skin for you. If you prefer to do it yourself, a Stanley knife is better than even the sharpest of cook’s knives. Serves 4
Pork ribs 1.5kg
For the rub:
garlic 4 cloves
light soy sauce 3 tbsp
groundnut oil 2 tbsp
salt 2 tsp
dried chilli flakes 1 tsp
Chinese five spice powder 1½ lightly heaped tsp
For the peach salsa:
spring onions 2, small
red chilli 1, medium hot
cherry tomatoes 8
coriander a small bunch
limes juice of 3
mint leaves 6g, stems removed
sriracha 2-3 tsp
Put the pork, skin side up in a china, stainless-steel or glass dish. Peel the garlic and crush the cloves to a smooth paste using a pestle and mortar. Stir in the soy sauce, groundnut oil, salt, chilli flakes and five spice powder and spread it all over the skin of the pork.
Set the pork aside for an hour in a cool, airy room or leave overnight in the fridge (remove from the fridge a good hour before cooking).
Set the oven at 220C/gas mark 7. Place the pork in a roasting tin, then cook, skin-side up, for about 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 200C/gas mark 6 and continue cooking for 40-50 minutes, until the skin is dark and lightly puffed.
Remove the pork from the oven and leave it to settle for at least 15 minutes.
Make the salsa: trim and finely chop the spring onions and put them into a mixing bowl. Finely chop the chilli, removing the seeds if you wish. Peel, stone and finely dice the peaches, then finely dice the tomatoes and coriander and add them to the spring onion. Squeeze the limes and stir in most of the juice. Add the mint leaves, roughly chopped, along with 2 tsp of the sriracha.
Stir the salad and dressing together with a little salt, then taste and, if you wish, add more lime juice, salt and sriracha.
Carve the pork and its ribs into thick slices and serve with salsa.
Black grapes roast beautifully, sending rivulets of juice into the sugar and brandy to make a blissful purple juice. Muscat grapes of any colour are wonderful roasted, if you can bear not eating them like sweeties straight from the vine. By all means halve and seed them if you have a mind to.
I’m unconvinced that roasted grapes need any accompaniment, but vanilla ice-cream will bring a little luxury to the party.
You can also roast tiny apricots this way, too. Slice each fruit in half, remove the stone and place the apricots in a roasting dish. Sprinkle over the sugar and brandy and bake for 35-40 minutes at 180C/gas mark 4 until the fruit is soft and the sugar and brandy have caramelised.
It’s a contender for an accompaniment to thick, strained yoghurt – the sort you can stand your spoon up in.
dark grapes 450g
caster sugar 3 tbsp
brandy 2 tbsp
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Pull the grapes from their stalks and put them in a roasting tin or baking dish. Should you have the time, halve each grape and remove the pips.
Sprinkle the grapes with sugar and then add the brandy.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the grapes have wrinkled and their juices have mixed with the melted sugar and brandy. Serve on their own, or as sauce for vanilla ice-cream.