There are a few reasons why these smaller baby back ribs (from where the pig’s rib meets the spine) are preferable to both cooking and eating the larger spareribs (from the belly side of the ribcage): they are more tender, often leaner and meartier, and need shorter cooking time. Crucially, though, you still get the very tangible, finger-licking pleasure of ripping the rib pairs apart to get at every morsel of sweet, juicy meat on those bones.
The essential serving suggestion here is something for everyone to wipe their hands on. Maybe even a fingerbowl. These ribs are very sticky and all the better for it.
16 baby back ribs, cut into pairs (approximately 1.7kg)
3 cloves of garlic
11/2 tsp fennel seeds
11/2tbsp lemon thyme leaves
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
Crush the garlic cloves with a good pinch of salt. Turn into a bowl and mix into a paste with the membrillo, fennel seeds, lemon thyme and vinegar. Rub the paste all over the baby back ribs and then sit the ribs in a roasting tin that will take them in one layer. Tuck the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs under.
Cover and set aside for a few hours. (Or leave overnight in the fridge, just do get them out an hour before starting to cook them.)
Preheat the oven to 170C. Pour 150ml water into the tin but avoid pouring it over the ribs or you’ll loosen some of the marinade. Tightly cover with foil and cook for 50 mins until the meat is tender, turning the tin round part way through for even cooking.
Get a large frying pan very hot, lift half the ribs in, pour over a couple of tablespoons of the juices from the roasting tin and quickly sear the ribs so that the marinade caramelises. Repeat with the rest of the ribs. Serve.
(This recipe originally featured for Borough Market.)