January is widely held to be the bleakest month of the year, winter still has a long way to run and the mornings are black as night, unlike bank balances which are red. Still, there’s a lot to be said for the start of the year: the days are lengthening, noticeably so by the month’s end, and if you dig a little deeper into the New Year’s resolution culture there’s the opportunity for renewal; space to reflect and plan the year ahead.
If you think of it as time to hole up with good palate reviving comfort food whilst you do your plotting and planning, then it doesn’t seem so bad. And for all those who advocate a dry January – tosh and rot, much better to go the distance on the path of moderation and have two or three dry days every week throughout the year. But whatever you do don’t make your rib ragout day a dry one, this dish’s sumptuous rich flavours are enriched by a good ale.
Rib Ragout with Pappardelle
This is a Nigel Slater recipe that appears in the Kitchen Diaries II and also featured in his series Dish of the Day.
The version here is the Kitchen Diaries one and I’ve included a few of my notes, most importantly, do not use smoked ribs – as I did – or you will end up with an inedibly salty concoction. Having begun again – on another day – I can testify that this dish may not be a looker but it is a winner, plus it pretty much cooks itself giving you plenty of time to ponder the year ahead.
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 large carrots, finely chopped
1kg pork ribs cut into short racks (about 3 bones each)
250g mushrooms, finely chopped
800ml beef stock
a little olive oil
Melt the butter in a large, deep casserole, add a dash of olive oil to prevent the butter burning, add the ribs and brown lightly. Remove the ribs and set aside. Add the vegetables and cook for fifteen minutes or so, stirring from time to time, till slightly softened. Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue cooking for five minutes. Add the stock and bring to the boil, season if using fresh stock, then turn down to a simmer and cook, covered, at a low bubble for a good three hours, stirring from time to time. Check seasoning. Take the lid off for the last half hour.
Bring a pan of water to the boil, salt generously and add the pappardelle. Cook until al dente, then drain. Season with a little olive oil and black pepper.
Whilst the pasta cooks, slide the flesh from the ribs – it should come off effortlessly – and stir through the sauce. Serve with the pappardelle.