Cook this week

Spicy chocolate-rubbed ribs.
Who would have thought? ... Cocoa cooked with pork spare ribs. Photo: Steve Shanahan

The heat is on, so fire up the barbecue, get the picnic rug out and throw those ribs on the grill.

We've had a fairly abstemious Christmas this year in terms of our chocolate indulgence, so in order to keep my levels up, I turn to rubbing my meat in it.

This newfound fascination I have for pork and chocolate really is very seductive and moreish, and the two make a heavenly match. The preparation requires rubbing the spice mixture in, so be prepared to get down and dirty with your ribs.

I'm fascinated by the Mexican mole influence of bitter chocolate used in savoury dishes. With the addition of some basic cupboard spices, the ribs turn from mediocre, to tender, melt-in-the-mouth perfection.

After trying a number of different chocolate and spice marinade combinations, I settle on vanilla, spice and a hint of chilli.

If you are a real chocoholic and you want the big flavour, try marinating your ribs in the chocolate rub for 48 hours in the refrigerator. I used Rich Dark Pure Dutch Cocoa from Essential Ingredient.


Spicy chocolate-rubbed pork ribs

2 racks pork ribs

⅓ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder

½ cup brown sugar (lightly packed)

1 tsp chilli powder

2 tbsp sea salt

1 clove garlic chopped finely

1 tbsp mustard powder

2 tsp ginger powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp vanilla paste

Mix all of the ingredients except the ribs together in a bowl. With clean hands, rub the ribs generously with the spice mixture. If you prefer you can add a little olive oil to the mix to make it stick to the ribs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least overnight.

Remove the ribs from the refrigerator about an hour before cooking - this will allow them to cook more quickly and reduce burning on the outside.

Using a hooded barbecue, place the ribs over a medium heat grill plate, close the hood and roast for about 30 minutes. Open the lid, increase the temperature and roast for about 10 more minutes. Watch they don't burn. Remove from the heat and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

If cooking the ribs in an oven, preheat the oven to 180C and place ribs in a shallow baking pan, cooking for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven. Increase the oven temperature to 200C and return ribs to a wire rack over a baking tray. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the ribs are browned. To serve, cut ribs into individual bones. Serve with salad.

>> Debbie Skelton is a Canberra food writer, debsravingrecipes.blogspot.com