Chocolate BBQ sauce, he said.
It’s not as weird as you think. Think of Mole Sauce, that extremely enchanting, glossy Mexican sauce built around chillies and chocolate that lift enchiladas to a whole other level.
Think about it and it makes TOTAL sense. Dark chocolate – and I mean GOOD dark chocolate – is not sweet. It’s strong, gutsy, almost salty. There is nothing indulgently sweet about it. And good, strong cocoa powder is basically a spice, like a mild and less woody cumin.
So the fact I’ve thrown it into a BBQ Rib recipe is not be a million miles from the Mole inspiration. However I must say I did not throw it in sloppily for blogger pretension, but it was actually an evolution of a recipe I’ve had in my armoury for quite some time.
I was reading about meat rubs (please guys… save the smut… I’m nearly 30 now……. giggidy….) and so many of the rubs had elements of sweetness. I have my own Brown Sugar Rub which I am immensely proud of and have used on many different things (try it on bacon… game changer…) but I started to realise that a lot of good rub recipes were using a mixture of smokiness and sweetness to build their flavour.
So I wondered what would happen if I brought some cocoa into the mix.
Cocoa has a nutty, malty note to it that borders on the savoury but the fact it has a fruity smokiness to it means that to me, it is actually the perfect spice for when you are trying to build a deep, treacly experience. I knew I had to go with cocoa.
Sure the cocoa is then fully rounded out with some other rub ingredients that build up an intense, complex flavour on the ribs but I went one step further and created a gutsy, full bodied BBQ sauce that is also spiked with a cocoa. You could skip this part if you REALLY wanted… but I say don’t… in for a penny, in for a pound.
I’ve thrown chocolate cubes in many a savoury ingredient (one of my favourites being my Black Bean & Chocolate Chili which I am so proud of) but this sauce is something to bestow. It’s confusing because the sauce itself is conker glossy and a deep, soulful chocolate colour and because you’re actually adding a few chocolate pieces… your mind tricks you into thinking it’s actually a CHOCOLATE sauce.
But one taste of this will tell you that it is nothing but a thick, deeply savoury, smoky BBQ sauce that has the slightest whiff of cocoa to it.
This recipe confounds me. There is nothing I like more than food I can eat with my hands so this recipe brings me intense joy, as I hope it will for you.
Preheat the oven to 180c and line a big baking tray with foil.
Get yourself some pork ribs and we’re going to get some rub on them. I don’t take the ribs out of the packet I bought them in for this bit, I just rub them in the box!
Throw in a sprinkle of salt and pepper, half a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of garlic powder, half a teaspoon of ground cardamom and a teaspoon of cocoa powder.
Using your hands, rub the spices into the ribs until they are all coated.
Place the ribs on the baking tray, each rib as spaced apart as you can as this will help to crisp up and caramelise the ribs.
Slip these in the oven for an hour… but we have some saucing to do.
In a large saucepan, combine 200g of soft, dark sugar with 150ml of ginger beer.
Add two tablespoons of soy sauce, two tablespoons of garish American yellow mustard, two tablespoons of red ketchup and mix together with a whisk.
But on a medium heat and whisk until everything is bubbling. Don’t leave the stove though… the ginger beer will bubble up ferociously if you leave it unattended.
Now chuck in three squares of dark, dark chocolate and stir to melt in.
Keep it bubbling but if it starts to get slightly unruly, just take it off the heat until it settles and put back on the heat.
When the ribs have had 30 minutes, take them out of the oven, turn them over and put in for another 15.
After their 15 mins (that’s now 45 in total) take them out of the oven and carefully pour over 3/4 of the BBQ sauce, reserving a small bit in the pan still.
Using tongs, gently rummage around the ribs so that they’re all coated in the sauce before putting back in the oven.
Now put your sauce back on the hob on a high heat and keep it bubbling, stirring as you go, to reduce it down to a thicker, sticky sauce.
Once the ribs have had another 15 minutes i.e. a full hour, take them out of the oven and plate them up, pouring over the glossy chocolate BBQ sauce as a final smearing.
Serve alongside ANYTHING because God damn, they’re amazing but I went with a light green salad (lol) and a few small baked potatoes.
Would also be good alongside some plain rice and some braised red cabbage.
But you could go gung-ho, surrender to the good Gods and have it alongside some Macaroni Cheese and a beer.
I know I have.