I love Autumn. It’s something we don’t get in the same way where I grew up in Sydney. There the trees are mainly evergreens and the weather is great all year round. I mean, I’m not complaining about gorgeous sun and verdant greenery in the middle of Autumn but I love that moment in the UK when leaves start changing colour and the wind has just enough bite to make you feel cosy but not enough to make you feel cold. Autumn also brings a whole range of new ingredients that I love, wild mushrooms, perfectly ripe apples, juicy pears and encourages us to embrace the braise once again. All through the summer months the idea of a long braise in the oven is a total no-go. Houses are hot, appetites low and fresh produce is in plentiful abundance so why on Earth would you consider a long slow braise. But as the air turns cold and light thickens, the warm comforting aromas of an unctuous pot of mellow goodness gladdens my heart. People tend to overlook short ribs but they’re a brilliantly cost effective and totally delicious option. They are actually fantastic grilled like a steak but here I’ve braised them until totally tender with Middle Eastern spices, pomegranate molasses and dates for something that is possibly one of my favourite things that I’ve cooked this year.
To some extent both braises in general and this recipe in particular remind me of my father. A wonderful man, kind and generous, fiercely intelligent and wiser than I’d ever admit to him. However, not the greatest of cooks. Perhaps that isn’t entirely fair, I remember growing up loving his barbecues where in classic Aussie fashion we’d cook everything from steaks to vegetables – it took me a long time to get used to the English idea that barbecues are for burgers and sausages and not much else. However, we didn’t really understand the concept of moderation in cooking. His salads are often combinations that would make the Tudors baulk. Essentially they’d comprise of everything in the fridge that could conceivably be contained in a salad, invariably mixed with tuna, hard boiled eggs and avocado. His stews were similar. Invariably there’d be a surprisingly large amount of fruit inside the stews. Sometimes it worked and other times it didn’t but it never failed to excite when that lid of the pot was opened, the aromas wafted out and you got that first peek at stew surprise. This dish incorporates a number of those fruity elements without going quite so overboard. Flirting between intensely savoury and surprisingly sweet with a hint of warmth and dash of sourness. I guess I like it more because it reminds me of those rare occasions when his stew surprise was surprisingly delicious, but trust me this braised short rib recipe stands on its own two feet without a need for nostalgia.
The core to the dish is the interplay between the sharply fruity pomegranate molasses, the sweetness of dates, the aromatic almost floral notes of orange and honey and the warmth of the Baharat spices. Baharat spice mix is available in UK supermarkets or you can make your own (Here’s how) but if you can’t find it then a mix of cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cardamon and black pepper will go a long way. You really want the gentle warmth that black pepper can provide, not a really harsh spiciness that tingles but rather a slow aftertaste that glows at the back of your throat. I’ve tried making this dish with different honeys and honestly because of the slow cook you can’t really tell the difference. Because of that I tend to use the bog standard honey I’ve got in the pantry rather than any fancy urban honey that I may or may not have recently fallen in love with.
In terms of cooking ahead, this dish is perfect. Like most slow braises it can be cooked up to a week in advance and simply gently reheated and It freezes well. I like to serve it with some couscous or bulgur wheat and a simple orange and gem lettuce salad. I hope you like this recipe as much as I do – if you do then please let me know in the comments or if you want to receive an update on new recipes and tips and tricks then sign up for the newsletter. It’s just at the top of the page on the right if you’re on a desktop and at the bottom if you’re on a phone.
Spiced braised short ribs with dates and honey:
- 4 short ribs on the bone – they come in very different sizes depending on the butchery, but you want ones with a nice layer of meat on them
- 3 carrots, diced
- 2 leeks diced (or large onions)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of Baharat spice
- 1 large orange
- 10 pitted dates, cut into chunks
- 4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Salt and black pepper
- 4 bay leaves
- 500ml light chicken stock
- Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a large glug of olive oil. Sweat the carrots and leeks without colour and season them well with salt and pepper. You want to cook them until just cooked. Transfer them to a roasting tray.
- Mix the pomegranate molasses and honey together. Season the short ribs well with salt and then brush all over with the honey and pomegranate molasses mixture. Cover the short ribs in the Baharat spice mix and add to the tray with the vegetables.
- Remove the zest from the orange with a sharp knife in strips. You want to remove as much of the bitter pith from the zest as possible. This is most easily done by pressing the zest flat against a chopping board and running a knife flat against the zest parallel to the board. Add the zest to the roasting tray. Remove all the pith from the orange and slice into 1-2 cm wide slices. Add those slices to the tray along with the dates and bay leaves.
- Add the chicken stock to the pan, if necessary add a little water but you don’t want too much liquid in the pan. Cover the tray very tightly with a few layers of aluminium foil and place int he preheated oven for 3-4 hours.
- Once the braised short ribs are completely tender, remove from the tray and slice with your knife against the bone to remove the meat. Trim off any little bits of sinew. Skim the fat from the top of the remaining liquid in the tray.
- I prefer to slice the short ribs into 1-2 cm wide slices against the grain. In order to do this, you slice perpendicular to the long side of the rib on the diagonal top to bottom. This will maximise the tenderness of the rib. You may find that your ribs are so well braised that they fall apart – that’s totally fine. Return the meat to the liquid as soon as it’s sliced to prevent it drying out and serve. If cooling for serving later, allow the meat to cool entirely submerged in the liquid.
TimedEating Tips and Tricks for cooking braised short ribs ahead of time:
- The entire dish can be cooked up to a week in advance. It also freezes very well. In order to reheat either from the fridge or once thawed simply place in a saucepan over a gentle heat and warm gently. Don’t boil it or you may make the meat go tough.
- If you’re comfortable cooking over night, you can turn the oven down lower to around 120 celsius and leave it in there whilst you’re asleep. The aroma in the morning is divine
- If you’re cooking this with couscous or bulgur wheat, I quite often cook those a few hours in advance and leave covered at room temperature. You can also make those in advance and chill and simply bring to room temperature to serve.