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board of grilled meatsIt’s a bank holiday, it’s warm outside, the garden looks lovely, the builders next door are temporarily quiet and the trampoline has arrived and been erected by my handy husband – it must be time for the first barbecue of the year. We are taking inspiration from the Deep South, and having barbecued pork ribs, with a red cabbage and fennel slaw, jersey royal potato salad, buttered corn on the cob and new season British asparagus. For a healthier take on lemonade, we are drinking freshly muddled lime and mint leaves with soda water.

Ten years ago or so in New York browsing in a bookstore in SoHo we picked up Sheila Lukins’ USA Cookbook. We have used this fantastic book so many times for inspiration. It has a great collection of cocktails, as well as being a compendium of every American recipe you can think of.  My husband swears by the recipe for Junior’s Famous Cheescake as being the best cheesecake recipe ever (and we have tried a few). It’s also great for salad dressings, and interesting salads with ingredients that I would never think of combining (but Sheila does sucessfully). And I love the fact she recommends wines or different alcoholic beverages to accompany every recipe (NB she recommends a Merlot to go with ribs detailed below). See if you can get a copy of the book – you won’t regret it. Amazon has new copies for around £20 (USA Cookbook: Sheila Lukins: Books).All the below-detailed recipes serve a family of 4-5, with left-overs.

Sheila Lukins’ USA Cookbook Pork Spare Ribs in Backyard Barbecue Sauce

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves sliced
  • 1 can cherry tomatoes in juice
  • 6 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 250ml orange juice
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 6 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 100ml water
  • heaped tsp smoked paprika (the recipe calls for Liquid Smoke which we did not have so substituted this instead)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp Blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tbsp muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • a dash of Tabasco
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp English mustard powder
  • 1 tsp salt

NB: We added 1/2 pint of sweet cider to add a mellow fruitiness to the sauce which was a little sharp for our little ones’ palates. A swirl of soured cream added to the reserved serving sauce helped to mellow it further.

  1. Preheat oven to  80º C
  2. Sweat onion in olive oil until softened (4-5 mins)
  3. Add garlic for futher minute (do not allow to brown)
  4. Stir in smoked paprika so it coats the onion and garlic for a further minute
  5. Throw in all the other ingredients
  6. Bring to the boil
  7. Simmer for an hour
  8. After an hour, blitz the sauce with a stick blender until smooth
  9. Pour over the spare ribs
  10. Place in oven and leave to cook slowly overnight (12 hours or longer)
  11. When ready to barbecue, remove most of sauce to avoid burning and reserve.
  12. Barbecue ribs until they are browned (watch closely or the sugar will caramalize and the ribs burn)
  13. Heat reserved sauce in saucepan and serve on the side

Sheila Lukins’ Ranch Dressing

Brent knocked this up last week for a salad to accompany a slow roasted chicken; there was enough left to add to my coleslaw, which I amended with some additional buttermilk, a little mayonnaise, and various other ingredients (see below).

Brent pimped this by using a vinaigrette base (4 parts extra virgin olive oil to 1 part white wine vinegar), and adding to the ranch dressing to thin this it a little.

My coleslaw

  • 1 small red cabbage
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
  • 1 medium onion
  • Ranch dressing
  • 100ml or so buttermilk
  • 2 or 3 tbsp Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tbsp non-pareille capers
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  1. Mandoline, grate or spiralize (more on Spiralizers in a post soon)  the cabbage, fennel bulbs and onion.
  2. I thinned out the remaining Ranch dressing with additional buttermilk and some mayonnaise. If you are making the dressing from scratch you will have ample, plus some left over.
  3. Add the capers and chopped parsley
  4. Mix well, and add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Chill before serving

(Jersey Royal) New Potato Salad

  • 200g new (or Jersey Royal) potatoes
  • 1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp capers
  • 1-2 tbsp freshly snipped chives
  • vinaigrette base (1 part white wine vinegar to 4 parts extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1-2 tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender (15 mins or so)
  2. Drench under cold water and set aside
  3. Whisk the vinaigrette base in your serving dish until emulsified
  4. Add the capers and snipped chives
  5. Slice potatoes in half and add to bowl
  6. Add buttermilk and mayonnaise
  7. Combine and add seasoning to taste

We served with barbecued corn on the cob and English asparagus, dressed with good butter from grass-fed cows.

Brent finished off the ribs on the barbecue for about ten minutes so. The meat was amazingly tender, almost falling off the bone. The sauce was spicey, but the addition of soured cream took the edge off it. It went fantastically well with the creamy coleslaw and potato salad that also helped take the heat off. Here’s hoping the weather holds out so we can utilize the barbecue and trampoline more often.

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