Living next to the best Turkish Ocakbasi’s in London was bound to have a knock-on effect. Not only can you begin to appreciate angry service and waiters that cannot wait to get you out the door, you also come to love how citrus, herbs, just cooked onions and acid fruits can benefit grilled meat immeasurably. This recipe is basically the culmination of all those Sunday night, post-lunch service pit stops on Stoke Newington High St. And believe me, the testing was thorough.
When the Pitt Cue trailer opened, I was still living in Stoke Newington. So, in the morning, I would cycle past the Turkish supermarket, grab a few bottles of pomegranate molasses, some sumac and as many little quail as I could safely carry on my bike. This was in order to get them on the menu in time for lunch service – such was my commitment to the cause. Whilst quail still has a place in my heart, the molasses mop is well suited for other cuts such as lamb ribs. After smoking them and applying before a final blast on the grill, the sharp and sweet tartness of the mop finishes everything off nicely and helps to cut through all that glorious fat.
Yes, there are few things that can top lamb ribs, especially with pomegranate and that salad.
- Set smoker for 110°C
- There is no need to remove the membrane on the lamb belly. It very thin and does not really affect the eating of the rib. Square off the belly and trim the redundant flap from the smaller end of the belly (rear-end). The yield of a lamb rib is never going to be great and there is little meat from the trim, so fear not about reducing the rack down to a small rectangle. The belly should also be squared off at the shoulder end. The rack of belly ribs should be neat and square. Set aside the trim.
- Brown off the lamb trim in a medium-hot pan for 3-4 minutes until golden and catching on the pan. De-glaze the pan with the chicken bones gravy and add the BBQ sauce and molasses. Cook for 5 minutes until well combined and starting to thicken slightly. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve, add lemon juice to taste and keep warm. If the sauce is too thick loosen it with some water.
- Rub the rack all over with mustard and evenly coat with the dry rub. The lamb ribs can handle anything up to 120c so fear not if the temperature fluctuates. Remove when the meat is just starting to give and the rack cracks when bounced with a set of tongs. The internal temperature should be between 87-90 c.
- Remove the ribs from the smoker and place on a medium hot grill. Whilst the ribs are finishing on the grill, baste generously with the molasses bbq sauce. Remove from the grill and keep warm.
- Peel and quarter the onions and dress lightly in olive oil. Grill the onions until charred and softened. Remove from the grill and cling film in a bowl to steam a little. Quarter the baby gem, season with salt and pepper, brush over with olive oil and place on the medium grill. Turn after 1 minute. The gem should be sporadically dark and charred but not completely burnt. Remove from the grill and set aside. Lightly peel off most of the burnt outer layer from the red onions to leave the lightly charred and soft inner layers. Combine with the gem. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, torn leaves of mint, the parsley leaves, pickled pomegranates and the pomegranate molasses. Toss the whole salad gently until well combined and evenly dressed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve the ribs (whole or carved individually) with a with a sprinkling of sumac all over and a nice heap of the grilled onion salad.