Updated: May 25, 2021
by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich from ‘Chasing Smoke: Cooking over fire around the Levant’ (Pavilion Books)
Photography: Patricia Niven
Serves 4–6 as part of a meal
2 racks of baby back pork ribs (each about 900 g / 32 oz)
For the salt rub
2 garlic cloves 8 sage leaves 6 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked zest of 1 lemon 3 tbsp flaky sea salt or sel gris ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
250 ml / 8¾ fl oz dark beer of your choice
250 ml / 8¾ fl oz water
2 shallots or 1 onion, unpeeled and halved
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
6–8 thyme sprigs
Use a pestle and mortar to roughly crush all the salt rub ingredients together to a rough sand consistency. Sprinkle all over the ribs, wrap and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
Prepare a stack with lots of wood and paper, so it will be very smoky once lit. Remove the ribs from the fridge and dab dry with paper towels. Set them on the grill and light the stack. Let the smoke start billowing up, then place an upturned roasting tin over the ribs to collect the smoke around the meat. Leave for about 10 minutes, then lift the ribs off the grill and pop them in the tin that was covering them.
Alternatively use a home-made smoker (see below) to smoke the ribs for about 10 minutes, then pop them in a large roasting tin.
Add the braising ingredients to the ribs, cover the tin with aluminium foil or a fitting lid, and set at the side of the BBQ while the fire subsides into lovely hot embers. Place the tray over the heat to braise for about 1½ hours, uncovering every 20 minutes
or so to baste and check the liquid level – it should be about halfway up the ribs. Add a little kindling to the fire every now and then, just to keep it ticking along.
Check the ribs are done by pulling at the end of a bone; it should just start to come away from the meat. You can serve these straight away or, if you prefer a few crispy bits, stoke the fire up to a really high heat, then carefully lift the ribs from the liquid and pop them directly on the grill to caramelize for 5 minutes on each side before serving.
To cook without a BBQ
You can smoke the ribs in a simple home-made smoker and then braise in the oven at 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5 to great effect. Give them a final blast of heat for 5 minutes each side in a hot griddle pan or under the grill before serving.
To build a home smoker to cold-smoke food.
This can be done indoors. Place the contents of 1 teabag or 1 heaped teaspoon of dried tea leaves, 2 spoonfuls of sugar, whole dried spices, (try cinnamon bark, bay leaves, coriander seeds or cumin seeds) and wood chippings in the base of an old baking tray that you no longer use for cooking, and set light to them with matches or a piece of smouldering charcoal. Place a perforated tray or wire rack on top of the smouldering aromatics, carefully cover with aluminium foil to seal & leave to smoke for 5-40 minutes, depending on what you are smoking and the intensity of flavour you want. This recipe calls for 10 minutes.