Sticky pork ribs

Sticky pork ribsStar anise, illustration by Katherine Bird

Ten weeks ago I had my second baby. The days are flashing by so fast; the only thing that seems to differentiate one week from the next is that we notice our boy has grown a little bit bigger. During the late-night feeds I can’t tuck his feet into my cardigan any more – he’s too long. And his squinty newborn eyes have become round, clear and full of adoration for his big sister, dad and mum. He gives us gorgeous open-mouthed grins, and I love holding his face next to mine, all soft cheeks and milky breath.

After our first baby I think I went into shock for a while, feeling every bump of the drastic life change, grieving for all the time I used to have to myself. Now I know I’ve got even less time, but I’m calm (mostly). My head is clear enough to see that having a newborn baby who relies on me for everything is actually an immense privilige; that he and his sister will be grown up and independent before I know it and perhaps I’ll be pining for these crazy, amazing days.

But … of course I would love a little more time to get on the computer, or get out into the vegie garden. Some days I don’t even manage to get down to visit our chickens, as each day feels like a race from feed to feed. Meals, dishes and laundry, plus making sure I have some quality time with our daughter, fill just about every gap in between.

My favourite moments are in the early evenings. It starts getting dark outside and we switch on the lights. The warm, slightly dim glow of our bulbs makes our house look lovelier I think – significant for me as I stop noticing the floors I haven’t swept and the benches and cabinets I need to wipe and dust! My husband and I give up on any concept of ‘work’ for the day and begin making moves towards dinner. Best of all is when our boy happens to be fed and content, which means I get to do the cooking. Making food for my family is my one creative outlet right now. With my husband and daughter playing a game on the floor in the lounge room, and our little boy kicking and cooing next to them, it feels so precious to have a few peaceful moments in the kitchen. Making a meal that will nourish us, delight us, and keep us healthy is me telling my family that I love them.

This is not the time for ambitious cooking – no dumplings are being made, no briyanis assembled, no seven-vegetable couscous. I look forward to getting back to some cooking experiments, but for now we need to cook either very simply, or make dishes that we can get a few meals out of. And occasionally we pull things out of the magical place that is the freezer.

P.S. The photo in this post is by Leah Holscher, and the illustration is by Katherine Bird (dream team behind The Hungry Girls Cookbooks).

Sticky pork ribs

These pork ribs spiked with ginger, black pepper and star anise are on our list of easy family classics – so fantastic in winter with a bowl of hot rice and a stir-fry of greens to feed a hungry appetite. The recipe is also easily doubled if you need to feed a crowd.

1 kg pork belly ribs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
4 star anise
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, roughly crushed
250 ml water

Cut the ribs into halves or thirds to give you shortish lengths. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the ribs, blanching for a few minutes to remove excess fat and impurities. Drain and rinse.

Return the ribs to the rinsed-out pot and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Put a lid on the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally to coat all the ribs in the sauce, for about 1 hour. Add a little more water during cooking if necessary.

Remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce to a dark and sticky glaze for about 20 minutes. Serve with rice and greens.

Serves 4

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