Comfort: roasted caramelised whole garlic and slow ribs

The world has felt out of kilter this week.

The flood of images from Boston; strange encounters at work and after work; a sudden drop in temperature catapulting us from late summer into early winter.

And this morning, one of those torrential, tropical downpours that reminds Sydney siders life is not all about sunburn and beaches. None of those polite drizzles, this was rain with fat, heavy raindrops far heavier than any water saving showerhead can produce. The kind of rain that floods footpaths and cafes, gets under your umbrella and splashes up to knee height, and has us talking about carpentry skills for building Noah’s Ark.

It didn’t feel like a baking day, as I had planned. It was a day for a hot toddy, lemon ginger apple juice, or mulled wine, or congee or chicken soup. Something that says comfort blanket. A day for warm fireplaces, long slow braises, and slooooow roasted ribs and whole garlic.


The roasted garlic is simple to make, but yields such complex flavours. Whole heads of garlic are cut in half horizontally, then placed, cut face down, in a puddle of olive oil and baked for almost an hour and a half. After an hour, a gorgeous, warm smell, laced with caramel sweetness and with none of that raw garlic bite, fills the kitchen. The garlic bulbs shrink as they caramelise, so the outer layers of the garlic either lift off, or holds the garlic bulbs so loosely they are easily dug out with a small fork.

The garlic bulbs can be spread on toasted crusty bread, added to a dish of roasted sliced potato, or made into a thick garlic soup (soup coming soon), or mashed into almost anything, really.

The slow roasted oven ribs are also lovely, fall-apart-with-thick-sauce lovely. This (I think southern) recipe seemed so simple yet produces such beautiful looking results, it was only a matter of time before I gave it a go. Ribs are coated in a dry rub, wrapped in foil (I use two layers to be sure), and roasted on a slow oven for up to 4 hours, or an extremely slow oven for about 6 hours. The dry rub becomes a barbecue sauce of sorts. The meat can be further browned under the grill (broiler), but I find I prefer it without.

Since we don’t have a balcony, this is the next best thing to a real barbecue. The ribs become tender at the end of slow baking. Moist, gelatinous in the right places, tender in the other right places.

After the first time making these ribs, I began to have questions like “I wonder what would happen if…”, so I have begun to play around with the dry rub, length of roasting time, and even other cuts of meat. For the record, a char siu-style rub also works; 4 hours of roasting produces ribs that cry out to b eaten with fingers, while 6 hours makes the meat so fall-apart tender that a fork is required; this cooking method suits ribs best, though other cuts with a lot of bone can also work.


Towards the afternoon, the rain miraculously stopped. The little rivers on our footpaths disappeared, and the sun bathed our unit in a warm golden light. We took the chance to dash out to a (no longer flooded) cafe, and I noticed I could hear the sound of traffic again rather than the sound of all those fat, heavy raindrops. Fingers crossed for good weather tomorrow.

Here are the recipes.

Roasted whole head of garlic

(from the initial steps of FXcuisine’s French garlic soup recipe, which in turn came from Larousse de la cuisine des familles)


Two or more whole heads of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil, about 2 tbsps per head of garlic


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 350F. Cut the heads of garlic in half, horizontally, so the pattern of garlic bulbs are exposed.

2. Pour olive oil into an oven-proof vessel, such as ramekins or pyrex. Try to choose one that snugly fits all the garlic in one layer. Place the heads of garlic, cut face down, in the baking vessel. Make sure the cut face of the garlic are coated in the oil. Add more oil if necessary to ensure there is a thin layer of oil in the baking vessel, this is important as the olive oil keeps the garlic bulbs moist and stops them from burning.

3. Bake for somewhere between one hour and one and half hours, depending on the size of your heads of garlic, until a heavenly smell fills the kitchen.


Oven slow-roasted ribs

(adapted in various degrees from sources including Deep South Dish, the Kitchn and Smitten Kitchen)


Two racks of spare ribs

Dry rub:*
2 tsp garlic powder or 4 tsp finely minced garlic
2 tsp cumin (or 0.5 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp cumin)
2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1/4 cup brown sugar
2-3 tsp salt

* I have also slightly adapted the char siu seasoning from Food Canon with good results:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp dark (Thick) Chinese soy sauce
1 tsp white Pepper powder
2 tbsp maltose or Honey
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
a splash (maybe 25 ml or just over 1.5 tbsp) Chinese wine


1. If you plan to cook the ribs for 4 hours, preheat the oven to 120C / 250F. If you plan to cook the ribs for 6 hours (a la Smitten Kitchen), preheat the oven to 93C / 200F. Combine the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.

2. Place a rack of ribs on a large piece of foil (or two pieces of foil, to make sure they won’t tear and leak). Place a quarter of the dry rub over each side of the ribs and rub in well with your fingers. Treat this as a finger painting and make sure you get all crevices and sides. Repeat for the other side of the ribs and the second rack of ribs.

3. Place ribs on the foil, meat side down, and fold the foil over the ribs to make a packet. Fold the edges down to seal the packet. Place in oven and bake for 4 or 6 hours.

4. That’s it! Some recipes suggest basting after 2 hours, but I have skipped this step with no obvious disasters, as long as I put enough seasoning on the ribs before cooking (and if in doubt, add more seasoning to the top of the ribs, since any sauce will puddle on the bottom). 


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14 thoughts on “Comfort: roasted caramelised whole garlic and slow ribs

  1. yummychunklet 21 April 2013 at 4:43 am Reply

    Oh, I love the roasted garlic cloves!

    • saucygander 21 April 2013 at 7:33 am Reply

      Thanks, I was surprised by how photogenic they were too!

  2. Food and Forage Hebrides 21 April 2013 at 5:47 am Reply

    I love roast garlic, especially spread on bread. The rib recipe sounds delicious, I must try it, pure comfort, especially when our spring day here is more like autumn or winter, gales and horizontal rain. Thanks!

    • saucygander 21 April 2013 at 10:12 am Reply

      The ribs are good, you can set the oven, go for a walk in the horizontal rain, and come back to a warm aromatic kitchen. 🙂

  3. Anne ~ Uni Homemaker 22 April 2013 at 4:00 pm Reply

    Yum, looks tasty! I love ribs and I can get messy with this. 🙂

  4. coffeetablecookbook 24 April 2013 at 2:37 am Reply

    Yum! I usually roast my garlic cut side up and wrapped in foil, but I want to try it this way next time! Obsessed with roasted garlic, makes everything taste better!!

    • saucygander 26 April 2013 at 7:29 am Reply

      It does make everything better, please let me know if you give this a go.

  5. Sunny 24 April 2013 at 1:52 pm Reply

    I always roast my garlic, so much better! Awesome photos!!

    • saucygander 26 April 2013 at 7:30 am Reply

      Thanks. Roast garlic is so good isn’t it?

  6. Vohn 29 April 2013 at 1:14 am Reply

    I love roast garlic and am looking forward to your soup recipe! Vohn x

    • saucygander 30 April 2013 at 9:15 pm Reply

      Hey, thanks! The soup is coming this Thursday or Friday. I kept eating the soup before getting a decent photo!

  7. tinywhitecottage 1 May 2013 at 5:25 am Reply

    The ribs are mouth watering! And even better you made them in the oven. Very nicely photographed. I really like your site!

    • saucygander 2 May 2013 at 2:24 am Reply

      Thanks so much! The ribs were so easy, and no cleaning up those burnt bits on the barbecue!

  8. suestopford 5 May 2013 at 1:37 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Cinnamon Sue and commented:
    I LOVE it when I come across food that makes happy to be alive….enjoy!

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