1. Pre-heat oven to 150˚C(300˚F)/130˚C fan/gas mark 2.
2. While the oven is warming, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic cloves.
3. Place a frying pan over a medium heat until it is hot, then add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes or until the onion has softened but not coloured.
4. Add the chilli (if using), fennel seeds and brown sugar and cook, stirring, for a further 3 to 4 minutes until the sugar has melted.
5. Add the tomato ketchup and soy sauce and stir everything together. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens up.
6. Put the ribs into a deep-sided dish and pour over the sauce.
7. Cover the dish with foil and put it into the oven for at least 2 hours, then increase the oven temperature to 180˚C/(350˚F)/160˚C fan/gas mark 4, remove the foil and cook for 30 to 45 minutes more.
8. Once cooked, remove the tray from the oven and let the ribs cool down so they are not too hot to handle before serving.
Sheree’s Handy Hints
1. You can substitute honey, maple syrup or coconut blossom for the dark brown sugar.
2. If I’m using a bottled rather than home-made ketchup, I’ll also add a tbsp of tomato paste.
3. Feel free to up the garlic and chilli if you enjoy more heat.
4. Depending upon the size of the ribs, you may need to cook them for longer, so that most of the fat has melted.
5. If you want to prepare in advance. Allow the sauce to cool, cover the ribs with the sauce and cover the dish with cling film (plastic wrap) before leaving in the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge before cooking to allow meat to reach room temperature.
6. The sauce also works well on pork chops and chicken wings.