How to enjoy healthy summer barbecues – South American style

A Churrasco Brazilian barbecue, featuring Fraldinha, Picanha, Coração (chicken heart) and sausages. Photograph © Leonardo "Leguas" Carvalho on Wikimedia
3 Jul 2017 @ 7.07 pm
| Food & Drink

If you’ve ever been to South America, you will know that they love their steakhouses.

These restaurants are usually all you can eat, and waiters bring various skewers of meat over to your table for you to enjoy.

And you can bring a little of that flavour home, via a Brazilian style barbecue, known as a Churrasco, and supplement the meat with herbs from your garden.

In South America the Churrasco uses a variety of meats, pork, sausage and chicken which may be cooked on a purpose-built “churrasqueira”, a barbecue grill, often with supports for spits or skewers.

Many Brazilian “churrasqueiras” do not have grills, only the skewers above the embers.

So a charcoal barbecue is best to ensure the authentic taste.

The key to any successful Churrasco is good meat, so try to head out to your local butchers to see what’s available.

The most traditional cut for is the picanha, the cap of muscle between the sirloin and the rump, easily identified by its thick ring of fat. Flank steak is also widely used.

These cuts of steak can be supplemented with other grilled goodies.

Team PokerStars Pro Felipe ‘Mojave’ Ramos loves to serve up his with slow cooked ribs and spicy sausages, but you can use whatever you want.

To cook your picanha perfectly, place the cut with the fat down and cook it fast above the hottest charcoals for around 10 minutes to seal the fat.

Then, turn it the other way round and cook it slowly for around 15-20 minutes, until rare to medium.

With all of the steak on the grill, here is where you can have fun in the garden.

It’s time to make an Argentinian Chimichurri sauce to marinade and compliment the meat.

You will need around two packed cups of parsley leaves, along with four cloves of garlic and a couple of shallots.

You can also add extra herbs like oregano or basil leaves if you have them. Extra ingredients include red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and red pepper flakes.

Start by tossing chopped shallots and garlic in lemon juice and vinegar to temper them. Leave them for 10 minutes and then blend them with the parsley and any other herbs used.

Add a little olive oil as you blend. The mix isn’t supposed to be totally smooth, so don’t overdo it. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes for a bit of a kick if you desire.

And there you have it – a healthy homemade herby sauce for your BBQ.

To make your Churrasco even more tasty, serve up more traditional sauces and condiments such as barbecued sweet potato and corn on the cob, rice cooked in coconut milk, peppers stuffed with guacamole, salsa salad, and fresh fruits like watermelon and pineapple, along with refreshing drinks.

A real Brazilian Churrasco carries on way into the night, so keep the charcoal on and bring out cuts of meat nice and slowly.

Settle in to some music with friends and dance the samba until the grill stops grilling!