Grill until the cows come home

Fernando Larroude, master griller at steakhouse Gaucho, on how to treat a piece of meat

EVERY time we have a barbecue in Argentina, we call it an asado and every time we have an asado, there is always a chimichurri rub. You can use it to baste the meat or as a marinade before you cook.

There are thousands of recipes for chimichurri. Everybody has their own but the one to the left is the one we use at Gaucho.

The asado itself is the act of cooking something on a grill over a fire using wood or charcoal. We grill steaks, sausages, a whole suckling pig, half a cow, anything. We have a phrase in Argentina – “everything that walks, finishes on the asado.”

We make a barbecue every Sunday in Argentina. I remember being a kid and waking up to hear my dad chopping wood at 9am to make a fire. We never eat before 9.30pm. Everyone comes around 7pm and we have salami, wine and some cheeses before.

Asados are very sociable. If your football team wins, you celebrate with an asado. If your football team loses, you make yourself feel better with an asado. It’s our national dish and it’s in our DNA. We have around 40m people and 60m cows so, for us, it makes sense.

Chimichurri is amazing with beef. I don’t like to put too many things on top of my steaks. I like my chimichurri and that’s it. We have exceptional beef in Argentina so I like to appreciate its flavour.

It’s a herb-mix which includes parsley, garlic, red peppers, onion, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and the core ingredient: aji molido, an Argentine dry, ground chilli. It’s similar to the chilli flakes you get in England but milder. It gives you a nice kick without overwhelming your senses.

An ancient way of making chimichurri comes from the original Gauchos, or cowboys, in La Pampa. They make a salmuera by mixing boiling water with rock salt, garlic, and some aji molido. They bottle it, put a lid or cork in, then bury it. This bottle can last for a long period of time so whenever they’d have an asado in the middle of the fields, they’d take the bottle out and they’d use a bit of salmuera.

Some people say chimichurri comes from the 1800s. Others claim it can be traced to an English man who lived in Argentina called Jimmy Curry (hence the name chimichurri). There are lots of different stories.

We have humita salteña on the side which we have been cooking at Gaucho for a long, long time. We also sautée Spanish chorizo and mix it with sweet potatoes and parsley.

It’s very simple but we believe in the natural flavours of the produce. If you have good quality ingredients, you don’t have to mess about with them too much.