Churrasco with chimichurri and farofa

Anthony Bourdain believed that good food is very often, most often, simple food. If we are to align with this opinion, then possibly no dish gives us more from less than churrasco. And the jewel sitting on this humble crown of white-hot smoking coals is always picanha. When grilled to perfection and paired with chimichurri, the combination of salt, smoke and beef and the floral piquant tang invites an ‘insert choir here’ moment.

The final key to leaning into an authentic Brazilian experience is to serve farofa. Made from butter-toasted cassava flour, farofa is a dish fundamental to Brazilian BBQ. For the perfect mouthful, the custom is to dip your picanha into the farofa and smear it with chimichurri.



  • 1.5 kg picanha
  • Sea salt


  • 80g piece of pancetta, finely diced
  • 40g butter
  • ½ small brown onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 260g cassava (manioc) flour


  • 125ml olive oil
  • 20-40ml sherry vinegar (adjust to taste)
  • 3 large handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 large red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt


The picanha can be cooked on a griddle or a pan, but if you do, it’s not churrasco. Spend the time getting your coals to the right temperature it will take about 12-15 minutes to medium. Once your coals are set, your fire should last so that you can cook multiple skewers.

Bring the meat to room temperature. Pat dry and lightly score the fat cap. Season the fat with sea salt. Slice the picanha into four steaks, approx. 4–6cm thick. Thread the steaks onto a pair of skewers (or double-pronged skewers) in a C shape, folding them and piercing through the fat top and bottom. Generously season the meat with more sea salt.

Grill the skewers over the coals, turning every minute until the fat has developed a golden crust and the meat is the desired cuisson.

To serve, stand the skewers upright and carve down the meat into thin slices, making sure each has a little of the fat. Serve immediately with the farofa and chimichurri.

For the farofa add the diced pancetta to a heavy pan and fry over a medium heat until the pancetta fat begins to render. Add the butter and when melted, add the onions and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the cassava flour, spreading it evenly over the pan. Continue to sauté, stirring constantly, until the flour is toasted. Season.

Prepare the chimichurri by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving.

Notes: Picanha is the rump cap and one of the most prized cuts of beef in Brazil. 

The thick cap of buttery beef fat brings a high-octane flavour to picanha.  When cooking churrasco style, the path to perfection is to temper your coals until white-hot and then grill the meat slowly about 25cm above the coals, turning often. It will take anywhere between 8 and 20 minutes, depending on the height and heat and how you want the meat cooked. 

Picanha is skewered and cooked with the grain, a departure from the typical method used for steaks. This is because the meat is sliced against the grain after cooking.

Cassava is a starchy root tuber prized for its high carb content. It has been eaten widely across South America for centuries. Cassava flour (or manioc flour) is made by drying and grinding the cassava root. While tapioca flour comes from the same plant, cassava flour is made from the whole cassava root. Tapioca flour is made from only the starchy part of the root. As such, they are not interchangeable. If you can’t find cassava flour, you can substitute cornmeal. 

With variations in preparation and ingredients, farofa can range from crunchy to slightly moist, and from savoury to subtly sweet. Its adaptability makes it a favoured accompaniment to numerous Brazilian dishes, including churrasco.

As seen in winter 2024

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