The story goes that 19th century English landholders were enjoying a barbecue prepared by Argentinian gauchos and said “give me the curry”. The word ‘chimichurri’ evolved and the recipe is said to have been invented by an Irish settler called Jimmy McCurry.
Whatever the origins, chimichurri is both a marinade and a green sauce to eat with your steak, fish, chops and chicken. It is a wonderful way to inject masses of flavour without resorting to the same old barbecue sauce and ridiculously easy to make. It takes advantage of cheap and plentiful summer herbs, particularly parsley and coriander.
There are a number of ways to use this sauce – you can marinate meat in it, or you can baste it over meat as it is cooking. You can also spoon it onto your plate as a condiment for a refreshing, mouth-zinging change from mustard or tomato sauce. I tend to use this sauce within an hour or two of making it, but you can easily place it in a screw-top jar in the fridge for up to five days – the longer you leave it, the stronger the flavours will be for your barbecue.
Like all recipes there are many adaptations of chimichurri and to be fair, the recipe I give here is simply intended as a guide. My recipe includes some cumin – purists will tell me that cumin is a no-no. Others say parsley only; another group of purists will tell you that coriander is a useful addition. Red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice, the many ways to make chimichurri is limited only by your palate.
Make the basic recipe then adjust to your own taste and make your own notes. For in this sauce, the very best of cooking is contained in a few simple lines – a little of this, some of that and freedom to adapt it your way. Like the gauchos who prepared that first asado, this is the most generous of recipes.
Makes 1½ cups
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
- ½ bunch coriander (about 1 cup loosely packed coriander leaf)
- 1 tsp dried oregano OR 1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ – ¾ cup olive oil
Place all ingredients except vinegar and olive oil in a blender (a stick blender works equally well) and process until the leaves and garlic are finely chopped.
Add half the vinegar and half the oil and process very briefly to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl now and then. You don’t want to make a mayonnaise, or a green slush – some chunks will remain, and this is ideal.
Taste for seasoning and adjust the flavours as you feel inclined. Add remaining vinegar and olive oil as you see fit – the sauce should be runny rather than a pesto.
If using as a marinade, use half as a marinade for steaks (brush it over the steaks or chicken and marinade for at least an hour) and reserve the rest for serving as a condiment at table.
Store in an air-tight container for up to five days in the fridge – the flavours will develop the longer you can leave it.
$6.00 for 1½ cups, enough to marinate and serve with 6 – 8 pieces of meat