The Argentine asado is a true wonder, a celebration of fire seared bovine flesh, an orgiastic festival of the consumption of cow, a glorious litany of … I could go on… excessive description comes easy when dealing with a fine asado.
No asado, however, is complete without a good chimichurri, an intensely flavored salsa good for a chorripan or as a relish for your meat. To really impress your Argentine guests, have a jar of berenjenas a la escabeche standing on the table. The berenjenas (eggplant / brinjal) are cooked and bottled in a pickling brine (escabeche) and are excellent with bread as an accompaniment to the salami and cheese tabla as well as with your meat. The flavours of both improve with time – particularly the berenjenas should be stored for a few months before tucking in.
– 80 g oregano
– 20 g ground chili
– Pinch of paprika
– 20g coarse salt
– 15 g black pepper
– 20 g parsley
– 2 cloves garlic
– 1 crushed bay leaf
– 15 g fresh rosemary
– 100mm sunflower oil
– 60mm red wine vinegar
– 50mm warm water
1) Mix all the dry ingredients and add the liquids. Done. (Typically the chili flakes used are not very spicy as most Argentines don’t have a palate for spicy food, but this can be changed at your discretion.)
*You have a fair amount of liberty with the liquid ingredients; play around with each until you get the perfect slightly slushy consistency and right amount of vinegar bite. Be careful of adding too much oil though, the point of the chimichurri is to cut through some of the grease of the asado.
– 1.5 kg eggplants
– Sunflower oil
– White vinegar
– 1 head of garlic
– Coarse salt
– Oregano, whole black pepper, ground chili flakes (hot or not, up to you)
1.) If possible, try this recipe with mini-eggplants, it is even better. With the normal sizes, you can choose to peel or not, everybody has their preference.
2.) Peel and slice the eggplants to just over 1cm in width, layer in a colander and sprinkle with coarse salt. Apply pressure to the top (with a heavy pot for example) and leave for about 30 minutes.
3.) Rinse the salt from the eggplant slices and add to an already boiling mix of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water, enough to well cover your eggplant slices. Cook for about seven minutes – here like many steps in this recipe, personal taste comes into play. Some prefer to cook the eggplants a little more or less depending on how soft they like the finished product. To start off with, try cooking them to the slightly raw side of al dente, which, after 2 months resting in the jar will mature them on the softer side of al dente – soft, but maintaining their shape and some texture. (This, to me at least, is infinitely preferable to starting with the softer side of al dente and ending with almost complete mush.)
4.) Drain well.
5.) Take a large, sterilized jar and add the remaining ingredients in layers. Start with some oil, and then toss in some finely chopped garlic, oregano, whole peppercorns and ground chili flakes. Now a few eggplant slices.
6.) Repeat until the jar is full. Do not overly compress the eggplant layers (or you will end up with the aforementioned mush), leave a little floating room for the flavours to circulate!
Greg de Villiers, a South African food photographer and travel writer, lives – for now – in Buenos Aires. To see more of his work, visit: gregdevilliers.com. To find out more about his life philosophy, sit yourself down in the most beautiful place you can imagine, with the best bottle of wine you can find, and drink it all; slowly, lovingly but all of it, down to the very. last. drop.