Roast picanha with spiced quince

Helen Graves served up a stunning roast picanha recipe with some subtly spiced quince for a brilliant autumnal roast dinner. Picanha, also known as rump cap, makes a fantastic roasting cut, as the meat can be cooked to perfection in under an hour. Make sure you rest the beef before serving for optimum tenderness.

First published in 2017

Picanha, or rump cap, is an underused cut of beef in the UK, despite the fact that it has loads of flavour. In Brazil, it is the most prized cut, and the one you will often see skewered and sizzling over a hot grill. It’s also great as a super quick roast, however, with a 1.5kg piece of meat cooking to medium rare in just under an hour.

I’ve steered towards North Africa with the flavours here, using lots of bold spice and serving it with roasted quince, a particularly fragrant fruit that makes a lovely sweet and sour accompaniment to the meat.

The picanha is rubbed with a mixture of white and black peppercorns, bay leaves, and a combination of hot and smoky chillies including guiajillo and pasilla. The result is a spicy, highly seasoned crust, which would also work well on the barbecue.

The quince are simmered in a sugar syrup along with cinnamon, cloves and a hefty slosh of Marsala, before being baked in the oven. Together with the beef this is an unusual and impressive combination that makes a nice change from the usual roast dinner.

Don’t forget to save the shallots that cook underneath the beef, as they soak up the sticky beef fat and spices and are excellent as a side dish. In keeping with the North African/Latin American vibes it would be lovely to serve this with a pilaf, although it’s great as it is. A Californian, South African or Australian Pinot Noir alongside wouldn’t hurt one bit.




Roast picanha

Spiced quince


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
Cut the quince in half then cut each half into three pieces. Remove the seedy bit in the centre
Place them in a saucepan with 300ml water, the Marsala, sugar, cinnamon stick and spices. Simmer for 6 minutes or until a sharp knife goes through the quince easily
Lift from their poaching liquid and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Pour over a little of the liquid and cook for 10 minutes, or until completely soft
To cook the picanha, remove any sinew from the underside (not the fat side) of the meat. Heat a heavy frying pan or skillet over a high heat and sear the fat for a couple of minutes. Turn over and sear the underside for 1 minute more
In a spice grinder, blend the peppercorns, chillies and bay leaves. Mix in the salt and rub this all over the picanha
Place the halved shallots in an ovenproof roasting dish and sit the picanha on top. Roast, uncovered for 45 minutes for very rare (as in the photo), 50 minutes for medium rare, and so on. Rest for 20 minutes before serving with the quince
First published in 2017

Helen Graves is Head of Content at Great British Chefs. She's also the author of the cookbook LIVE FIRE: Seasonal Barbecue Recipes and Stories of Live Fire Traditions, Old and New, and the editor of Pit, an independent magazine with roots in live fire cooking.

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