Piri piri is the name of a chilli, and also a sauce containing it. Piri piri chicken (also called peri peri) is a terrific dish made using the sauce, and, er, a chicken, found in Portugal and Southern Africa, and increasingly everywhere else, thanks to Nando’s. I am not comfortable eating the Nando’s one though, as the chickens are barn reared and I think they could do better. I mean, why not? They are in a perfect position to raise standards rather than do the minimum to meet them.
I have had piri piri in many places. Portugal (the Portugese brought the chillis back from Africa, and also brought them to Goa), where the piri piri tends to be a chilli oil which is liberally brushed on a rotisserie chicken. I have had piri piri in South Africa too, where the sauce tends to be thick and fruity, with spice as well as chilli heat. I have also had piri piri from Mozambique, not in Mozambique but in Maltby St in London, where Grant Hawthorne aka African Volcano makes immense piri piri pork sandwiches and sells the marinade, sauce and rub too (details on African Volcano stockists on his website too).
I love a dish with a mish mash history just as this, it is fun to trace it and work on it, until you get the one that is perfect for you. Whenever I taste something that I really love, I want to know how it works. How can I make it at home? How can you make it at home? We don’t live in Africa, so how can we make it with the ingredients that we have available to us? Lots of questions. I have had piri piri on the brain.
Well, I took it far. Very far. I made a big vat of it and it has since dressed 3 chickens, 3 sets of ribs, a vegetarian breakfast, several other random things, and there is still some left to play with. I already have a recipe, a light one which is aromatic and hot (it is in Comfort & Spice). This one that I am going to share with you now is a South African one which I got from Stellenbosch chef Bertus Basson (patron chef at immensely popular restaurant, Overture). It is a much more rumbly, grab you by the chops affair, and I love it. On first bite you are hit by the paprika, followed by the fruit of the tomato and peppers, the sharp sweetness of the onion, and then the chilli.
Bertus says that you should leave this overnight to let the flavours settle, but I would go even further and say that it tastes better after a couple of days. I used Spanish smoked paprika which is quite dominant so maybe that is why. The only change that I made is to add a bit of fresh lemon juice to give it a lift, you could just squeeze some on the chicken when it is finished (which I do also, play it by ear and season according to your preferences).
Than you Bertus, for sharing this terrific marinade recipe.
Piri Piri (Peri Peri) Chicken (with Bertus Basson’s marinade recipe)
Marinade (this makes enough for about 4 – 6 chickens and will keep well in the fridge)
3 hot chillies
6og cayenne pepper
4 red peppers, seeds removed
2 tomatoes, skinned
4 cloves garlic, peeled
200ml spirit or white vinegar
100g sugar (I used a light brown sugar)
20g sea salt
the juice of one lemon (pref unwaxed as they are just better, and not coated with gunk)
1 chicken, spatchcocked (easy to do, or ask your butcher to do it) – the size depends on how many you will feed, mine was a small one
the juice of half a lemon (as above)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and a pastry brush
an oven tray to accommodate your chicken
At least a day before, make your marinade. Toast the paprika and cayenne in a dry pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring or tossing gently, to ensure it doesn’t burn. In a blender, add to the remaining ingredients, and blitz until smooth. Leave for at least a night, covered in the fridge.
Remove your chicken from the fridge and stick a sharp knife in it in several places, so that the marinade will soak in. Rub a few tablespoons of the marinade into the chicken and massage it in. Leave for at least a couple of hours to marinade, covered in the fridge, preferably overnight.
Preheat your oven to 180 deg C. Take the chicken out of the oven a half an hour before roasting, to bring it to room temperature so that it roasts evenly. Place in the oven on a shallow tray and leave until your chicken is almost done* (my small chicken took just under an hour, so I checked it at 45 minutes), then add a little further marinade, brushing it on with your pastry brush, gently, so as not to disturb the piri piri crust that has developed.
Turn the heat up to 200 deg C and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes (this will crisp the skin and crust a bit).
Serve with a squeeze of lemon and with a bowl of 1 tbsp marinade whisked with 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and a pastry brush, so that you can add more as required.
*how do you know when your chicken is done? The easiest and most precise way is to get your paws on a meat probe. The food safety folks say that the chicken will be done when the temperature in the thickest part of the breast is 75 deg C (although Heston says 60 deg C!). Up to you. I prefer 65 deg C, which results in a gorgeous juicy bird You can also ask your butcher for advice on cooking times when you buy your chicken.