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 Portuguese 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.
- Marinade (this makes enough for about 4 - 6 chickens and will keep well in the fridge)
- 3 hot chillies
- 60g paprika
- 6og cayenne pepper
- 4 red peppers, seeds removed
- 2 tomatoes, skinned
- 1 onion
- 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
- 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