Sunday, June 8, 2014

Portuguese Chicken with Piri-piri Sauce

Piri-piri is a Swahili word for "pepper pepper", and is also known as African Bird's Eye chilli. It is the predominant ingredient in making piri-piri sauce - a tangy, garlicky, fiery hot chilli sauce that is popular in South Africa cuisine. If you didn't know already, piri-piri chicken (also known as Portuguese chicken) originated in Mozambique (some say Angola), which were former Portuguese colonies. Hence, the influence of spicy Portuguese cooking found its way into South African cuisine.

It's probably more accurate to refer to this dish as piri-piri chicken, rather than Portuguese Chicken. After all, it did not originate from Portugal. It's a bit like Hainanese Chicken Rice, which did not originate from Hainan Island in China, but is one of the national dishes of Singapore (next to Singapore Chilli Crab, I suppose?). Anyway, piri-piri sauce is a great way to dress up your next roast chicken, and tastes fantastic especially if you love chillies, lemon and garlic. Serve it with a salad and some hot chips/fries.

Portuguese Roast Chicken with Piri-piri Sauce
Adapted from BBC Food


1 whole chicken (about 1.2kg), butterflied (alternatively, use whole chicken legs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the piri-piri sauce:
6-12 fresh red chillies, depending on how hot you want it
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 bay leaf
½ tsp oregano (optional)
½ tbsp paprika
100ml/3½fl oz olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brown sugar


To make the piri-piri sauce, boil the chillies in a pot of water for 3-5 minutes. Drain and roughly chop the chillies. Place the chillies, garlic, salt, bay leaf, oregano, paprika, olive oil and vinegar in a saucepan, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and sugar to taste.

Allow the mixture to cool, then blend it to a purée in a jug blender or food processor. Store in a lidded container at room temperature.

Rub some salt and black pepper all over the butterflied chicken. Place the chicken in a sealable plastic bag. Add 2 tbsp of the piri-piri sauce, spreading it evenly over the chicken. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400)F. Place the chicken in a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until cooked. Baste the chicken with pan juices halfway through roasting.

Serve with extra piri-piri sauce, chips and salad. I made a simple pear and rocket salad with a lemon and olive oil dressing to go with it. Yum!