This dish is bursting with flavour, just the right amount of heat and spiciness, and was a huge hit. The inspiration came from a recipe I saw online, but it had no peppers in it, so I used the idea and created my own piri piri sauce.
Piri piri originated in Portugal, and is found a lot in southern African countries, such as Mozambique, Angola and South Africa. There are many versions of the sauce, differing slightly from region to region, but all have lemon, red bell peppers, oil and chilies...use piri piri peppers if you can, or birds' eye chilies. I had neither, making do with dried chili flakes.
Piri piri chicken is often grilled, and basted with the marinade; I baked mine in the marinade so that I would have sauce to serve it with.
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
2 pinches of dried chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Roast until the peppers and onions start to soften, and become blackened on the edges.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Place everything into a blender, along with:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cold water
Puree until smooth.
Pour the marinade over the chicken breasts, using the same dish that the onions and peppers were roasted in.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Cover and refrigerate for 2 - 4 hours.
Turn the oven on to 375F when you are ready to cook the chicken.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, scraping off any excess marinade and saving it.
In a hot pan, with a drizzle of olive oil, sear the chicken on both sides.
Pour the reserved marinade over the seared chicken, along with:
1/2 cup chicken stock
Place the pan into the oven and bake until the chicken is fully cooked.
Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
I served the chicken with rosemary roasted potatoes and cauliflower, and some steamed green beans. The sauce was served on the side, and was delicious with the roasted potatoes, as well as with the chicken.
- For the sauce, the red bell pepper and onion do not have to be roasted, but can be roughly chopped and pureed with the other marinade ingredients.
- With the paprika, and 2 pinches of chili flakes, this had a nice heat to it...as with any recipe, that can be adjusted, but add more slowly because once it's in there you can't remove it!
- Roasting the piri piri or birds eye chilies with the red bell peppers and onions will enhance their sweetness, and bring out some smokiness, without deadening the heat they bring to the dish.
- Removing the seeds of the hot peppers before adding them to the dish, will lessen the intensity of the heat.
- If you choose to use a different vinegar, stay with something fairly mild in flavour, such as white or red wine vinegar or even just plain white vinegar. Balsamic or malt vinegars have too much of a distinctive taste.
- If you are using fresh lemon juice (always the best idea, but I had none), add some of the zest to the marinade before juicing them.
- Use all Spanish paprika, or all smoked paprika.
- This marinade will make enough for 4 - 6 chicken breasts, but there won't be much left for sauce. If you choose to grill the chicken, make a brush by tying fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme and oregano into a bundle and using it to brush the marinade onto the chicken during cooking.
- Use the marinade for other meats such as chicken thighs, whole chicken, pork tenderloin, prawns. Cut the chicken or pork into chunks and use them to make skewers.
- Add piri piri sauce to your burgers, instead of barbecue sauce or ketchup. Use it as a base sauce on pizza, using goat or feta cheese to offset the spiciness of the sauce.
- As the marinade involves a bit more work than just whisking ingredients together, consider making a large batch and freezing it in small meal-sized portions.